When Jeff Beck last ventured into the studio it was to cut 2003’s Jeff, a deliberately modernist album steeped in electronica, to which 2010’s Emotion & Commotion almost feels like a refutation. Working with producers Steve Lipson and Trevor Horn, Beck has created an old-fashioned blues-rock-cum-prog record, balancing the sweeping vistas of a 64-piece orchestra with cool jazz-funk grooves, tarted-up Screamin' Jay Hawkins covers with a pair of Jeff Buckley tunes and a gentle reading of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow. ” Joss Stone sits in for two songs, including “I Put a Spell on You,” with jazz vocalist Imelda May and opera singer Olivia Safe taking lead on two others, but the focus remains on Beck, who is in a reserved, lyrical mood.
Jeff Beck’s Emotion & Commotion is his first album in seven years, and it finds the recent Grammy-winning guitarist (for his version of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” on 2009’s Performing This Week … Live at Ronnie Scott’s DVD) and second-time, Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame inductee once again confounding expectations. Among his peers in the pantheon of guitar gods, Beck has always been the one most open to taking paths less trodden, and his experimental urges have led to a very eclectic mix of elements on Emotion & Commotion. Most notable is the presence of the 64-piece orchestra that provides accompaniment on several tracks.