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Beck, Bogert & Appice - Beck, Bogert & Appice: Album Of The Week Club Review

Beck, Bogert & Appice was a coming together of three superlative musical minds... but did their only studio album live up to the sum of its parts?

Beck, Bogart & Appice
Beck, Bogert & Appice - Beck, Bogert & Appice

Beck, Bogart & Appice

Black Cat Moan
Lady
Oh to Love You
Superstition
Sweet Sweet Surrender
Why Should I Care
Lose Myself with You
Livin' Alone
I'm So Proud

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Jeff Beck, Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice brought the kind of power, intensity and unbridled musicianship not heard since the heyday of Cream. Loud as damnation and bursting with experimental zeal, Beck Bogert & Appice they bridged the gap between the psychedelic age and a nebulous new era where metal, hard funk, soul and heavy blues could all co-exist in one glorious tumult.

“People thought we were as good as it gets,” Tim Bogert remembers. “At the time, I did too. I thought this was going to be the best thing that ever happened to me. And for a short period of time it was.”

The courtship of Beck, Bogert and Appice was, to put it mildly, a protracted one. Jeff Beck had first seen Vanilla Fudge play in October 1967, following an eventful 12 months in which he’d been booted out of The Yardbirds, started the Jeff Beck Group and had a major solo hit with Hi Ho Silver Lining.

“I saw them at the Speakeasy,” Beck recalls. “They were playing at stadium-level volume in this dungeon of a club in Margaret Street. I couldn’t believe how powerful they sounded, with a Hammond organ and a double kit of Ludwig drums. Carmine was amazing and Tim’s bass was outrageous. I loved the first Fudge album, too.”

It turned out to be a mutual attraction. Bogert and Appice were big Yardbirds fans (especially the Beck model), and over the coming months the three of them had the occasional jam at the Speakeasy. So when Fudge guitarist Vince Martell fell ill just before the band were to record a Coca-Cola commercial for US radio at the back end of ’68, Beck seemed like an ideal substitute.

But It was nearly three years before the trio finally got it together properly. In the wake of Vanilla Fudge’s demise in 1969, Bogert and Appice formed the blues rock combo Cactus. Beck, meanwhile, had resurrected the Jeff Beck Group with an entirely new line-up.

Finally, in December ’72, Beck, Bogert, Appice went into to Chicago’s Chess Studios to record their first album.

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Background

“With it being a trio, me and Tim decided to sing,” Appice says. “In those days it wasn’t so much about the songs, it was more about the playing. The songs were just vehicles for us to jam.”

One of the most striking songs to emerge was Superstition. Stevie Wonder, a long-time admirer of Beck, had invited him to play on the sessions for his Talking Book album. Beck readily agreed, with the stipulation that Wonder write him a song. The guitarist apparently helped out with the rhythm and some of the lyrics to Superstition, Wonder’s uptempo funk monster, and they recorded a demo in New York. The song was initially intended for BBA, but problems started when Berry Gordy, the boss of Wonder’s label, Motown, heard it. Convinced it would be a huge hit (rightly, as it transpired), Gordy insisted that Wonder recut the song and release it himself. BBA were left to do their own version instead, months later.

“Stevie wrote Superstition specifically for a trio,” asserts Beck. That song was custom-made for me as part of a three-piece. Our version was seriously metal for the time, though Stevie hated it with such a vengeance that you could almost taste it.”

BBA’s Superstition was a tour de force, from its clanging intro to Appice’s tornado drums to Beck’s ferocious rhythm licks. “Jeff wanted it to be more ballsy, not so R&B kind of wimpy,” Appice recalls. “When we did it we slowed it down a little, like we used to do with Vanilla Fudge, and it was really soulful and powerful.”

There were other mighty moments in the BBA locker, not least the complex Lady, all three bandmates with full heads of steam, and the eloquent soul stirring of Sweet Sweet Surrender. The latter was one of two tunes written by the album’s producer, Don Nix. His other was Black Cat Moan, an evil blues number with squealing slide runs and driving bass. The sessions themselves, however, were difficult. Chess, with their archaic studio gear, were not suited to a band who prided themselves on the subtleties of dynamics. “It was very problematic,” Bogert remembers. “Things were breaking down and the studio was falling apart at the seams. Suddenly everything would stop in the middle of a take. It was just awful. Then everybody’s nerves got on edge. When you have three temperamental artists in that state, nothing good ever happens.”

Other albums released in April 1973

  • Leonard Cohen - Live Songs
  • The J. Geils Band - Bloodshot
  • David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
  • Eagles - Desperado
  • Roger Daltrey - Daltrey
  • Manassas - Down the Road
  • Paul McCartney and Wings - Red Rose Speedway
  • Cher - Bittersweet White Light
  • John Fogerty - The Blue Ridge Rangers
  • Seals and Crofts - Diamond Girl
  • Humble Pie - Eat It
  • The Marshall Tucker Band - The Marshall Tucker Band
  • Incredible String Band - No Ruinous Feud
  • Steeleye Span - Parcel of Rogues
  • Jefferson Airplane - Thirty Seconds Over Winterland
  • Uriah Heep - Uriah Heep Live

What they said

"One of the great things about Jeff Beck is his utter unpredictability. It's also one of the most maddening things about him, too, since it's as likely to lead to flights of genius as it is to weird detours like Beck, Bogert & Appice. It's hard to tell what exactly attracted Beck to the rhythm section of Vanilla Fudge and Cactus -- perhaps he just wanted to rock really loud and really hard, beating Led Zeppelin at their own game. Whatever the motivation, the end result was the same -- a leaden album, with occasional interesting guitar work smothered by heavy riffs and rhythms that don't succeed on a visceral level. It's a loud, lumbering record that may be of interest for Beck archivists, provided they want to hear absolutely everything he did." (AllMusic)

"Beck was already a household name, thanks to his work with the Jeff Beck Group and the Yardbirds, by the time he formed this hard rock supergroup with the Vanilla Fudge rhythm section. Carmine gets hold of Stevie Wonder’s super-funk track Superstition and forces it to bow to the god of rock, uncompromisingly thundering with an uncompromisingly hard rock – though extremely groovy – drum part. Black Cat Moan is a pounding blues groove; on Lady, Bogert’s busy grooving bass spars with Beck’s guitar genius while Appice backs it with an almost latin ride-bell part over some fast kick drum magic, punctuating the jazz-like interplay with rhythmic stabs right on cue." (MusicRadar)

"Musically, Beck, Bogert & Appice's a mish-mash of funky hard rock: not heavy enough to grab the Zeppelin/Purple fans, but too 'rock' for the mainstream. Typical Beck, really; rarely in quite the right place at quite the right time. Saying that, it has its moments, Lose Myself With You rocks and funks with equal enthusiasm, and opener Black Cat Moan gets things off to a good start. But over 30 years on, much of the album just sounds far too stodgy and lifeless compared to many of their contemporaries, whose work still stands up well today." (Planet Mellotron)

What you said

Maxwell Marco Martello: I always compare this record against West, Bruce & Laing’s debut, Why Dontcha.

As much as I love BBA’s Superstitious and Black Cat Moan, I was a bit let down by the record as a whole. Maybe I anticipated too much... Cactus used to be an extreme band, but this album felt a bit watered down with too much balladry for my taste. Conversely, WBL’s debut hit hard almost from start to finish.

Patrick Warwick: This was another one that would have SAILED over my head if not for my mother. She constantly threw it into the rotation, and though it took a few tries to stick, when it did... damn. A little ballad heavy, and the vocals are a bit naff here and there, but the grooves on Lady, Black Cat Moan, Superstition... Power trio vibefest all the way!

Dave Ferris: In the early 80s, I began taking drum lessons and I was studying out of the Carmine Appice book Realistic Rock. In the back of the book was a list of Carmine's discography. So, I started looking into his career and I put in a special order from my local record store for this album. I played this constantly. I loved everything about it. Growing up in Central Nebraska, this album felt like my own personal discovery!

Andrew Bramah: A classic case of unfulfilled promise.

Jim Collins: Overall, a letdown considering the talent involved. I much prefer the double live set from Japan.

Simon Fraser: Great Album. Years ago I played it to death. Great platform for Jeff B to show off his skills.

Ben L. Connor: Unbelievably underrated album. I couldn’t believe it when it wasn’t included in your mag’s Buyers Guide to Jeff Beck. Black Cat Moan is so cool and funky, and Lady is dynamic. I think this album had the misfortune of coming three years too late. It sounded like it was competing with Cream when they were long gone by that point.

Carl Black: I knew the separate components but never knew this album existed. I enjoyed listening to this album. Good fun. Although it did sound like in the middle of a guitar, bass and drum solo, a song tried to break out. This just how I like my blues/rock, lazy, cool and plenty of slide guitar. Interested in listening to the other album.

Iain Macaulay: Overall, I didn’t find the whole piece very consistent or 'together'. Of course, the individual performances are great, but the material is very of its time with the production, style and lyrics, and for me the ballad stuff hasn’t made it age very well. Still, after reading up on the history, I imagine a second album – if it had been made – would have hit the mark with a bit more of a cohesive feel.

Nick Potter: Being a massive Jeff Beck fan, everything he puts out is a joy. However, with the exception of Black Cat Moan and Lady, the album is a case of unfulfilled promise, and could have been so much more.

Roland Bearne: Sweet Sweet Surrender is a perennial. Friends started busking it back in our teens when we'd sit around bonfires with beers and guitars, it's accompanied celebration and tragedy in equal measure over the years so is an important one. For the rest, Black Cat Moan and Lady are great, Superstition (bit of a Sliding Doors moment I gather for JB) is splendid of course, and Livin' Alone got the blood flowing a bit. Some sound rather as though they were composed to be sold on to other artists as exercises in song writing royalties, so rather a curate's egg. Overall just let the sheer musicianship flow through and admire!

Eric Ortiz: My late dad got me into this album, being a fan of both Beck and Cactus, and used to crank up Black Cat Moan and Lady, which are killer tunes. But these guys could have really used a good singer and songwriter, as neither Beck nor Bogert could sing at all. 

Robert Dunn: I think it suffers a bit from supergroup syndrome – each musician having to have the right to show off as much as they like whether it suited the song or not. Deep Purple got away with it because Roger Glover and Ian Paice kept it subtle, but here it jars in places. Having said that, it's a good listen, very reminiscent of Cream in places and a glimpse of what good, funky rock could be. Beck in particular stands out for me, for anyone wondering why 70s rock fans go on about him, give this album an airing.

Mike Knoop: Not bad per se, but a kind of generic heavy blues that most bands had moved past at that point. Their cover of Superstition is probably the only one I'll come back to. Certainly not a landmark 1973 release.

Gary Claydon: I bought this album about three or four years after it was originally released. Must be honest, I only gave it a couple of listens, thought it dull, traded it for something else. Listening again now I hear nothing to change my original opinion. Sounds to me like a band somewhat going through the motions. Never really gets going and filling half the album with mediocre covers doesn't help. Which is strange when you compare this to the Live In Japan set. That's a really good live album and if you want to know what BBA were capable of then that's the album you should be listening to.

Pete Mineau: Beck, Bogert & Appice contains a handful of good tunes: Black Cat Moan, Lady, Superstition, and Livin' Alone. The two problems I have with these guys are: 1. They lack a decent vocalist to carry the lyrics. 2. Cream did it earlier and better (sorry Jeff, you're a day late and a dollar short). I'd give Beck, Bogert & Appice a rating of 2 out of 5. An interesting stop in the history of Jeff Beck's career, but nothing worth dwelling on.

Chris Weir: This record is really ordinary, for diehard Beck fans only, really. This falls way short of anything you would call 'classic'.

John Davidson: Two half decent songs as far as I was concerned . The rest are quite ordinary tunes at best and cursed by really quite pathetic lyrics. Black Cat Moan is definitely the stand out and shows what the album could have been, alas it was not to be.

Final Score: 6.44 ⁄10 (153 votes cast, with a total score of 986)

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