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Upp - Upp/This Way album review

Jeff Beck’s funk-rock follies

Cover art for Upp - Upp/This Way album

It was during a more auspicious meeting, as he rehearsed with Bowie for Ziggy’s farewell gig, that Jeff Beck walked in on Upp. Their very white-boy funk, hugely indebted to James Brown, Sly Stone and, in Andy Clarke’s outlandish synth work, Stevie Wonder, tickled Beck enough for him to produce their self-titled 1975 debut.

The very sub-Brown grit of Clark’s voice is worsened by a never-welcome Vocoder (his sub-Marvin Gaye falsetto is better). Vapid attempts at black American street lyrics jostle with the clunkingly Dylanesque (‘She sparkles like a god, and she bleeds like a girl’) on the otherwise affecting love song It’s A Mystery. Beck solo completists will be detained most by his fleet runs, choked-back attack and swift peaks of intensity on Bad Stuff, and have Beck himself to blame for the aggravating fadeout. The album’s real interest is in the polite freakiness of Clark’s array of cutting-edge keyboards, nodding back to the band’s prog pasts.

Beck was a less frequent visitor for 1976’s This Way. Recording moved from Kent to LA, and the sound to slickly conventional, string-laden disco, only nodding back to prog with propulsive, jazzy instrumental There’s Still Hope. There wasn’t, so they split.