I’m going to start this pairing off talking about the bourbon; this has to be one of the best deals out there for a single barrel bourbon right now. The Eagle Rare is easily on par with bottles thrice it’s price. At $22 for a whiskey this refined, it’s truly hard to beat. Excellent when served neat to get the full body and flavors of this amber, honey, topaz libation or when served over ice to cool yourself down, the bourbon still remains assertive and expressive even when chilling over rocks.
The Eagle Rare was recommended to me by my friend at the local Beverage World and I’ve already been back to pick up another bottle. So with this pairing the beverage came first, then Jeff Beck found its place first and foremost just based upon the artwork alone. These two elegant works of art when combined make for a truly wonderful merging of auditory pleasure and flavor, as the eagle leaps from the front cover of the album into this bottle of Kentucky gold.
Jeff Beck’s album Emotion and Commotion has got to be one of his greatest masterpieces to date. It’s an album of immense maturity and restraint and showcases a talent that knows talent and knows how to assemble together the most world class musicians on the planet to produce a truly glorious album achievement.
The first name that has to come up here, rather surprisingly, is Jeff Buckley. Beck performs two songs that Mr. Buckley also recorded during his unfortunately short career on Emotion and Commotion (Corpus Christi Carol & Lilac Wine), and in true Jeff Beck fashion, he makes these masterpieces his own. I’m a huge Jeff Buckley fan as well, so to hear a master guitarist like Jeff Beck paying homage to one of the most talented and yet short lived performers to emerge in the 1990’s is a real treat.
I was living in Memphis at the time Jeff Buckley drowned where the Wolf river meets the mighty Mississippi river and it was truly a devastating occurrence. I visited the site where Jeff was last seen diving under on numerous occasions when I lived in Memphis and it always served as a reminder for me to our mortality and how one mistake, just one bad call could end it all.
In the liner notes of the album Beck says, “When I heard Jeff Buckley’s album, the simplicity and the beauty of the way he sounded amazed me.” This is not only what pulled me into Jeff Buckley’s music, but it’s also what has kept me enamored with Jeff Beck’s music for decades.
Jeff Beck has always been a master of less is more and it’s one of the things that still floors me to this day about his playing. Beck is the master of the slightest nuance and a true example of a player who’s tone and vibe is more about the touch that is in his hands, than it is about what kind of equipment he plugs into.
Other highlights abound on this album such as the vocal work of Joss Stone bringing a youthful, yet wise beyond her years, amount of soul and vibe to the songs “I Put a Spell on You” and “There’s No Other Me”, the rhythm section on the later of those tracks featuring Tal Wilkenfeld and Vinnie Colauta, lays down one of the most masterful fusion grooves I’ve ever heard. Perfection.
This album has got to be one of the most perfectly produced, engineered and mastered recordings, start to finish that I’ve ever heard. Ever. Nominated for five grammy awards it’s safe to say that there are others that probably shared my opinion. It’s not an easy feat to listen to a recording of an orchestra and a rock band, as an audio engineer and not hear the recording mechanics of how the album was put together. Most of the time with a recording, once you’re ears are trained, you can hear technically how many albums are recorded but with this recording all you hear are the natural sounds of the instruments. This is not an easy feat to achieve when trying to put all of those instruments inside of two speakers and it’s ultimatley what every audio engineer is striving to achieve. This album delivers just that, it is an album that manages to not sound produced at all but instead sounds like a natural representation of the performances that were captured, as if you are in the studio with Jeff, the band and the orchestra. Steve Lipson and Trevor Horn both deserved Grammy’s for this feat.
The last track I’d like to mention is “Nessun Dorma”, the 2011 Grammy winner for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The song features Jeff Beck accompanied by the orchestral arrangement of Pete Murray. It is truly one of the most majestic pieces of modern music you will ever hear. Listening to it and sipping on a chilled single barrel bourbon from Eagle Rare… well, it’s just a little bit of heaven here on Earth indeed.