JEFF BECK / JOHNNY DEPP - 18 (2022) full

Surprise has been one of the sharpest arrows in Jeff Beck’s quiver for more than six decades now. From his comings and goings in various ensembles – even the group that bore his name – to stylistic excursions into jazz fusion, Gene Vincent and opera, and collaborations with Jan Hammer, Roger Waters, Kate Bush, Rod Stewart, just to name a few, the guitar legend keeps us guessing. And he then makes them sound like something that fits as easily as a 12-bar progression. But, really — who saw this one coming?
18” finds Beck joining forces with Johnny Depp, he of Pirates of the Caribbean and the all-star hard rock combo Hollywood Vampires. JEFF BECK / JOHNNY DEPP raised eyebrows during the spring when Depp began joining Beck onstage in Europe while his sensationalized defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard was wrapping up.
The album announcement, coming shortly afterward, wasn’t as surprising as it might have been otherwise but was still another example of Beck’s daring-do idiosyncrasy and devil-may-care history.
“18” is a curio, a mix of originals (two written by Depp) and covers that is most definitely a Jeff Beck album, with the immense Pino Palladino (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) providing and amazing rhythm section.

Jeff Beck found a kindred spirit in Johnny Depp when the two met in 2016. They bonded quickly over cars and guitars and spent most of their time together trying to make each other laugh. At the same time, Beck’s appreciation grew for Depp’s serious songwriting skills and his ear for music.
That talent and their chemistry convinced Beck they should make an album together – Depp agreed and they started in 2019. Over the next three years, they recorded a mix of Depp originals along with a wide range of covers that touches on everything from classic rock to new age.
Beck explains the album title: “When Johnny and I started playing together, it really ignited our youthful spirit and creativity. We would joke about how we felt 18 again, so that just became the album title too.”

Is it good? That answer starts from the point that most anything Beck gets into has merit; the guy’s been on rock guitar’s Mount Rushmore since the ’60s and has never rested on laurels or adhered to expectations. You know each project will yield something special.
As for Depp, Beck isn’t one to work with someone just as clickbait, so if fellow Vampires Alice Cooper and Joe Perry haven’t convinced us that Depp is for real, then Beck’s endorsement should douse remaining doubts.

Indeed it’s Jeff Beck who shines here, fortunately, on most of the tracks. His lyrical playing on Davy Spillane’s “Midnight Walker,” the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” and the Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby” is soaring, and his shredding sears on renditions of the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs,” Killing Joke’s “Death and Resurrection Show” and John Lennon’s “Isolation.”
He laces through the lyric melody of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” with Pino Palladino paying reverent homage to James Jamerson’s dancing bass line. Dennis Wilson’s “Time,” meanwhile, is a dynamic tour de force, exploding after a gentle start and highlighted by Vinnie Colaiuta’s high-wire drum attack.

Rest assured that Depp is present throughout ’18’, however – playing bass, drums and some additional guitar. His limited vocal range won’t make anyone forget Rod Stewart’s turns with Beck, but Depp’s offhanded deadpan has the right tone for “Venus in Furs,” and also complements the hushed tones in the pairing of the Everly Brothers’ “Let it Be Me” and Janis Ian’s “Stars.” The gentle “This is a Song for Hedy Lamar,” one of Depp’s originals on 18, also works, accenting the quiet with a hint of glam a la David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (and a couple of lyrical slams that could be read as lashing out at Heard).
On the other hand, “Death and Resurrection Show” is horrible, and “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” pointless, both forgettable tracks.

Whether Beck-Depp has staying power or becomes another, say, Beck, Bogert & Appice remains to be seen. But ”18” is an easy enough listen that maintains the guitarist’s mastery and bolsters Depp’s music credentials.
As said, this is mostly a Jeff Beck album, and it’s always a pleasure to listen to his exquisite tone and unique playing.
Highly Recommended


01 – Midnight Walker
02 – The Death And Resurrection Show
03 – Time
04 – Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade
05 – Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
06 – This Is A Song For Miss Hedy Lamarr
07 – Caroline, No
08 – Ooo Baby Baby
09 – What’s Going On
10 – Venus In Furs
11 – Let It Be Me
12 – Stars
13 – Isolation

Jeff Beck – guitars, vocals
Johnny Depp – guitars, vocals, additional bass, drums
Pino Palladino – bass, fretless bass
Vinnie Colaiuta – drums, percussion



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