Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp – 18 (2022): Record Reviews – AlohaCriticón


Influential guitarist Jeff Beck (Yardbirds, Jeff Beck Group…) and actor Johnny Depp, already paired live, collaborated in the studio to record “18”, an album with a cover drawn by Beck’s wife, Sandra, simulating Beck and Depp with the 18 years of the title.

The album, produced by Robert Adam Stevenson, is full of covers, such as the first piece, “Midnight Walker”, an original instrumental by Celtic folk musician Davy Spillane that the Irishman recorded in 1991.

Beck substitutes Spillane’s bagpipes for his guitar on this slow, evocative cut, featuring Depp on bass, atmospheric synth from Stephenson, and Vanessa Freebiarn-Smith featuring prominently on cello.
It is similar in style to “Going Home” from Mark Knopfler’s “A Local Hero”.

jeff-beck-johnny-depp-critique-reviewThat style totally changes with “The Death And Resurrection Show”, a version of the Killing Joke.

Dark tone, distorted voice and techno-dance-industrial sound (complementing some guitar parts with keyboards) with Johnny on bass, vocals and rhythm guitar.
Veteran Vinnie Colaiuta on drums.
It has as much intensity as the original, which is saying something.

They remember the Beach Boys on several occasions:

“Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)”, melancholic instrumental with James Pearson on keyboards, jazz brushes and Beck plucking the melody created by Brian Wilson.

“Caroline No”, another slow instrumental cut, now with Rhonda Smith, a bass player who played with Prince, backing Jeff Beck.

“Time” is a solo song by Dennis Wilson (drummer for the Beach Boys) recorded for his “Pacific Ocean Blue”.
More ballads with Depp showing off as a romantic crooner in soft rock 70s singer-songwriter mode.
Jason Rebello plays the piano.

The duo’s first original song is “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade”, a funk-experimental cut with Depp in cavernous mode attending a parade of people he doesn’t seem to appreciate enough.

The best song written by Depp for the album, in collaboration here with Tommy Henriksen, is “This Is A Song For Hedy Lamarr”, a tribute to the actress Hedy Lamarr, also the inventor of a secret communication system in the midst of World War II.

Acoustic guitar, marching drums, John Lennon-style piano, orchestral arrangements, Beck’s solo and a good chorus that transmits… i don’t believe in humans anymore…

Here are the original parts.

There is a section with two versions of Motown soul/funk:

“Ooo Baby Baby”.
Slow 60s song by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles that exhibits a falsetto register by Johnny, also contributing backing vocals while Jeff plays all the instruments, including drums.

“What’s Going On”.
Marvin Gaye’s 70s classic that retains the elegance of the original with Beck’s plucking, Pino Palladino’s dynamic bass and Johnny Depp’s own percussion, asking the staff questions about the injustices that are happening, then and now. Let’s do something?

More adaptations of foreign themes:

“Venus In Furs”, by the Velvet Underground, takes up the darkness of the Killing Joke cut with Depp in a deep voice (more Mark Lanegan than Lou Reed), without the viola of the original and with a more metal background.

It is not a bad adaptation but it is inferior to the original but… it is that the achieved atmosphere, the arrangements of the original…

“Let It Be Me”.
It’s a ballad that takes them back to the 50’s with Frenchman Gilbert Becaud.
This version is surely inspired by the magnificent adaptation of the Everly Brothers, with its wonderful vocal harmonies and orchestral arrangements.
Here Johnny with emotional, heartfelt voice, again as a crooner.

Another ballad.
This is a Janis Ian version, 70s folk with string and piano arrangements.
70s singer-songwriter mode with Tin Pan Alley or Brill Building influences.
Much better than Janis Ian’s original, with her big voice and bare acoustic guitar.

Song by John Lennon, featured on his masterful “Plastic Ono Band”.
It’s another slow cut to close, with bluesy riffs instead of piano and without the rawness provided by Phil Spector, replaced by Beck’s virtuosic solos and a fiery climax.

Some passable version, some filler, an original piece of merit… but more needs to be composed.

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Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp – 18 (2022): Record Reviews – AlohaCriticón

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