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Ah, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and you know what that means? It's Christmas time, all the time! Gargantuan plastic snow-globes will start popping up on your neighbor's lawn, and the Beach Boy's Christmas album gets put back on the Ipod, because you never know when you'll be at a holiday party that needs Christmas music that's almost impossible to listen to.

Countless attempts have been made, some more successful than others, at making a 'cool' Christmas album. One that won't make your ears bleed candy-cane-red, but will make you think of reindeer paws on crest-fallen snow, sleigh rides, silver bells, and chap stick in your stocking (my family is very practical in their gift-giving.)

This Christmas, though, why not surprise eggnoggers with Christmas tunes that come from unexpected places? Every now and then, an artist buries a song within an otherwise secular album that just really nails it.   

A perfect example is Jeff Beck's virtuosic performance of Greensleeves, a concert favorite he threw into his 1968 solo debut, Truth.

[ mp3 ]: Jeff Beck - Greensleeves

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Obviously, the rest of Truth is much, much different. What struck me most about this record was how heavy it was. Beck took his work with the Yardbirds and added a bluesy, Zeppelin-esque patina. Nowhere is this more apparent than the opener, his first Yardbird's hit re-tooled with Rod Stewart pounding out the vocals.

[ mp3 ]
: Jeff Beck - Shapes of Things

Heavy, to be sure, and this trend continues with You Shook Me. If you mated the Willie Dixon original with this take, you'd end up with the blueprint to Zeppelin's '69 hit. Ah, if only songs could mate.

[ mp3 ]: Jeff Beck - You Shook Me

All in all, this is probably Jeff Beck's best album. While not taking over the lead-singing duties, which is often what happens when someone breaks off from a super-group to release his own album, Beck's identity comes through clearly in the guitar playing. Cultured jerks always say things like, "The city of New York was really the third character in that film." Well, allow me to be a jerk and suggest that Jeff Beck is clearly the main character of this album, he's just not upstaging everyone else.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Other Highlights: Beck's Bolero, I Ain't Superstitious

-N.W.



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