Jeff Beck has the sweetest tone and most elastic conception of the great '60s guitarists. But he's also prone to sentimentality, rendering some of his forays relatives in bombast of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. That duality, along with his talents and unbelievable technique, characterize Emotion & Commotion, his first disc in seven years. It's a mixed bag despite Beck's signature ravishing sound. The emotion comes through in the elegiac "Lilac Wine," featuring silky singer Imelda May; a string-laden take on Puccini's "Nessun Dorma," with Beck's guitar at its most taffy-like; and the lugubrious "Elegy for Dunkirk," with another string cocoon, from the film Atonement. If Beck didn't leaven such adagios with uptempo tunes like the wah-wah-heavy, hard-rocking "Hammerhead" and a high-style take of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," featuring great white soul hope Joss Stone, we'd be in trouble. Stone also burns in the briskly sexy "There's No Other Me," a winning blend of slink and drive. Beck isn't rocking as hard as he did in the Jeff Beck Group or on Blow by Blow and Wired, mid-'70s albums that scaled the heights of fusion. But he still soars, regularly transcending corn with his inventiveness and achingly expressive guitar. Too bad the album has love handles. — Carlo Wolff
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