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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

If the album title seems self-assured, it's only truth in labeling. For his last album of the millennium, rock's greatest guitarist teams with an old compatriot (keyboardist Tony Hymas, a staple since 1980's There and Back who coproduces here with Beck) and one of his musical godchildren (Jennifer Battin, longtime tour guitarist for Michael Jackson). The result is a rough musical travelogue of the '80s and '90s that occasionally turns down a dead end. The synth-sequenced backdrops and terse phrasings of "Psycho-Sam," "Blast from the East," and "THX138" recall the fusion reactions on Wired and There and Back (and pose a seemingly heretical notion: did Beck invent techno?). "Space for the Papa" recalls the no-frills structure of Guitar Shop. "Angel (Footsteps)" showcases Beck's unique tone and phrasing, evoking Santo and Johnny swinging on a star, while "Another Place" offers up elegant classicism. "Hip-Notica" proves there's still funk in Beck's blood, even if "Declan" gets mired in New Age overkill. But Beck's shortcomings have traditionally come in framing his incendiary prowess and emotional directness. As a high-profile collaborator once put it, "You fast-forward through that stuff to get to the solos." In that department, Who Else! delivers. The live, unadorned "Brush with the Blues" lets him elevate masterfully subtle riffing into a firestorm of a solo. "Even Odds" (a reunion with Jan Hammer) and "Space" show what a mockery the musician can make of otherwise useful terms such as noise and tonality. If Who Else! occasionally stumbles, it's good to remember what a critic once said of the Marx Brothers: "They never made a film as good as they really were." Beck has made great albums, but few to match his genius as a musician. "i"--Jerry McCulley

Who Else!