“Scatterbrain” (Jeff Beck)

Look here, it’s King Crimson. Over there: Herbie Hancock. Then, The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Underneath, it’s George Martin. The album gets more involved, too, with Stevie Wonder giving two tracks to Beck, while Phil Chen sits in throughout. For a performer used to being stuck the middle (between Clapton and Page in The Yardbirds, for example), it’s not unthinkable that these citations could be so much dross. But a scatterbrain isn’t a dimwit in this case. The outro is introduced by a climbing, John McLaughlin-like run jumping one step upward with each repetition. A quick blues figure pivots, transitioning to the finale. A skittering, palm-muted jog segues to a pinch-harmonics-punctuated solo over the re-emergent McLaughlin line. On top and beneath–as a solo artist indebted to the generosity of others–this scattered-ness is given over and eventually gives out. Like the harmonics, one “sounds” only after the note has struck. Overwriting the underwritten, and agreeably obliged.

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