Sunday, February 3, 2013


So what's changed in blues in the last thirty years, since Vaughan burst onto the scene and blew everybody away?  Well, not much really.  As the joke goes, How many guitar players does it take to do a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute?  All of them, apparently.  Blues is still pretty much in two camps, either the electric guitar-based band, or the acoustic delta player.  So why was Vaughan so special?  Other than being the best guitar player since Hendrix, you mean?  If that wasn't enough, his energy brought the Texas style up-to-date with the urgency of power trio rock, and his melodic sense meant it was always a musical treat, rather than just noise and volume.  It was everything, then.  Fast, loud, great songs, amazing playing, and tight, understandable tunes, showy but never just show-off.

This 30th anniversary edition comes with the lone out-take from the first album's session, Tin Pan Alley, which would be re-recorded for his next album, and has previously been released as a bonus cut on an earlier edition.  But it's disc two that you should flip for.  With all the Stevie Ray live material out there, how they held onto this great, hour-long set is beyond me.  Recorded in a Philadelphia hall on the tour for the first album, it includes the core of the debut disc, the great trio of Pride And Joy, Texas Flood and Love Struck Baby, the aforementioned Tin Pan Alley, and the clever but inconsequential Mary Had A Little Lamb, really just a cute number.  But check out the opening, back-to-back instrumentals Testify and So Excited, an original that never made it to a studio album.  Double Trouble and Vaughan simply put it all out there, blazing through the tracks, letting the audience know they were gunslingers there to blow them away.  And what else to follow but an audacious cover of the greatest guitar god, Hendrix, with a masterful Voodoo Child.

If that didn't get everyone's attention, once again the band returned to Hendrix to close things out, their own medley of Little Wing/Third Stone From The Sun.  What a way to introduce yourselves.  Of course, they were a well-oiled machine by then, having been stirring things up for three years in Texas, winning the praise of everyone from Jackson Browne to David Bowie, and pretty much just laying down their live set for the first album.  As this live disc shows, they played that good every time, and could do it all and more on stage.  Gone seven years later, there's no sign of Vaughan being eclipsed any time soon.

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