Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - Original Album Classics (2013)


Last month, I was listening to a SRV greatest hits disc and wrote these words:
As I listen to this wonderful compilation disc this morning, it occurs to me that instead of this album and the previous greatest hits CD, I should really own the full albums from which these songs sprung. I will be working on that - some box sets just caught my eye.
So here ya go.

15 tracks, 60 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #38
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #30

As it should be, this debut album is essentially a recreation of the trio's stage show of the time,  By 1983, they'd be playing together for a while, so the playing is clean and energetic. This was groundbreaking stuff at the time - blues was a dying genre, no longer hip, and this white boy from Texas was adding new punch to the style of his influences, most notably Albert King.  While he often wore his influences on his sleeve, he definitely created his own characteristic sound.  Early critics couldn't hear it - here's what Kurt Loder wrote in his Rolling Stone review (RS402):
Stevie Ray can't write–and we all know how boring white blues can become without some semblance of a tune upon which to hang all the pyrotechnics. Stevie Ray does his thing well, but essentially, it's somebody else's thing.
To compare SRV to earlier guitarists is completely missing the point - he was bringing this music to fresh, young ears that had seldom heard Hendrix or any guitar player with the last name King.  In 1983, I was certainly in that group.

It's hard to pick favorites, but today I'll go with Pride And Joy, Testify, the cover of Buddy Guy's Mary Had A Little Lamb, I'm Cryin', and the beautiful non-blues ballad written for Stevie Ray's wife, Lenny.  Also included are five bonus tracks, including three spirited live cuts recorded in Hollywood in September 1983.

13 tracks, 55 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #31
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #23

More of the same (same band, same producers, same formula) and that's not a bad thing.  Some of the cuts are very good (the title track, Cold Shot, Stang's Swang) while the rest are enjoyable.  The cover of Hendrix's Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) cuts a little too close to the original for my tastes.  I knew of SRV from Bowie's Let's Dance album, but my first exposure to his own work was this video which I caught on MTV from time to time:

Love that bass line and rhythm guitar.  In addition to the video, my buddy Jim had this album and played it for me but I was too much of a wannabe New Waver at the time to give it much of a chance.  Live and learn. 

Other than a brief interview excerpt, the bonus tracks are all fun, raw blues covers that are welcome additions to the disc.

Loder didn't like this one either, giving it just ★★ in RS 429.  I prefer Robert Christgau's characterization of this album: "a roadhouse album with gargantuan sonic imagination."  Let's go with that.  Think my local roadhouse would mind if I made it a BYOCD joint?

13 tracks, 58 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #34
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #24

In the fall of 1985, I was driving the Markmobile around my little college town and a tune from this album came on the radio; it was probably Look At Little Sister, but I'm just guessing.  I immediately drove to Wal-Mart (one of only two places in town to buy music) and bought this cassette.  I heard the opening instrumental track, Say What!, was immediately hooked, and the tape didn't leave my car for the rest of the year.  SRV added keyboards and saxes to the mix on this album and that change in instrumentation was just enough to fully catch my attention. You never forget your first, so this is by far my favorite Double Trouble album and I'm embarrassed it wasn't on my shelves until recently.  As a result, I like all the tunes on this one, especially what was side one (tracks 1-5).

As for the bonus tracks, I don't really understand what the label was trying to do with the inclusion of these interview clips, but I can easily skip over those.  Then we get 13½ minutes of some jamming to Jimi Hendrix covers and a brief original blues boogie.  I'll stick to the original 10 tracks for this one.

Not surprisingly, Rolling Stone didn't like this one either, claiming that the band had "run out of gas."  Sheesh, no wonder it took so long for RS to put Stevie Ray in their RnR Hall of Fame.

IN STEP (1989)
15 tracks, 71 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #33

I was so disappointed in 1986's Live Alive album that I neglected to purchase In Step at the time of release.  In my defense, I was job hunting and getting married that summer.  Even so, I should have gone back and picked this one up because it is fantastic.  As with Soul To Soul, the production is polished but not too much so, the band is on point, and the addition is keyboardist Reese Wynans to the group is still very welcomed indeed - I'm glad Stevie Ray stuck with that instrumentation.  SRV had recently sobered up and the benefits to his songwriting is apparent - he finally started blending blues with rock and pop tropes.  Heck, even Rolling Stone finally liked this one, calling it SRV's "most consistent and rewarding LP in years" (RS 567/568).

If the boogieing opener The House Is Rockin' doesn't get your blood pumping, you and me have problems.  And it bookends perfectly with the beautiful instrumental Riviera Paradise that closes out the album. The lyrics are a little too positive for straight up blues, but that's where SRV was in his life so that's what he wrote about.  The bonus tracks include 4 great live performances from what I'm guessing was SRV's final tour.

This just in: Stevie Ray was hella guitar player.  There's nothing to skip on this here album.  Period.

10 tracks, 39 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #10

Released about one year after Vaughan's death in 1990, this album, compiled by brother Jimmie, features ten previously unreleased tracks, originally recorded 1984 - 1989.  I bought the cassette upon release and immediately fell in love with the Grammy award-winning instrumental cover of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing and the acoustic album closer, Life By The Drop.  Those two are still my favorites.  Also noteworthy are the title track, Wham, and Chitlins Con Carne.

In addition to winning Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Little Wing, the album was awarded the Grammy award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. This is the only disc in the box that doesn't add bonus tracks, presumably because the whole album is essentially bonus tracks.

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Real Deal: Greatest Hits Volume 2 (1999)
Greatest Hits (1995)
The Vaughan Brothers - Family Style (1990) 

1 comment:

  1. Soothing salve for this sad ol Texas Boy's soul. And the album and song titles are most apropos for the somber mood and extreme weather that we've been experiencing in these parts lately: The Sky Is Crying, Texas Flood, Couldn't Stand The Weather and the one that has bn killing me softly for the past couple of nights, Life Without You.

    Best Box Set Month Ever. Now reload and let's do it again real soon.