Blistering set from “The world’s greatest unknown guitarist”
Although not entirely forgotten, Roy Buchanan remains an oft ignored figure in the annals of great guitarists. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix might receive the majority of interest and accolades, however Buchanan himself was no less inspired when it came to instrumental acumen.
By the time of his 1972 debut, Roy was already a veteran, having performed with Dale Hawkins and Ronnie Hawkins in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, along with numerous other groups in small venues across America. And while his talent was considerable, Buchanan preferred the role of sideman, despite the fact that he was capable of blowing most other guitarists off the stage. Which leads us to this album.
Live Stock was Roy’s final record with Polydor, after he had agreed to sign with Atlantic at the behest of Ahmet Ertegun. The tracks were culled from a performance at New York’s Town Hall, on 27th November 1974, plus one track from Evanston, Illinois. Being one of those ‘contractual obligation’ albums meant that Buchanan probably had little say in terms of which tracks would make the final cut, but regardless, the songs that were selected are pristine examples of Roy’s extraordinary versatility and imagination.
The LP blasts off with the dynamic “Reelin’ And Rockin’,” an energetic boogie with a driving beat and of course plenty of those trademark riffs for which Buchanan was famous for. The band turn up the heat on instrumental “Hot Cha,” followed by a sterling “Further On Up The Road,” on which Buchanan plays some stunning licks.
On “Roy’s Bluz” Buchanan unleashes an emotional storm of notes from his Telecaster that has to be heard to be believed (certainly the crowd roar their approval), before the funky, soulful “Can I Change My Mind” lifts the listener’s mood a little. Buchanan was definitely no singer, hence the inclusion of Billy Price on lead vocals, and he does a superb job throughout, especially on Al Greene’s “I’m A Man,” during which Roy is totally in the pocket, bending the strings and charging like a bull on heat.
Another highlight is Buchanan’s “I’m Evil,” which closes the set, proving that Roy’s technique and prowess was not only unique, but arguably unbeatable on a good night, and the 27th November 1974 was unquestionably one of those nights.
Live Stock is an album which clearly deserves to be re-released in expanded form. Why this hasn’t happened is a shame, considering the amount of material Polydor (or whoever owns the tapes) must be sitting on. Buchanan should be more widely appreciated, this much is true. Not as sexy as Hendrix, or as charismatic as Clapton, to be sure, yet once you’ve experienced his playing, you’ll undeniably want more.
Oh, in case anyone is wondering, the cover shot was taken by Australian music critic Glenn A. Baker, who sent it to Buchanan probably thinking that the guitarist might get a laugh out of it. If only he knew.