Stunning collection of rarities by the Texas Tornado
Stevie Ray Vaughan is best remembered for his incendiary guitar playing, where on albums such as Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand The Weather, and his final solo LP In Step, Vaughan blazed a trail while also showing that the blues wasn’t dead, it just needed some mainstream exposure, which is exactly what Stevie did: resurrect an old musical form and make it popular again.
However Vaughan was not without his detractors, who at the time regarded the guitarist as little more than an imitator of masters like Hendrix, Buddy Guy and Albert King. Yet such dismissive claims flew in the face of facts; namely that Vaughan was arguably the most powerful blues guitarist on the planet, capable of conjuring from his instrument – usually his beat up ’59 Fender, affectionately named Lenny – a myriad of sounds not heard since the heady days of Clapton and Hendrix.
Clearly, Vaughan was no fraud, and for people like me, born long after the blues revival in the ‘60s, Stevie was a God send and a beacon for anyone who preferred Muddy Waters to A Flock Of Seagulls (no offence to any Seagulls fans out there).
Since his death in August 1990, it was inevitable that the search for posthumous product would begin in earnest. The excellent The Sky Is Crying was the first of these, followed by In The Beginning, with further live albums later on, along with a superb 4 disc box set. But one often over-looked aspect of Vaughan’s career was his work outside his own band Double Trouble, from Albert King and Lonnie Mack, to David Bowie.
Hence the release of Solos, Sessions & Encores, a collection of studio and live recordings that offers fans the chance to hear the guitarist sharing his talents with a diverse range of other artists, including Dick Dale, Bonnie Raitt, Albert Collins, Jeff Beck, BB King, and even boogie-woogie pianist Katie Webster.
First up we have Stevie jamming with blues heavy weights Albert King, BB King and Paul Butterfield, taken from a 1987 live performance held at The Ebony Showcase Theatre, Los Angeles. Equally enthralling are live takes of a simply devastating “Goin’ Down” (with Jeff Beck), a sizzling “Albert’s Shuffle” (with Albert Collins), and a rare 1985 recording of “Change It,” with Vaughan’s brother Jimmie, for an episode of Saturday Night Live.
What many of these tracks show is not only Vaughan’s depth but also generosity as a player, happy to step aside and let others take the limelight. On “Soulful Dress,” with Marcia Ball, and “Don’t Stop By The Creek, Son,” from Johnny Copeland’s 1983 LP Texas Twister, Vaughan’s contributions are as consummate as they are respectful. On instrumental “Miami Strut,” one would be hard pressed to even recognise the guitarist, unless having read the liner notes.
In 1985 Vaughan helped produce Lonnie Mack’s Strike Like Lightning album (their duet together on the track “Wham!” is especially inspired). Recorded New Year’s Eve 1986 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, “Oreo Cookie Blues” sees the two gunslingers duel it out in friendly fashion, while his on stage performance with the legendary pianist/vocalist Katie Webster on New Orleans romp “On The Run,” is another standout.
Vaughan’s involvement in movie soundtracks is represented through his collaboration with Dick Dale on “Pipeline,” recorded for the 1987 Frankie Avalon film Back To The Beach. He solos on Lou Ann Barton’s take of Irma Thomas’s “You Can Have My Husband” (one of Stevie’s earliest professional recordings), followed by a wonderful duet with Bonnie Raitt during a blistering “Texas Flood.”
Perhaps fittingly the CD ends with Bowie’s 1983 mega-hit “Let’s Dance,” the song which put Vaughan on the international map, and helped launch his solo career in the process.
Yes, there are many other sessions Vaughan can be heard on apart from what is presented here, but as an introduction, Solos, Sessions & Encores is as good a place as any for both novice and aficionado alike. Nearly half of these tracks are previously unreleased, which makes this CD a near-indispensible document, one that shows another side to the Vaughan we all know and love.