Stevie Ray Vaughan
30th Anniversary Edition: “Texas Flood” (2 CDs)
BluesWax Rating: 7 out of 10
Some Reissues and a Fiery Live Debut
This two-disc package is all about the live previously-unreleased set from 1983. The first disc, Texas Flood, has been re-released several times, including the so-called bonus track, “Tin Pan Alley.” But it’s important to note that this album was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s very first recording, its executive producer was the legendary John Hammond Sr., it reached #38 on the Billboard charts, and it received two Grammy nominations. Not bad for a debut album! But many of us know Texas Flood (some of us note for note!), so onto the live Philly show from nearly thirty years ago.
October 20, 1983, was the date this show was recorded at Ripley’s Music Hall in Philadelphia. It was later aired on the nationally syndicated radio show King Biscuit Flower Hour. Well known DJ (WLIR & WMMR) John DeBella emceed. This is the trio configuration with bassist Tommy Shannon, drummer Chris Layton, and Stevie. Two instrumentals open the show in high-gear. “Testify” is a whirlwind tour with Stevie heavily leaning on his Hendrix phrasings and bends; Shannon’s on fire too, as the rhythm section stays right there with the rapid-fire Vaughan. Vaughan’s “So Exited” is also performed instrumentally and shuffles into a blues vamp. Here Stevie sounds more like his other mentor Albert King. The entire band fascinates as they move through various twists and turns. Then Vaughan takes it down a bit for the final setup where he then lifts off.
Next up is Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” which by other live versions is somewhat short at 7:45, but nonetheless Vaughan and company deliver on all cylinders, also tossing nods to “Power of Soul” then crashing into a sea of well-executed distortion. “Pride and Joy” takes us back to the blues and the band pounds it out. More (deep) blues ensue on Larry Davis’ “Texas Flood,” where the band (temporarily) tone down the tempo, but that doesn’t last long, as about midway through this ten-minute version Vaughan opens up and roars, then takes it down one more time before some emotional guitar moans and groans and vocals.
“Love Struck Baby” kicks; it’s short (3:09) and it’s a bit disjointed. Buddy Guy’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is okay, but not memorable. “Tin Pan Alley” has never been one of my favorite SRV covers, and this version doesn’t convince me otherwise as it meanders for over eight minutes. Roughly forty-six minutes into their set it’s nearly time to go home with a Hendrix parlay, “Little Wing,” that segues into “Third Stone from the Sun,” and it’s a good one, sans vocals. They obviously saved their very best performance for last as they start somewhat softly with jazzy leads from SRV, but towards the end of “Little Wing” they really kick into hyper-overdrive where the tempo explodes perilously with raw and reckless abandon into a killer “Third Stone From the Sun.”
This live performance is just under one hour, which I figure had to do with the limitations of recording this set for the radio broadcast. Given those restrictions, this is still a pretty fiery set that captures the band at their beginning, which is good enough for me to recommend owning this two-CD set, as having an additional release of SRV music is all good to have legally available. May the SRV spirit live on!
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at BluesWax, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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