With the 1983 release of Texas Flood, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble set the rock world on fire. This was serious electric blues, by way of Texas, and the guitarist was an immediate sensation. Over the course of the next seven years, he would release four more studio albums, plus the live double Live Alive. On August 27, 1990, Vaughan’s life was cut short in a helicopter accident. It was a tragic day for the music world, yet his music remains as vital as ever for millions of fans.
Vaughan’s ongoing significance is reflected in the newly released 30th Anniversary Edition of Texas Flood. His music made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. The two-disc package contains a remastered version of the original album, plus a second live CD from a 1983 performance at Ripley’s Music Hall in Philadelphia. Vaughan’s incendiary debut record has never sounded better, and the additional live material is phenomenal.
It had been quite a while since I had last listened to the album, but with the first notes of “Love Struck Baby,” I was instantly reminded of what made it so special. For many of us, Texas Flood was a record that arrived like a bolt out of the blue. The musical landscape of 1983 was dominated by such one-hit wonders as Kajagoogoo and Men Without Hats. When something like the hit single “Pride and Joy” came out of your radio that year, you noticed. It is one of the best roadhouse songs ever, and Vaughan rips lick after lick off of his signature Strat.
The album has a lot more going for it than just “Pride and Joy” though. The slower blues groove of the title track is extremely inviting, and once again we are left to marvel at his playing. While I am a big fan of his vocals, Vaughan was just as comfortable letting his axe do all the work, as he does on the uptempo instrumentals “Testify” and “Rude Mood.”
He also turns in a killer take on Buddy Guy’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The smoldering “Dirty Pool” is another highlight. With this track, I am reminded of Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs,” although if anything, Vaughan’s tune is even darker. The original album concluded with “Lenny,” which is a slow dazzler. For anyone who ever wondered where the Hendrix comparisons came from, “Lenny” is a place to start.
Then again, there are the Hendrix songs that Vaughan and his band Double Trouble played live. Although it may have appeared that he was an “overnight sensation” with the release of Texas Flood, the group had been playing the club circuit for years before being signed. The nine-song set captured on the bonus disc was recorded on October 30, 1983 at Ripley’s Music Hall in Philadelphia. The album had just been released, and he was on fire.
The night was mostly a showcase for the songs from Texas Flood, and he opens with “Testify.” In addition to “Testify,” he performs “Pride and Joy,” “Texas Flood,” “Love Struck Baby,” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” “Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place in Town)” was not on the original album, but was added as a bonus track later. It appears both on the studio and live set here.
As great as these songs are though, it is his versions of Hendrix tunes which really blow me away. He performs three, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” and a medley of “Little Wing”/”Third Stone from the Sun.” Vaughan released a studio version of “Voodoo Child” on his second album, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, and it also appeared on Live Alive.
“Voodoo Child” is the third song on the Philly disc, and it is incredible. Of the many versions I have heard, this one could be the best. There is something about the entire performance that sets it apart from the other live recordings of his. As the announcer informs us, this was a radio simulcast on station WMMR. The trio upped their game considerably for it. Even though Vaughan was of a different era than Hendrix, and was less enamored of guitar pyrotechnics than his elder, he could most definitely pull them off. I would not call his playing a “carbon-copy” by any means, but the tone he gets is remarkably similar. This is a powerful version of the song.
As good as “Voodoo Child” is though, it is the closing “Little Wing”/”Third Stone from the Sun” that knocked me out. Vaughan‘s version of “Little Wing” is an instrumental, which emphasizes the beauty of the melody. He also gets in a fantastic solo, as anyone who has heard it will attest. The idea of coupling it with “Third Stone from the Sun” was a stroke of genius. The entire night was fantastic, and the second CD alone makes getting this 30th Anniversary Edition worth buying.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was the type of musician who comes along once in a generation. He updated the blues enough to introduce it to a new audience, yet he never lost sight of what made the form so special in the first place. He was a master, and this set is a marvelous tribute to his talent.