Chris Layton - drums; Tommy Shannon - bass; Stevie Ray Vaughan - guitar, vocals
Like many before him, at a root level, Stevie Ray Vaughan was influenced by the likes of Albert King, Otis Rush, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. What Vaughan dared to do differently and ultimately better than any blues guitarist before or since, was to channel the raw intensity of Johnny Winter and fuse it with the dexterity and expressiveness of Jimi Hendrix. The fact that he did it so well and managed to bring his own stylistic sensibilities into such a heavy brew is why he deservedly remains near the top of the guitar pantheon to this day. What we have here, straight off the King Biscuit Flower Hour multi-track mixdown masters, is the bulk of one of his most legendary early performances, recorded at Philadelphia's Ripley's Music Hall. Touring to promote his debut album, Texas Flood, these recordings capture a powerful performance, when Vaughn and his band, Double Trouble, were truly establishing their reputation.
Naturally, there is a heavy emphasis on his first album material, which is welcome, as it featured many of Vaughan's finest songs. He doesn't bother using his vocal chords until the set is well underway, preferring to let his guitar do the talking on the first two numbers. On both the set opening "Testify" and "So Excited" (unreleased at the time) which follows, the group is simply blazing with energy, with Vaughan incorporating simultaneous lead and rhythm parts in his trademark manner. After this warm-up exercise, Vaughan sinks his teeth into Jimi Hendrix's classic "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)." This is an absolutely scorching performance, with Vaughan seemingly channeling Hendrix himself, raising the intensity level up a serious notch or two.
The next four songs highlight the bulk of his debut album material, including his first hit, "Pride And Joy," a hot rendition of Buddy Guy's bluesy nursery rhyme adaptation, "Mary Had A Little Lamb," and the album opening rocker, "Love Struck Baby." However, it is the magnificent title track, "Texas Flood," an example of classic slow blues writing, that may be the highlight of this entire set. Here Vaughan truly bares his soul and over the course of the next ten minutes, his passion is on full display. Everything that distinguished him as a true original is right here, from the thick sound of his heavy gauge strings (tuned down a halfstep) to his extreme stringbending technique and tonal control. Much the same can be said about the early rendition of "Tin Pan Alley" featured, which allows Vaughan to again flex his pure blues muscles later in the show.
This incandescent set concludes with an additional tribute to Jimi Hendrix, beginning with a sublime take on "Little Wing," which then soars directly into "Third Stone From The Sun." The former is beautifully explored, while the latter is a prime example of guitar abuse at its finest. This is one of those rare times when the word incendiary truly applies.
All in all, this recording stands favorably against anything Vaughan ever released, and it's not difficult to understand why Eric Clapton found himself "in the presence of greatness" upon hearing Stevie Ray Vaughn play.
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