Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan's presence as a musician is so commanding it's hard to imagine him so readily assuming the role of studio sideman or sharing the stage as he does on the fourteen tracks that comprise this CD. But it was his very love to play that allowed him to collaborate with virtually as much passion in these varied accompanying roles as when he led his own band, Double Trouble.
It's a testament to the late bluesman's musicianly savvy that he neither tries to outplay peers like Jeff Beck or Lonnie Mack; the collaboration with the latter on "Oreo Cookie Blues, while somewhat tongue in cheek, is nevertheless deeply passionate, grounded in the gritty bond between the two guitarists. The live performance of "Going Down," performed with Beck at a record company convention (or is it the performance from their co-headlining tour as noted on the previously-released box?: these credits contradict) remains a highlight on its own terms and in the context of this album.
The same is true of the original extended version of "Let's Dance, by David Bowie. Hearing the extended version of this 1983 track in retrospect, it becomes clear why Vaughan chose to pursue his own direction and why it might not have been to the Briton's benefit to have the Texas firebrand on stage with him, as SRV would've all-too-often stolen the spotlight.
Articulate liner notes from Guitar World Magazine's Andy Aledort provide continuity from previous archive titles, as does the fulsome sound sculpted by producer Bob Irwin and mastering tech Vic Anesi. Certainly the most superficially interesting cuts here are those where Vaughan interacts with guitar counterparts, but he exhibits an unusual understatement when accompanying singers as well. Playing alongside fellow Texas natives Marcia Ball ("Soulful Dress ) and Lou Ann Barton ("You Can Have My Husband, ), Vaughan frames their vocals with equal parts taste and restraint.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was always very conscious of the blues heritage he inherited and to which he subsequently contributed so much. It's not a surprise, therefore, that Solos, Sessions and Encores functions well as a primer of the genre, as well as an illustration of his own singular gifts. The introductory cut, "The Sky Is Crying, with B.B. King, Albert King and Paul Butterfield, makes clear that Vaughan's influence on contemporary blues matches up to theirs.
Additional tracks that have already seen the light of day, such as Vaughan's recording of Dick Dale's "Pipeline, deserve the additional exposure. This one in particular is far more than novelty, even if you regard surf music as contemporary kitsch: SRV used to perform it with his brother Jimmie.
Yet with half the content here unreleased, Solos, Sessions and Encores is a godsend for SRV fans and aficionados of blues guitar alike. It constitutes an important recognition of the late blues man's broad musicianly persona, and a worthwhile introduction to novice fans of the blues genre.
The Sky is Crying; Soulful Dress; Don
Stevie Ray Vaughan: guitar, vocals; Albert King: guitar, vocals; Johnny Copeland: guitar, vocals; Jeff Beck:
guitar, vocals; B.B. King: guitar; Bill Carter: guitar; Lonnie Mack: guitar; Albert Collins: guitar; Jimmie Vaughan:
guitar; Bonnie Raitt: guitar; Dick Dale: guitar; Paul Butterfield: harmonica; A.C. Reed: tenor saxophone; Katie
Webster: piano, vocals; Marcia Ball: vocals; Lou Ann Barton: vocals; David Bowie: vocals; others..
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