The late Stevie Ray Vaughan was anything but just another guitar player. For many, he was a blues messiah, whose untimely death in 1990 left a legacy of just a handful of studio albums and one official live release. The Complete Epic Recordings Collection is the latest in a long line of reissues, compilations and special editions, so you can see why longtime fans might be groaning at the prospect of buying the original albums all over again, however good they might be.
The carrot at the end of this 12-CD stick is the first-ever release on audio of the 1983 El Mocambo gig, which has long been available on DVD. For the real anoraks among you, there are two new songs – Willie Dixon’s You’ll Be Mine and Rude Mood – neither of which is on the original concert film. /o:p
As far as the studio albums go, they are all present and correct, but the outtakes and live cuts, which were tacked on the reissues, are now gone. The extra studio tracks, including those from the posthumous 1991 odds-and-sods collection The Sky Is Crying, have been shunted on to the two Archives discs instead.
The group’s 1983 debut, Texas Flood, still sounds as good today as it did 30 years ago. Lesser acts may have butchered the material at every opportunity since, but there’s no denying just how revolutionary the Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble were at the time. The 1980s weren’t exactly a golden decade for the blues, but if you are looking for classic albums that have stood the test of time, Texas Flood and the last one they recorded together, In Step (1989), are up there with the best of them.
The low points are few and far between. The live set In The Beginning was never released during Vaughan’s lifetime and it’s easy to see why. Likewise, while the 1986 Live Alive album is nowhere near as bad as the surviving band members would have you believe, it’s no vision of loveliness either. The wheels were well and truly coming off at this point and Vaughan entered rehab shortly after.
There isn’t a blues rocker alive today who doesn’t owe Stevie Ray Vaughan something. This box set goes a long way to explaining why./o:p