Stevie Ray Vaughan
Couldn't Stand the Weather
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2010, Volume 17, #10
Written by John Metzger
Fri October 22, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
There is always a lot of talk in the music industry about artists who suffer a sophomore slump. The fact of the matter is that there also are plenty of musicians who avoid it — or, at least, push the dip in quality back to their third or fourth endeavors. Of course, talent has something to do with it. Some outfits, however, are able to keep the problems at bay simply because they blossom later than others, and then, they have more time to develop new material. More often than not, they have plenty of songs in their arsenal — both original compositions and cover tunes — before they sign with a label and score a hit. Consequently, by the time that the pressure to assemble their second record begins to mount, they already are prepared to pounce on the opportunity.
With the release of his debut Texas Flood in 1983, Stevie Ray Vaughan was immediately thrust to the forefront of the revitalized blues scene that had begun to coalesce around the works of fellow guitarists Robert Cray and George Thorogood. Amassing surprisingly stellar sales figures, Vaughan’s effort became the best-selling album that the blues market had seen in two decades. Strangely, though, critics weren’t particularly kind to Vaughan’s sophomore set Couldn’t Stand the Weather. Some expressed disdain over the guitarist’s ascendency within the circle of pop-culture figures, perhaps not realizing that achieving widespread appeal had always been part of his plan. Others took issue with the set simply because it cemented Vaughan’s approach, instead of broadening it.
Most fans will agree that Couldn’t Stand the Weather wasn’t a perfect album. The outing was a composite of cover tunes and original material, and its tracks didn’t fit together very neatly. Filled with stops and starts, it jumps from one place to the next, whimsically exploring a variety of moods and textures. As a result, Couldn’t Stand the Weather never feels completely cohesive. At the same time, though, Vaughan found perfection within several of the collection’s key moments — most notably his renditions of Tin Pan Alley (Roughest Place in Town) and Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child (Slight Return). Viewed with the hindsight that the past 26 years have provided, Couldn’t Stand the Weather arguably has been more durable than many critics initially thought it would be.
Not surprisingly, Vaughan was obsessed with the flashy showmanship of Hendrix — not to mention Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. With Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Vaughan clearly was challenging his fans, boldly daring them to compare his output to the finest recordings of his heroes. Without a doubt, as it moves from the muscular attack of Scuttle Buttin’ and the funky groove of the title track to the R&B textures of Cold Shot and the jazzy flair of Stang’s Swang, the collection sufficiently highlights the breadth of Vaughan’s stylistic range. Yet, there also is no denying the fact that, first and foremost, Couldn’t Stand the Weather is steeped in Hendrix’s rich legacy. Vaughan’s approach could have reeked of imitation, but throughout the endeavor, he proved that his performances could withstand the scrutiny that he was inviting.
In the wake of his premature death, many tracks that Vaughan had recorded but never used were compiled to create The Sky Is Crying. The album was designed to feed the demand of an audience that was desperate for new material. Several tunes from the sessions that spawned Couldn’t Stand the Weather surfaced on set, and eight years later, a few other tracks from the same era were included on an expanded edition of the endeavor. All of these songs along with three previously unreleased selections complete the first half of Couldn’t Stand the Weather: Legacy Edition. Save for the heightened emotional edge of an alternate version of The Sky Is Crying, there are no hidden surprises to be found. Nevertheless, Vaughan’s immaculate readings of Earl King’s Come On (Part III) and Willie Dixon’s Close to You as well as his magnificent instrumental interpretation of Hendrix’s Little Wing remain as thrilling as ever.
Despite the strength of his early efforts, including Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Vaughan was never completely satisfied with his studio recordings. He often felt that his vocals weren’t soulful enough and that, instrumentally, he and his band Double Trouble were too stiff. Captured in August 1984, the 75-minute concert featured during the latter half of Couldn’t Stand the Weather: Legacy Edition lends credence to his concerns.
Like many outfits, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble typically fed off the excitement of its audience. Naturally, it took some time for the trio’s chemistry to develop, but by the summer of 1984, a deep, unspoken connection had formed among the musicians. Throughout its 12-song performance in Montreal — from the sheer ferocity with which it attacked Testify to the churning violence of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) to the raucous Chuck Berry-isms of Love Struck Baby — the collective demonstrated its startlingly powerful command. Repeatedly throughout the show, the tightly knit rhythm section of drummer Chris Layton and bass player Tommy Shannon fully supported the improvisational thrust of Vaughan’s sharp-edged guitar solos.
As expected, almost all of Couldn’t Stand the Weather was replicated during the concert. Nevertheless, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble brought a greater level of intensity to its new material, much more than it was ever able to channel in a recording studio. In fact, it is quite surprising that this live performance wasn’t released as a standalone outing years ago. Consequently, Couldn’t Stand the Weather: Legacy Edition is one of those rare reissues where the new product is made significantly stronger by its slate of bonus tracks.
Of Further Interest...
Couldn't Stand the Weather: Legacy Edition is
available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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