Monday, July 13, 2015

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Soul To Soul (1985)

The Blues as a genre of music is so damn broad and important in music, that's it's impossible to find a gold standard within it.  Sure you hear about the Blues giants, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Blind Willie Johnson, or even more recent artists like Jonny Lang, and John Mayer.  What you don't hear are the artists that at their core, are Blues artists, but, they add another layer to it.  It could be a rock element, a jazz element, maybe even a more global sound.  Artists like Eric Clapton, Dr. John, and today's pick, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Blues is fundamentally the root of virtually all modern music.  Without it, there would be no Rock, R&B, Jazz, Funk, anything.  Everything that we've been listening to since the early part of the 19th century can be traced back to Blues. I could link a Blues influence to any vinyl pick that I've ever done, and every record that I've ever owned.  But, I wont.  Instead, we can talk about what makes this my first official Blues pick over say my Robert Johnson, another Eric Clapton, or even The Blues Brothers.

Soul To Soul was Vaughans' 3rd album, it was released in the late summer of 1985.  If you've been paying attention to previous 80's posts here, you may recall that 1985 was a crowded year for music.  You had to have an epic album to get any kind of notice on the charts that year.  Seriously, the year started with Purple Rain from 1984, (Yes, that post is coming, I assure you.  Matter of fact, it'll be the 50th overall post so we're 5 away.) Phil Collins was on and off the charts all year with No Jacket Required.  Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Tears For Fears, Wham, Dire Straits, and the Miami Vice soundtrack made 1985 an outstanding year for music.  Buyers were shifting more toward Pop and that 1st Wave sound and hoovering less around Rock and Blues.  It won't be until the Hair Band movement that Rock gets taken seriously again.  That means that an artist such as Stevie Ray Vaughan would have to, again like many other artists, go mainstream.  Enter Blues Rock, with Pop stories?  I know, weird right.

Believe it or not, a major reason that music was so damn successful in the 80's, had a a lot to do with lyrics and how simple they were.  It really came down how well can you tell a story and add a hook to it.  Thinking I'm kidding?  Listen to Parents Just Don't Understand.  Ok, too easy, how about Spandau Ballet, I Know This Much Is True.  Compare that to modern pop where sure they lyrics are simple, but the stories make no sense. [Warning, this is a risky click]

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble wrote some hard core stories, and Stevie's vocals amplified the feeling.  The fact that he was  gifted guitarist, I'm talking level Hendrix, made for something special.  An album that was so deep and rich with feeling that you would swear he was Classic Rock or Blues before the terms were invented for nostalgia sake.  Listening to his Texas blend of smoke really puts you in a place where you could swear that you need a drink listening to this.  While the album was generally poorly received by critics, it was well received by fans looking for an adult alternative to music that was for all intents and purposes dying off since the 70's.  There was no more Zeppelin, Who, and Doors, and those that weren't dead adapted and kinda sold out.  This album went completely against the grain and gave people something unlike anything they expected or ever heard of at the time.

Did anyone really expect someone to work a Stratocaster like that?  There were 2 singles released from that album, Look At Little Sister was one, the first, Lookin Out The Window, was very roadhouse.  Just not in the way would would assume by thinking about it.  He somehow pulled off Country Blues, and made it rock.  That's right sports fans, before Blake Shelton, there was Stevie Ray Vaughan.  

Since his untimely death in 1990, his music really hasn't been re-released.  That makes a bunch of his original release albums a bit more difficult to find.  So here's where the fun part of crate digging in a record store comes into play.  I discovered this gem at Stereo Jack's Records in Cambridge this past winter.  So well worth it, I was about to walk out of here but realized there was a whole section that was begging to be looked at.  A half hour later, I walked out with something special.  If you find this, snatch it up if for no other reason than knowing that you own a classic piece of Blues Rock before it get's it's renaissance again in a few years.

By the way, if you were paying attention, 2 paragraphs ago, I buried a huge hint at next weeks vinyl pick.  I'm sticking with the 80's and next weeks is going to be huge....  Ahem, sports fans.

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