Anything with Greatest Hits of … in its title usually makes me feel slightly queasy right away. For one thing, the function of these albums is traditionally to serve as a brief intro to what is considered (by the compilers)to be the best of the best – selections that will whet the listener’s appetite and leave them wanting more: perhaps encourage them to seek out further music themselves. But so often the songs that appear on these albums are not the best and the new listener ends up feeling empty and disappointed while a true fan feels simply ripped off. (This is especially true if the “Bonus Track” is obscure and without any real merits other than not being well known).
That being said, a few producers/compilers do get it right – very right – and when this happens, an introductory album can be a thing of beauty, an exciting and useful tool especially for novice musicians or anyone else who is just trying to find out what they like and where to start their journey.
Texas blues phenom Stevie Ray Vaughan had a short life packed with all the characteristics of a hard living musical legend. Stevie represented an innovative, chunky sound that came right out of Austin – introducing a harder, rock-hybrid blues to a whole new audience – and his super-human guitar playing abilities were evident to anyone who heard him. Unfortunately, he also suffered tragic excesses but he did overcome these addictions and would latterly share the story of his triumph with the audience – which was not always appreciated. He was only thirty five old when he died in a helicopter crash and the story goes that although he had not been scheduled for this particular flight, he changed his mind at the last minute and thus ended up on the one that was doomed to go down. Immensely tragic stuff.
Stevie was often criticized for his singing. The general consensus seemed to be that since his guitar prowess was so much superior to his voice, why not just play? And while his playing was clearly – um, more than adequate – I also think that his singing was heartfelt and expressive. Who can even guess what he may have gone on to achieve musically, had he lived on – incredibly, he and Double Trouble made five albums in total in only about six years – so it’s safe to say that his singing especially may have evolved even more with time. His trademark look of broad brimmed hat, long hair and ultra-cool pointed sideburns is still appealing and widely copied even today.
There are a selection of 'Greatest Hits' type cds available for Stevie Ray Vaughan and frankly, most of them are excellent. But I do think that for sampling purposes, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble Greatest Hits is the best all rounder. It’s a timeless, cool and completely perfect spin for anyone who wants to sample some mainstream kick-bottom blues.
Here’s the track listing:
2. Texas Flood
3. The House is Rockin’.
4. Pride and Joy
6. Little Wing
8. Change It
9. Cold Shot
10. Couldn’t Stand the Weather
11. Life Without You
I love every track listed here but I must draw special attention to Change It and also Cold Shot to offer some examples of really excellent vocals. Totally gritty, resplendent with masculinity and loads of the much publicized “fire” that he breathed into the blues. Listen.