Stevie Ray Vaughan – Complete Epic Recordings (review)

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – The Complete Epic Recordings (Epic / Legacy) review

All of the Master’s studio & live material in one place, with a treasure trove of bonus material

Stevie Ray Vaughan rewrote the way the electric guitar was played.  He effortlessly blended Texas blues with jazz and rock, and came up with a sound that would influence generations of guitarists.  Now, for the first time, Epic & Legacy Recordings are making all of the influential guitarist’s work available in one collection. The Complete Epic Recordings, is a 12-disc set that culls all of Vaughan’s studio work and released live material, and couples it with rare concert performances and unreleased tracks – making for the ultimate fan experience.

The oldest material here is In the Beginning, a live Austin radio broadcast from 1980, where Vaughan and band haven’t quite refined their sound. Take, for example, the version of “Tin Pan Alley” and compare it to the one that appeared on his second album, Couldn’t Stand the Weather.  The guitarist seems to be bursting with ideas and can’t get them out quick enough, plus, he hadn’t come into his singing voice yet.

It’s amazing to think that Vaughan only released four studio albums in his lifetime (his duet album with brother Jimmie is not included).  All four records, Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Soul to Soul and In Step, are included.  There is incredible growth from 1983’s Texas shuffle “Pride and Joy” to 1989’s funky “Crossfire.”  Vaughan also released one concert record during his lifetime, Live Alive, which features a blinding version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”

The box set also features several live shows that showcase Vaughan in a variety of settings – the live Montreux Jazz sets from 1982 & 1985 are particularly nice (check out the far superior live version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”).   In addition, there’s a rare concert, A Legend in the Making – Live at the El Mocambo, from Toronto 1983 which was previously only available as a radio broadcast.

Couple that with two discs that sum up the archival material of alternate and unreleased tracks, and you’ve got the most complete picture of the genius of Stevie Ray Vaughan anywhere.  Right up there with Clapton’s Crossroads box set, The Complete Epic Recordings should be required listening for any serious electric guitarist.  —Tony Peters