Less than a year after Stevie Ray Vaughan's amazing debut Texas Flood was released to a blues world hungry for a new guitar hero, Vaughan and his talented Double Trouble Band hit a New York City studio to record a quick follow up. The result was an eight-song tour de force called Couldn't Stand The Weather, a collection of covers and originals that provided fledgling SRV fans with more of the same, only better.
There are a number of differences between Texas Flood and Couldn't Stand The Weather. First, Vaughan's debut wasn't recorded as an album, but was considered by the band and their hand-picked producer to be a demo intended to get them a major label deal. The performances are looser, the production more raw and primal because those were the conditions they had to work with in the 48 hours they had in the studio. For Couldn't Stand The Weather, the band was shuffled off to NYC, given a hotel room to rest in, and access to a state-of-the-art studio for six weeks to record the album. While guitarist Vaughan, bassist Tommy Shannon, and drummer Chris Layton had been playing together for years, they had never performed together in this situation before.
Stevie Ray Vaughan's Couldn't Stand The Weather
Regardless of the naysayers who put down Couldn't Stand The Weather as merely treading water, the album and its performances have withstood the test of time. Working with famed producer and legendary A&R man John Hammond, a music-lover that knew a thing or two about blues music, Vaughan and Double Trouble laid down a number of incendiary blues-rock barn burners. The album kicks off with the Lonnie Mack-inspired instrumental, "Scuttle Buttin'" a Vaughan family favorite that highlights Vaughan's fluid, twangy licks; the song had been a long-time part of Vaughan's set and remains a fan favorite to this day.
The album's title track evinces more than a little bit o' soul, Vaughan's smoky vocals accompanied by some staggered, wiry fretwork and a syncopated rhythm that approximates the song's enormous swagger. The rest of Couldn't Stand The Weather is immediately familiar to SRV fans. A cover of Guitar Slim's slow-burning "The Things (That) I Used To Do" features brother Jimmie Vaughan on rhythm guitar, the younger Vaughan embroidering Jimmie's six-string tapestry with mesmerizing patterns of sound and emotion.
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
The MTV favorite "Cold Shot" received heavy rotation on the video network, but it was Vaughan's inspired performance of the song, written by former bandmates Mike Kindred and W.C. Clark, that infused the number with a swinging recklessness that grabbed listeners by the ears. Vaughan's cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" takes the song into an entirely otherworldly realm. Vaughan doesn't just mimic Hendrix's phrasing and leads; he expands them to become the cosmic force their creator intended the song to be.
Vaughan originals like "Honey Bee" and the spry instrumental "Stang's Swang" are fine examples of Texas blues, swinging rhythms matched by machine-gun fretwork that throws off notes with alarming speed and dexterity. While the former features one of Vaughan's better vocal performances, his voice full of soul and subtlety, the latter really highlights the chemistry and talent of the band, Vaughan's jazzy tone complimented by Layton's nimble drumwork and Shannon's rockin' bass lines.
The Sky Is Crying
The four songs that were added to the original CD reissue of Couldn't Stand The Weather are included here, a red-hot cover of Freddie King's instrumental "Hide Away," and the humorous "Give Me Back My Wig," an energetic bit of fun that offers a tightwire Vaughan solo. The expanded two-disc "Legacy Edition" of Couldn't Stand The Weather includes a number of tracks that had been previously released on Vaughan's The Sky Is Crying odds-n-ends compilation, but this new reissue also includes three previously unheard performances.
There are a number of gems among the previously-released archive material, such as the Vaughan original "Empty Arms," a Soul To Soul outtake, which displays a wide range of tone and texture in the guitarist's playing, or the cover of Hendrix's lovely, lilting "Little Wing," which reveals a jazzier, more nuanced side to Vaughan's talents. Of the previously-unreleased songs, a three-piece take of Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying" (the album of that name features a four-piece band version) shows the power in a "power trio," Vaughan's fretwork on the song simply transcendent in its vision. An alternate take of "Boot Hill" rocks as hard as the originally-released version, while the alternate "Stang's Swang" is interesting, but sounds thinner and weaker than the original, recorded with a different guitar and minus Stan Harrison's blasts of sax.
Live In Montreal 1984
The second disc of this Couldn't Stand The Weather reissue is what will drive the punters mad with "gotta haveit" disease! Featuring a twelve-song late-night set recorded live at The Spectrum club in Montreal on August 17, 1984; these dynamic performances have seldom been bootlegged, and never released previously in legitimate form. Showcasing Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble at what was, perhaps, their first creative and professional peak (the second would come a few years later, after the band cleaned up), "Live In Montreal" offers up a brutally entertaining mix of songs from both Texas Flood and Couldn't Stand The Weather.
The performances on the live disc are the stuff of legend: Vaughan takes his reading of Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" even higher than the studio version with an unbelievable 12-minute jam that showcases his amazing six-string pyrotechnics. "Cold Shot" perfectly captures the cruel swing of a Texas roadhouse while a fast-burning take of "Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place In Town)" reinvents the blues from the ground up, Vaughan speaking through his instrument and imbuing the song with blood, sweat, and tears. The crowd favorite "Love Struck Baby" follows, no less powerful for its brevity, its rollicking instrumentation providing the audience with a welcome release of tension. Another Vaughan original, "Pride And Joy," remains one of the best loved songs in the artist's canon, a reckless shuffle with plenty of stinging guitar, joyful vocals, driving bass, and crashing drumbeats.