By: Trevor Pour
It is truly a challenge to stave off cynicism when, since the passing of an artist, the eighth (yes, eighth) compilation album hits stores. There seems to be no limit on how many times the greatest hits can be resorted, remixed and retitled on another $20 CD. So, as a longtime Stevie Ray Vaughan fan, I was excited but guardedly skeptical of the latest collection, Solos, Sessions & Encores (Sony Legacy). The selling points for this compilation are the six previously unreleased live cuts featuring guest artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Katie Webster and his brother Jimmie Vaughan. The first 12 tracks are mostly solid, but the album is closed out with Dick Dale's "Pipeline" and David Bowie's "Let's Dance." While historically interesting – SRV was featured on "Let's Dance," and "Pipeline" was one of his first projects after returning from rehab – these tracks are so incongruous with the flow of the album that they simply scream filler material.
The album begins with one of the four best tracks on the disc, "The Sky is Crying" with B.B. King, Albert King, and Paul Butterfield. Butterfield's harmonica musings pair beautifully with SRV's unique style, and the Kings add their distinct signatures to the seven-minute blues masterpiece. Of the previously unreleased live tracks, one standout is the clever "Oreo Cookie Blues" with Lonnie Mack, a far better rendition than Mack's studio version from Strike Like Lightning. Also a distinct gem is "Albert's Shuffle" with Albert Collins, a blistering blues barrage recorded at the 1988 NOLA Jazz Festival. Lastly, SRV's performance of "Goin' Down" with Jeff Beck is a powerful testament to the talent of both guitarists. And while this cut of "Goin' Down" has been sold on previous albums, it alone almost justifies the purchase of Solos, Sessions, & Encores. Almost.
After a few spins, when the dust settled, I really enjoyed this album but just can't bring myself to recommend it. You're far better off finding the four tracks mentioned above on your favorite pay-per-track online music store. The rest of Solos is, at best, merely average SRV material (and ironically contains no solo performances). The sound quality is good but not excellent, and the glut of SRV material already on the market doesn't justify the cost of this release. Neophytes should look elsewhere for their SRV introduction, and most serious fans will already own half the tracks here.
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