This Legacy Edition of Couldn’t Stand The Weather commemorates the 20th anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s premature death.
It’s an expanded version of the 1984 album, the second of four the great Texan axeman and his backing rhythm section Double Trouble made that decade, which did so much to revitalize rhythm and blues together with the work of Robert Cray and Jeff Healey.
Their first album, Texas Flood, released the previous year, was the biggest-selling blues album for 20 years, and this one did even better. Couldn’t Stand The Weather reached out further to mainstream rock audiences who admired what Vaughan could do with his Fender Stratocaster, and while his vocal range may have been relatively limited, he certainly knew how to put a song’s lyrics across.
As always, there is excellent support from Tommy Shannon on bass and Chris Layton on drums, who provide a solid springboard from which to launch Vaughan’s guitar fireworks. And although his technical ability to produce a wide variety of effects was phenomenal it always served the music.
This Legacy Edition contains two CDs (with extensive liner notes): the first disc features the original album’s eight tracks plus 11 outtakes from the recording sessions of that time; the second showcases a concert the band gave in Montreal just three months after the album’s release.
However, the album itself was first remastered in 1999, with four of these outtakes added then, while four of the other outtakes had already been included on the posthumous 1991 compilation album The Sky Is Crying, so only three outtakes here are previously unreleased. And though the recording of the concert is a new release, it does overlap heavily in terms of material with other live albums already available. Nonetheless, if hardcore Vaughan fans won’t get too much extra value from this repackaging, this is still a terrific introduction for newcomers.
It’s true that Couldn’t Stand The Weather does not really break any new ground after the debut album, with only four songs by Vaughan (including two instrumentals), plus four covers. But even if the songwriting does not progress, with the band on top of their game it goes down a storm.
The title track (recorded in front of a live audience) is one of Vaughan’s best compositions, with a funkier sound than usual. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) is an impressive account of the rock classic by Jimi Hendrix (one of Vaughan’s big heroes and influences), as he stakes his claim to be considered one of the great man’s successors.
Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place In Town), the longest track at over nine minutes, is a slow, smouldering blues number, which proves to any doubters that Vaughan’s could play guitar with considerable delicacy and depth of feeling as well as blistering power and virtuosic technique. And the jazz instrumental Stang’s Swang adds welcome variety.
The additional tracks include previously unreleased versions of the wonderfully soulful cover of the Elmore James ballad The Sky Is Crying, the James-influenced Boot Hill and an alternate take on Stang’s Swang minus tenor sax. There’s also Vaughan playing slide guitar for a change on Give Me Back My Wig, a breathless account of the pioneering blues-rock guitarist Lonnie Mack‘s instrumental Wham! and the Grammy Award-winning instrumental cover of Hendrix’s Little Wing.
On disc two all except the opening track of Couldn’t Stand The Weather are put through their paces in a live arena showing Vaughan could well and truly deliver the goods at the sharp end without any studio trickery. It also features five tracks from Texas Flood, including storming opener rock instrumental Testify, the beautifully gentle, free-form Lenny and probably Vaughan’s best-known song Pride And Joy bringing the gig to a rousing climax.
It’s bitterly ironic that, having kicked his potentially lethal drink and drug habits, Vaughan should be killed in a helicopter accident aged only 35, but his outstanding musical legacy lives on.