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Who doesn't know of Stevie Ray Vaughan? To many people, he himself saved blues from the wretched "pop music" of the 80s. The horrible synth pop, the fast-approaching hair metal, and all the like. He is a figurehead for guitarists and blues enthusiasts alike. In 1982, Stevie Ray Vaughan were invited to lay the Montreux Jazz Festival, and was the only unsigned band to play there. The band was booed, but the reasons why vary, depending on who you ask. Some say that the audience didn't appreciate electric blues, or the fact that Stevie was wildly different in presence and attitude than the rest of the acts. Some say that it was because the music was way too loud for the area that they were playing in, and Stevie didn't seem to notice. The fact that the crowd booed him made him even more determined to play better, and he did. The concert is considered to be their "sucess in disguise". Jackson Browne offered them free studio time, and Stevie even played on David Bowie's Lets Dance
. The free studio time eventually led them to recording Texas Flood
, which would launch them into the mainstream, and would put Stevie in the spotlight until his tragic death in 1991.
DVD Bonus Features :
The feature here that is the most noteworthy is the miniature-documentary Success in Diguise
. It contains interviews with Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton, Jackson Browne, and John Mayer. It is very informative, especially for newer fans of the band, and is very interesting to hear all of their opinions on Stevie and what happened at the festival. Besides that, there are stereo and 5.1 mixes, and discography. The main focus, though, is Success in Disguise
The Montreux Jazz Festival : 1982
The first disc, the 1982 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, is by far the best. Stevie, clad in a rather tasteful outfit (for him), mainly stands and plays, not yet developing the stage presence he was known for later on. His guitar sound is what you would expect from Stevie, round and full, with no distortion. His playing is fluid, connecting line after line with no effort. Tommy Shannon's bass playing holds down the song, allowing Stevie to improvise overtop. His tone is rounded out also, and is nearly perfect. Chris Layton also keeps the beat perfectly, whether the song is slow or fast. His drumming is tasteful and simple, fitting the music extremely well. There is a perfect balance of slow, mid tempo, and fast songs that make the concert flow very well.
The concert opens with a medley of "Hide Away" and "Rude Moo," providing an upbeat and exciting beggining to the show. "Pride and Joy" and "Love Struck Baby" are the most focused here, and also some of the best. "Pride and Joy" is one of Stevie's most famous songs, with a searing guitar intro and leads, revolving around a basic 12-bar pattern, which makes it extremely catchy. "Texas Flood," another staple, is one of the best songs here. Stevie's playing is jaw-dropping, with him improvising almost the whole song, with some mournful lyrics here and there. The other songs here aren't exactly the best songs, but they fit with the rest rather well, and showcase the band's talent ever more. The production, here, is excellent. The footage possesses a very "vintage" feel to it, and you can hear every instrument very well, without trying to hard. Overall, it is a very good concert, and much better than the second.
The Montreux Jazz Festival : 1985
The second performance takes place in 1985, when Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were on top of the world, so to say. Their popular had vastly increased since their last performance there, and you can definately tell by the crowd's reception. Since '82, there was another addition in the band: Reese Wynans, on keyboards. His playing adds another dimension to the songs, though I sometimes question if I want to hear a piano more than Stevie ripping it up. That being said, his playing adds some variety to the sound, and I greatly appreciate that. By 1985, the band members, especially Stevie, were having problems with drugs. You can obviously tell that, due to drugs and the wear of road life, Stevie and the band aren't exactly in tune with what they're doing at all times. Stevie's tone, especially, just doesn't sound right at all. It may be the fact that he plays different guitars throughout. His singing here, also, is very weak and doesn't seem to be able to overcome the music, for the most part.
The concert opens with "Scuttle Buttin'," an fast, but rather boring song. It does nothing for me whatsoever, and just feels like an excuse to showboat. To add to the rather bad choice of an intro, "Say What!" is next. The song is mainly instrumental, with Stevie using some wah and all. Nothing really that stands out from these songs, and that's why it's an immediate turn off for me. "Pride and Joy" does repent for the beggining though, with a fantastic keyboard solo from Reese, adding some punch to the song. "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is also fairly decent. Though Stevie's tone and playing are questionable, Reese provides some nice organ fills throughout, which is another nice addition to the song. The next few songs that follow, though, are just boring and uninteresting, and do nothing to redeem the quality set by the first disc. "Look at Little Sister," finally, provides listenability. The song is rollicking, and everyone performs very well on it. Johnny Copeland adds a nice solo, too. The version of "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," although better tha most songs on the disc, just seems uninspired and boring. Stevie's singing hardly rises above the cluttered accompaniment. The last song, "Couldn't Stand the Weather," is the only song that really stands out among final few on the second disc. It's a breezy, near-jazz tune that provides a nice ending to the disc. The production, however, is as good as the first disc, and proves to be the best aspect.
Overall, Live at Montreux : 1982 & 1985
is an excellent example of the band in the early, and later days. The first disc is the best; an amazing display of Stevie's prowess on guitar, and Double Trouble's solid backing and experience, with a good selection fo sogns to boot. The second concert, however, lacks a lot of what makes the first disc great. The song selection is rather questionable, the performances aren't nearly up to par, and everything just seems lazy. The production on both discs are fantastic, letting you hear everything clearly, though on the second disc, the sound gets cluttered by the amount of musicians on stage.