Review Summary: From a soul to another, the second studio release from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, sets itself apart from others through a myriad of clever covers and superb ballads. Despite this, the album isn't a musically solid as its predecessors, but willStevie Ray Vaughan
and Double Trouble’s second studio album is not a descent but rather a gratifying multi-dynamic interlude between the magnificent earlier Texas Flood (1983)
and the following magnum opus, In Step (1989)
. While the group’s main brilliance resides in the labours of blues guitar master-king Vaughan, one cannot overlook the importance of the other members and their contributions, particularly through the addition of keyboardist, Reese Wynans
and saxophonist, Joe Sublett
to the blues canvas. Wynans presence on the album would become necessary for adding the flare needed in tracks such as the painistically driven “Look at Little Sister (Dixon)”
and the profoundly jazzy “Gone Home (Harris).”
Because of this addition, Soul to Soul isn’t just another blues record. Like the others before it, it blends the influences of Vaughan and his band; jazz, soul and 12 bar blues rock. Both producers John Hammond Jr.
and sidekick Vaughan, manage to capture a truly elegant feel throughout the album. This is one record where the production complements all the music.
A good deal of the release is comprised of cover tracks; renditions of Vaughan’s highest influences, Curtis Mayfield
, Willie Dixon
, Eddie Harris
and alike. He does quite well to add his own character and rhythm to these reproductions that sometimes they could possibly be mistaken as his own creations. This is of course what makes Vaughan so brilliant; his ability to caress his ideas into wonderful motifs, and then articulate them through his guitar. Perhaps the most luminous examples of this are through the more reflective moments of the album. “Ain’t Gone ‘N’ Gone Up on Love”
and the capping track “Life Without You”
both represent Vaughan at his best both lyrically and instrumentally, leaving the rest of the tracks, well, sitting in their tracks. That isn’t to say that rest of the album isn’t as commendable, but clearly Vaughan shows his talent best when he is indeed focussed on his own pure compositional skills. Focus is what inevitably runs the album down. It isn’t really as focussed as it could be, nor is it as aesthetically stimulating as the two previous releases, hinting at the bad habits of Vaughan himself, or possibly the pressures of just becoming successful.
Having said this, the album does still have a multitude of highlights. All the tracks are noteworthy examples of fine instrumentation and performance, but standouts include the superb blues rock instrumental opener, “Say What!”
(Which would earn him a Grammy award), Doyle Bramhall’s
rockin’ out blues track “Change It,”
and perhaps one of the finest examples of Vaughan’s fine fretwork in Come On (Part III).”
Soul to Soul does capture Vaughan’s influences in a very effective manner, to the point where the album almost becomes its own pinnacle within the realm of the 80’s blues movement. It offers a unique illustration about a harder time of Vaughan’s life in an appropriate way and also appears to complete his desire the express himself through the songs of others, hence being from soul to soul. Musically, this album will become a breath of fresh air for many fans, paving the way harmoniously for the follow up record.