Like that of Jimi Hendrix, Texas-bred guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan's body of work has been coming together on CDs over the past couple of years. There are reissues of his albums, the previously unreleased television concert with Vaughan and Albert King, In Session, and a set of slow burners, Blues At Sunrise. They reflect the impact Vaughan had on '80s rock 'n' roll and most of the blues-based rockers of today, from Jonny Lang to Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Alvin Youngblood Hart. But Vaughan's own personal journey through the music has never been fully documented. The comprehensive SRV changes all that. A beautifully packaged three-CD and one DVD set spanning from 1977 to just before his untimely death in 1990, SRV includes many previously unreleased cuts. There's Vaughan with Paul Ray and the Cobras doing the soulful "Thunderbird", a couple of tunes from a 1970 sound check in Austin, radio performances, studio outtakes, and assorted live material. The most stunning live performance piece is "Little Wing/Third Stone from the Sun," delivered with such relaxed devastation at a 1984 CBS Records Convention that it sends chills and Hendrix-fueled thrills through the CD player. Less impressive are two cuts live at MTV's 1987 "Mardi Gras." But then that too is part of Vaughan's life package. He was in the throes of addiction and out of
control. Like the outtakes, and sound check material, cuts like these give the set overview,balance, and a sense of truth about the dues some musicians must pay to play. And it makes the post-addiction material that much sweeter. Vaughan, joined by Jeff Beck, rips through "Goin' Down" in a 1989 Albuquerque show, electrifies MTV audiences with two "Unplugged" cuts, and shows how high on life he was in three songs performed in concert on August 25, 1990, two days before his death. The DVD disc of Vaughan's "Austin City Limits" show are pieces that have never aired or been released as a recording. The amount of previously unissued Vaughan material on SRV makes it a must-have for completists. For those who like his psychedelic rock but only have a smattering of recordings, this set is a key to the person behind the hit tunes. And if there is anyone who owns no Stevie Ray, SRV is a perfect introduction, for this artist is not only an icon to guitar worshippers, he's also the most important player to rise out of the blues in the past 30 years.