It's not the familiar, fiery playing of Stevie Ray Vaughan that tips listeners off that this set's first disc has captured an extraordinary moment in modern blues history; it's the jarring, rising chorus of boos that accompanies it. As with previous musicians as disparate as Dylan
, Vaughan's willful tweaking of staid genre conventions initially infuriated purists. Though few could have imagined it at the time, Vaughan and company's July 17, 1982, show at the Montreux Jazz Festival (included here in its entirety) ignited not only a brilliant career, but a widespread revival of the blues as well.
David Bowie was there that night, but he was not booing. He secured the Texas guitarist's services for his smash Let's Dance album on the spot, nearly a year before Vaughan would make his major-label debut.
Straight from the Austin club scene, the band displays their nervous energy in a set that contains several previously unreleased/rare gems from SRV's early repertoire, including the Hound Dog Taylor romp "Give Me Back My Wig." By the time of this set's second disc, recorded just three years later, SRV was a worldwide star, the boos had turned to rousing cheers, and Vaughan's nervousness was replaced by an incendiary swagger he seemed all too happy to push into the crowd's faces. With the band (drummer Chris Layton, bassist Tommy Shannon) now augmented by Reese Wynans on organ and guest guitarist Johnny Copeland sitting in on "Tin Pan Alley," the triumphant show (11 of the 15 songs are included here) centered on the cream of SRV's first three studio albums. While some of these tracks have found their way onto other releases (Live Alive, Blues at Sunrise), the show's "Scuttle Buttin'," "Voodoo Chile," "Gone Home," and "Couldn't Stand the Weather" are released here for the first time. The set's comprehensive liner notes contain new commentary from the band's Shannon and Layton, David Bowie, early confidant Darryl Pitt, and many quotes from the guitar legend himself. All history lessons should be this riveting. --Jerry McCulley