How do you awaken new generations to decades-old albums that, despite their career-defining popularity in another era, have essentially been pushed aside over time? Simple. You do the same thing everyone does when you want to command attention: You offer a bonus.
Two new reissues of records that completed the pop makeover of the veteran Brit blues brigade Fleetwood Mac and introduced the world to Texas guitar slinger Stevie Ray Vaughan do exactly that by including full bonus discs of unreleased concert material that was cut as their hit studio counterparts solidified the artists' stardom.
We won't waste time here rekindling praise for Vaughan's 1983 debut record, Texas Flood, or Fleetwood Mac's landmark 1977 chart topper, Rumours. Consult the history books instead, or better yet, give both a fresh spin. They remain incendiary works.
Instead, let's examine the new treats.
Vaughan's bonus disc is devoted to an hour's worth of white-hot Lone Star blues, soul and guitar jubilation from a single October 1983 concert in Philadelphia. As soon as the show-opening Testify kicks in, we are reminded of two performance attributes that made Vaughan's guitar work so enchanting.
The first is obvious: the ability to be a monster soloist with blistering, elongated guitar lines that would stretch with voice-like qualities. That's the sound that regularly and somewhat rightly brought on mountains of comparisons to Jimi Hendrix. But the second quality is less heralded. As Testify also reveals, Vaughan was an equally wicked rhythm player. The tune kicks around a chunky groove, turning it inside out but staying in glorious time as Double Trouble's Tommy Shannon (on bass) and Chris Layton (on drums) fall into the groove. A seriously funky jam ensues.
The Hendrix parallel is addressed head on with Voodoo Chile (mistitled on the reissue as Voodoo Child), a tune that Vaughan would essentially make his own in the years to come. But the treat is when the guitarist puts on the brakes for a slow, seething version of Tin Pan Alley. That's where you hear Vaughan for what he truly is: a giant of a bluesman.
The bonus disc to Rumours is pulled from four summer concerts that Fleetwood Mac gave in 1977, when the band all but owned pop radio. The performances aren't revelatory, but they are certainly revealing. Without the studio sheen, Fleetwood Mac resorts to its primary strength: the rhythm section of bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. Toss in the guitar work of a young Lindsey Buckingham, and the music skyrockets from pristine pop to some rather immediate rock 'n' roll, as shown by denser, muddier readings of Go Your Own Way and Monday Morning.
The melodic appeal is there. But what fun it is to spread some dirty Rumours for a change.
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.