What does it mean to become a legend in the guitar-god business? For Stevie Ray Vaughan, it's meant a hulking statue on the banks of Austin's Town Lake, a recent "Jeopardy" answer (Alex: "With his band Double Trouble, he led a blues revival until his death in 1990." Contestant: "Who was Hooker?") and another comfortable niche for the bootleggers.
Thankfully, Jimmie Vaughan still protects his little brother, which explains why Epic hasn't kept pace by packaging every cough and string break left on tape. The brothers' joint project, "Family Style," was already finished when Stevie Ray's helicopter went down. Since then, his official discography has grown tastefully, with the revealing outtakes of "The Sky is Crying," the club-years document "In the Beginning" and the inevitable "Greatest Hits."
Now comes "Live at Carnegie Hall," Stevie Ray's professional bar mitzvah, recorded at New York's music temple in October 1984. It was the day after a landmark birthday (30); he wore a special new Suit and the family was flown in. And presiding over it all was the great rabbi himself, John Hammond Sr., who had steered the likes of Count Basie and Bob Dylan through the same rites of passage.
For Stevie Ray, Carnegie Hall must have seemed that much bigger, coming from Dallas' notorious Oak Cliff neighborhood, where the only famous theater was the one in which Lee Harvey Oswald was nabbed. So the occasion required something grand. He started the show with Double Trouble (Tommy Shannon on bass and Chris Layton on drums). For the second half, he brought in an extra drummer, the Roomful of Blues Horns, Dr. John on keyboards and his own guitar idol, brother Jimmie.
And somehow it worked. Or at least it sounds like it did, judging from the abridged show here. Jimmie Vaughan says he left off a flashy "Voodoo Chile" because it didn't match the mood of that night. Perhaps other songs were held back because the set list overlapped too much with 1986's stillborn "Live Alive." But these new, leaner versions of "Love Struck Baby" and "Cold Shot" demand the whole show, if only for context.
Along with swinging versions of "Pride and Joy" and "Dirty Pool," the 11-piece big band looks back without schmaltz, giving two nods to Guitar Slim, one to Albert Collins and another to Albert King and the Texas club scene itself -- with straightforward guest vocals from Austin's Angela Strehli. While Stevie Ray remains out in front, it's all complement and cooperation.
In contrast, the encore is all solo Stevie Ray, with "Lenny" given the same luster that made "Little Wing" the centerpiece of "The Sky is
Crying." And finally, the signature workout "Rude Mood" serves as benediction not just for one night's triumph, but for the long trip from Oak Cliff to West 57th Street.