Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood (1983)
Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re taking a listen to the debut album by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Texas Flood. Vaughan, often regarded as one of the best rock guitarists of all time, recorded this album in two days in Jackson Browne’s recording studio. Six songs on the album are original tracks while the other four are a combination of blues standards, classic folk songs, and gospel inspired songs. Two of those songs, “Pride and Joy” and “Love Struck Baby” would go on to be released as successful singles.The album would prove to be a resurgence for the blues rock genre and associated acts like the Stray Cats and ZZ Top who were experiencing a decline with the introduction of New Wave and electronic influences from the Second British Invasion. It wasn’t just the 1980s where Texas Flood’s impact would be heard. The album would prove to be instrumental as one of the earliest signals of the rockabilly resurgence in the 1990s.
Texas Flood is going to be one of my favorite albums that I’ve reviewed this year. The whole album is masterfully performed and I can’t fault a single performance except for that fact that some of the songs don’t stand out from each other. What I immediately noticed is that Stevie put so much feeling and energy into this album, and it shines through on tracks like “Tell Me,” “Rude Mood,” and “Dirty Pool.” Much of the record focuses on Stevie’s guitar playing ability and it doesn’t disappoint. His variation of technique and when combined with his growling vocals, Texas Flood begins to feel like a proper blues rock record. I recommend listening to this one and focusing on the variety of different sounds that he can get out of a guitar; it’s really incredible. You’ll hear everything from 12 bar blues to more traditional rock sounds. I’ll be reviewing the original release this week so the tracklist will vary from the re-released Legacy Edition. I hope that you enjoy this one as much as I did! Now presenting Texas Flood!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Love Struck Baby: You couldn’t start this album with a better representation for the rest of the album. “Love Struck Baby” is a fun, classic blues track that leans heavily towards rockabilly, particularly through the solo section. This one was made for the radio, clocking in at just under two-and-a-half minutes in length. Radio friendly and fun to listen to, “Love Struck Baby” hits a lot of notes well but lacks the depth of the songs buried later on the album. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Pride and Joy: “Pride and Joy,” while it may initially sound similar to “Love Struck Baby,” plays much closer to traditional 12-bar blues while including an electric lead than the former. We start to hear more depth of performance on this song, and this is where I feel like Stevie starts to open up the gas. One of SRV’s best-known songs, “Pride and Joy” features some fantastic musicianship and manages to balance rocking out during the solo with a more mellow sound through the verses to let Stevie’s rough-around-the-edges vocals carry the song. Great track and a classic! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Texas Flood: One of the blues standards featured on the album, this is the most famous recording of “Texas Flood,” although it was originally recorded by blues legend Larry Davis. I really like “Texas Flood” for two reasons: the musicianship that is on display and the iconic nature of the song. First, SRV knocked it out of the park on this track. This is the second-best solo on the album for me but easily the most iconic. His playing is hypnotizing and makes me want to sit back and follow the notes. I would highlight the variety of technique employed on this track too. You hear everything from traditional blues chords punctuated with big guitar riffs to fast picking sections interspersed with divebombs. It highlights the second thing that I like about this song: SRV had a unique way of combining traditional blues songs with classic rock sounds. “Texas Flood” is the perfect representation of that combination. Hard electric guitar added over bluesy vocals and a 12-bar blues beat gives this song a significantly different sound than the original, but the two are combined and balanced very well. You can’t miss this Stevie Ray Vaughan classic! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Tell Me: “Tell Me” is one of the weaker songs on the album for me, and I put it in the same vein as “Love Struck Baby.” It’s a solid blues track but it’s sandwiched between two huge songs in “Texas Flood” and “Testify.” There’s not a whole lot else to say about it, it’s an average blues song. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Testify: Wow. I’ve never heard “Testify” mentioned among the great guitar solos of rock and roll (That usually goes to “Pride and Joy”), but I think this is more than deserving of that honor. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard this song before this review! This is a real face melter of a solo and I would imagine is listed in the dictionary as the definition of face melter. “Testify” is truly an outstanding solo piece that demonstrates the full extent of Stevie’s prowess over the guitar. He wrung everything he could out of that guitar with fast picking held together with a few divebombs and the grooviest blues chords out there. “Testify” doesn’t normally get a lot of love, but it’s the best song on this album without a doubt. I recommend checking out the live performance too (linked here). A perfect score for one of the best blues guitar solos put to tape. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Rude Mood: “Rude Mood” leans much closer to the rockabilly side of the album than the traditional blues side. The guitar reminds me a lot of songs by the Stray Cats, well known for their rockabilly sound. This is a really fun instrumental track that plays well with “Testify.” Where the former is more of a normal rock song and you get to hear SRV’s chops in that realm, “Rude Mood” lets you hear the other side of that with a blues solo. It’s a neat comparison and well-performed! Dad’s Rating 7/10
Mary Had a Little Lamb: I wasn’t sure how a blues version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” would go, and I’m not sure why they decided to record it in the first place, but it’s actually neat in a weird way. The vocals on this track are the smoothest on the album and reminiscent of Clapton’s voice. As for the instrumentals, it’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb” played to the blues! It’s a strong instrumental performance if not particularly notable. Bonus points for creativity on this one! Dad’s Rating 6/10
Dirty Pool: “Dirty Pool” is another fantastic hidden gem on this album. THIS is the blues. Slooooow blues. I’m in love with the sparkling guitar that features prominently throughout the song. There’s something about those cried-out lyrics combined with a crystal clear, clean guitar that makes this song stand out. I’ve never heard a solo like this one either; the whole thing is quick, strumming that’s exactly like the backing through the verses. It ties the song together nicely by giving it a running theme throughout. I highly recommend checking this one out. Dad’s Rating 9/10
I’m Cryin’: “I’m Cryin” is another good song that doesn’t stand out from some of the bigger songs on the record, similarly to “Love Struck Baby” and “Tell Me.” If you’ve listened to one of the other two then you can probably skip this one. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Lenny: We end this chaotic, blues-filled album with a song tribute to Stevie’s wife, Lenora. I can hear a lot of Hendrix influence on this song, particularly songs like “Little Wing” (Which SRV actually covered too). This is a beautiful instrumental that shows a softer side of the musician and is a refreshing way to close a frenetic album. There’s something pure about one man, one beat, and one guitar playing a song dedicated to his wife. Stevie captured that emotion on “Lenny” and made a great song. Dad’s Rating 8/10
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