Stevie Ray Vaughan- Texas Flood (1983): 16 March 2020

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

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

ZZ Top- Eliminator (1983): 8 April 2019

ZZ Top – Eliminator (1983)

Welcome back to YDCS where we’re going into the 1980s this week for the most commercially successful album by ZZ Top, Eliminator. First though I’d like to apologize for posting 23 hours later than normal. It was bound to happen eventually, but I got caught up this past week and didn’t get finished in time. Your regularly scheduled post will be back next week on time! Comprised of the trio of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard, ZZ Top’s lineup has remained consistent since 1970, so by the time 1983 rolled around, the band knew what their sound was and had established themselves in the pop/rock music scene. In fact, Eliminator was not the band’s first experience with a hit album. The band previously released 1973’s Tres Hombres which featured tracks like Waitin’ for the Bus and the mega-hit La Grange, and 1979’s Deguello which featured I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide and Cheap Sunglasses. The difference between Eliminator and their other two hits was the introduction of MTV in 1981. The band created a trio of music videos for Sharp Dressed Man, Gimme All Your Lovin, Legs that relied heavily on the sex appeal of models, which naturally resulted in heavy airplay on MTV and increased album sales. You can’t forget to mention the custom, fluffy, spinning Dean guitars. I’m sure that had something to do with the album sales too…

Eliminator draws heavily from the blues rock origins of the Texas natives with some emerging elements of synth rock from the New Wave movement, and in particular, drum machines. Listen carefully to songs like I Got The Six or Got Me Under Pressure and you can hear that bit of synth and those drum machines that were rushing onto the scene during the early 1980s. Eliminator is a perfect road trip album for me. Every song on his record can be turned up and rocked to while driving on the highway with the windows down. This album makes me want to go road tripping through the mountains of West Texas, where there’s miles between towns, and just feel free. I this album makes you feel like rocking out too! Enjoy!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Gimme All Your Lovin’: We’re starting off the album with a classic song that still receives heavy airplay on classic rock radio. Freewheelin’ guitars and solos a-plenty, Gimme All Your Lovin’ is quintessential ZZ Top track because it’s timeless! You can never turn away from a song that you can turn up and rock out Dad’s Rating 8/10

Got Me Under Pressure: I had never listened to all of Eliminator before this review, and Got Me Under Pressure was one of the tracks that surprised me the most. I particularly enjoyed the usage of the drum machine and how it gives the song a chugging drive. This is a song I would put on any of my driving playlists for road trips and would listen to again! Definitely a hidden gem here! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Sharp Dressed Man: You know exactly which song this is from the first three notes on the guitar and the introduction of that synthesizer. I can’t think of a better song to epitomize the early 1980’s rock scene other than maybe Jump by Van Halen. Memorable lyrics and a rocking guitar riff characterize this song. The only reason I’m not rating it higher, and the issue I have with most of the songs by ZZ Top, are that they’re not musically or lyrically challenging. While this song does characterize the early 1980s rock scene, it didn’t push the boundary of what that could be. Dad’s Rating 8/10

I Need You Tonight: The guitar play a much less prominent role on this track than on the rest of the album to let the vocals shine through. Dusty Hill wasn’t known for his vocal prowess but he didn’t disappoint here! The guitar sits back and play a more haunting, supporting role but still comes out after the second verse for a solo that elevates the song and doesn’t overshadow it. Dad’s Rating 7/10

I Got The Six: I Got The Six is the shortest track on the album and feels like a classic rocker. This track is very guitar forward in exactly the same way that I Need You Tonight was not. I feel like I’ve heard about 300 different songs that all sound like this one. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this song, but it doesn’t stun in the way the next track does. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Legs: There’s an emerging pattern on this album where whenever the band began incorporating synthesizers and drum machines, those songs seemed to push the boundaries of what rock could do. This is the second song that I’ve rated highly that featured this “new technology,” and I believe that it really does add an extra layer of depth to the song that makes ones like I Got The Six slightly boring to listen to. As far as Legs is concerned, this is a rocking solo with a catchy riff and a shredding solo that contrasts the guitars role in the rest of the song nicely. I would add that this song is elevated by the fluffy guitars from the music video. Keep on spinnin’! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Keep on Spinnin’

Thug: This is one of Dusty Hill’s best performances on the bass that I’ve listened to. Thug is so different from the rest of the album, and that makes the whole product much stronger for it. Gibbons took a major back seat here to let Hill rock out on bass and his popping technique fits the song well and shows some skill that I hadn’t really heard from him on other tracks where he was taking a supportive role to Gibbons on lead guitar. Dad’s Rating 8/10

TV Dinners: Thug flows very smoothly into TV Dinners, but this is the most absurd song on the album. I’m not sure why the band felt the need to write a song about the merits and demerits of TV dinners, but they did. This falls squarely in the same musical realm as I Got The Six, where I feel as though I’ve listened to 300 songs exactly like this except the subject matter is so much more bizarre that I KNOW I’ve never listened to another song about TV dinners. Weird… Dad’s Rating 4/10

Dirty Dog: Dirty Dog sounds very similar to Got Me Under Pressure at first and I’m really glad that they didn’t pair one right after the other, otherwise it would have felt like one long song. I prefer the riffs throughout the verses in the latter of those two songs, but think that the solo is much better in this song than it is in Got Me Under Pressure. For that fact, I rate both songs equally! Dad’s Rating 7/10

If I Could Only Flag Her Down: We’ve got a little something different going on with this track! There’s a little bit of a rockabilly/country feel to this song but with a hard rock twist. I think this really benefits the album to break up, what can at times, be almost a drone from songs that sounds too similar. This is a great little hidden gem that’s worth giving a listen!  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Bad Girl: The album closes strongly with another song that has great drive and would be suitable for any road trip. By this point though, because there have only been two instances where the band really showed off different styles, this feels like any other song on the album. Dad’s Rating 6/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.