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Steve Ray Vaghn and Double Trouble's The real deal: greatest hits vol. 2

By Stuart Rosenberg

Listen to clips from this CD at Planet of Sound.

"From 1983-1990, over the course of six albums and countless electrifying live performances, Stevie Ray Vaughn revolutionized contemporary blues." So begin the formulaic liner notes on Epic's new compilation of the late guitarist's career. If you buy the album to find out why Stevie is held in high esteem, you'll be convinced of the above statement, but you'll find little reason to spread the word. The tracks on the album, although solid in their representation of Vaughn's style and diversity, aren't necessarily his best work.

The first track on The Real Deal, "Love Struck Baby," inexplicably left off the first Greatest Hits album, makes a promising start. "Ain't Gone 'n' Give Up On Love," is a slow, sweet, straightforward 12-bar blues with smooth interplay between Stevie's soft vocals and piercing fretwork. In contrast, "Scuttle Buttin'" is a burst of pure, virtuoso electric blues.

"Wall of Denial" is the first of many songs that are pleasant but not worthy of inclusion in a compilation. A mediocre, coked-up performance brings down "Willie the Wimp," while over-processed guitar hinders "Telephone Song." A pop version of "Pipeline" reminds us that, although Stevie's blues transcended the '80s (as all decent music produced then did), he did fall victim to the synthesizing wont of the decade.

There are, however, brief moments of uninterrupted brilliance. "Empty Arms" is the raw musician in his native groove. "Riviera Paradise" sets Stevie up against a fusion progression provided by his tremendous backing duo, Double Trouble. He reacts with fluidity and subtlety, adapting to the genre while retaining his personal style. A Hendrix cover pushes him to the other edge of his tonal range. This range, though, is better represented on other albums, most notably "The Sky is Crying." Buy it instead for the real deal. (Epic)

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