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Reviewed by David Medsker
ride and Joy was originally released shortly after Steve Ray Vaughan’s untimely departure from the planet in 1990, containing all the music videos that Vaughan released from 1983-1989 as well as a live track from MTV’s Mardis Gras celebration in 1987. The collection is now available on DVD for the first time -- and its original runtime of 30 minutes has been more than doubled, thanks to the addition of the posthumous “Little Wing” video from The Sky is Crying, three MTV Unplugged performances, two videos from the Vaughan Brothers’ Family Style album, as well as footage from the making of the album and original TV commercials for Couldn’t Stand the Weather and Soul To Soul.
All of this material adds up to blues gold for SRV fans, as well as a revealing look at what is now pretty much a bygone era in the music business, despite the fact that it was only two decades ago. Bands still make videos these days, but MTV doesn’t play them with nearly the same frequency. This makes it extremely rare for a video to have the cultural impact that the art form often did in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which means most acts don’t put nearly the creativity into their videos as bands did 20 years ago. This collection reveals that SRV was not only a superb performer and one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, but also a complete entertainer with a great sense of humor.
“Love Struck Baby” opens the disc with a standard barroom performance clip. The real fun starts with the next video for “Cold Shot,” which depicts a battle of wills between Vaughan and a rotund girlfriend over his affections for his six-string mistress. One scene has Vaughan playing his guitar on the couch when the girlfriend grabs it away from him. But Vaughan just pulls another guitar out from behind the couch. She takes it again and he pulls out still another. Another scene on a rooftop shows Vaughan as if he’s about to give her a diamond ring or necklace, but instead he gives her a necklace featuring a little gold guitar charm. The enraged girlfriend throws Vaughan off the roof, which lands him in the hospital where X-rays indicate that that he has guitar parts inside him. Vaughan flatlines at the end, but is saved when the girlfriend plugs a guitar into his IV and he is able to play himself back to life. You just don’t see videos like this anymore.
“Couldn’t Stand the Weather” is one of the smokingest tracks of Vaughan’s career and the video is appropriate in its super-psychedelic depiction of the band playing outdoors with electrified neon clouds above them along with wind and mist that slowly builds into a serious storm. Shots of pseudo-political figures bickering are intercut with the band jamming, delivering a socially conscious overtone as Vaughan sings lines like “Changes come before we can grow / Learn to see them before we're too old / Don't just take me for tryin' to be heavy / Understand, it's time to get ready for the storm.” By the end of the video, the band is in the midst of a torrential downpour as Vaughan rips off one of his greatest solos.
“Change It” is another basic live video, though at a club instead of a bar, and with Vaughan’s solo breaks performed out in the desert. “Superstitious” is another great theme video, as Vaughan is depicted thumbing his nose at a variety of superstitious clichés while making the Stevie Wonder classic his own. He walks under a ladder, past a black cat, etc., and then delivers a monumental solo during the outro jam. At the end of the video, Wonder himself appears, picks up the black cat, and declares “superstition ain’t the way.”
“I’m Leaving You” is a pure live performance in an amphitheater setting, while “The House Is Rockin’” mixes concert footage with shots of the band performing at a classic house party. “Crossfire” depicts a variety of urban dangers as Vaughan sings an ode to living on the edge – “Money’s tight, nothing’s free / I am stranded, caught in the crossfire.” The posthumous video for Vaughan’s stupendous cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” is a retrospective, mixing footage of Vaughan with that of a variety of legendary blues guitar heroes.
The next section of the disc features MTV Unplugged clips of “Rude Mood,” “Pride and Joy,” and “Testify,” all performed by Vaughan just sitting on a stool and delivering some of the finest acoustic blues guitar playing a fan could hope to witness. Vaughan’s chops on “Rude Mood” and “Testify” receive huge ovations from the crowd, and are enough to keep any up-and-coming player occupied for quite some time.
The TV commercials for Couldn’t Stand the Weather and Soul to Soul again hearken to another era, as the spots just feel so ‘80s. The disc closes with the material from the Vaughan Brothers album that Stevie Ray put together with brother Jimmie. This includes videos for “Tick Tock” and “Good Texan.” The former delivers a soulful ode to a utopian world of peace and harmony, with images of people of all ages, races and cultures living happily, a vision which remains as timely as ever. “Good Texan” is a showcase for Jimmie Vaughan, with the video mixing footage of the elder Vaughan playing in a club with that of a cowboy romancing his girlfriend.
The disc closes with the electronic press kit material from the Family Style album, which includes revealing studio interviews with both Vaughan brothers and producer Nile Rodgers. The brothers discuss their influences while growing up, early musical experiences, and the making of the album. There’s also footage of the brothers jamming in the studio.
For Stevie Ray Vaughan fans, Christmas has come early this year.