In The Beginning

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

Epic Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Whenever people ask me who my influences regarding music were when I was growing up, one aunt of mine almost immediately comes to mind. Like myself, she is very much into music (though her tastes dip into opera, and I don't particularly like opera), and constantly is testing me to see if there is a specific song I've heard of or an album I can find.

She is also one of the hippest people I know. Recently, as payment for an album search she asked me to do (meaning one day, I'll review that Jermaine Jackson album here), she picked up a copy of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble's In The Beginning. She's recently gotten heavy into Vaughan's music (while I discovered him around the time of his tragic death in 1990), and was surprised to hear that there was not a copy of this album in the Pierce Archives (so long, WRCX-FM... you can't tell I'm a little upset about their format switch, can you?).

Released in 1992, this show from Austin, Texas in 1980 captures the young bluesman and his bandmates (bassist Jackie Newhouse and drummer Chris Layton) in one of the earliest appearances in their career. Despite the band's youthfulness (the liner notes state the band had been a three-piece for only a few months), the hunger is clearly here, and Vaughan's prowess on the Stratocaster is amazing, even at this early date. If only some of the material was more exciting; Vaughan and crew rely on cover tunes far too much. Granted, there might not have been a lot of original material written, but the three "new" songs (at least in 1980 parlance) contain a lot of life.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Of course, this isn't to say that the cover versions are anything to sneeze at. The opening track "In The Open" gives the band a chance to settle into a comfortable groove before really deciding to blow the doors off the joint. Same story applies to "Tin Pan Alley," which Vaughan stretches out just enough to let the feeling sink in without wearing out his welcome. The same, however, can't be said for songs like "They Call Me Guitar Hurricane," which sounds like Vaughan stepping into a pair of shoes he's not comfortable wearing.

What is surprising is that Vaughan chose to open the show with two instrumentals, "In The Open" and "Slide Thing", the latter being one of the three originals. Vaughan shows time and time again on In The Beginning that his pipes were fully developed; I just wish that he chose to use them earlier in the show. Vaughan's slide work on "Slide Thing" is impressive, if not as flashy as his fretboard magic.

The early version of "Love Struck Baby" is a keeper on this album (even though the track is not in my top ten songs from Vaughan's catalog). The inclusion of some familiar ground is a welcome addition to the album, and makes it a little more accessible to the "dabbling" fan. Too bad that this is the only such moment on the album. Again, if there were no more original music written at the time, then I'm making an unfair comparison, and I'm completely willing to admit to this.

In The Beginning's biggest flaw is that it seems to end just when you really start getting into the show; "Live Another Day" is the coda that comes far too soon. (This could also be a metaphor to describe Vaughan's time in the limelight.) At only nine songs, such a collection seems far too short for someone as talented as he was.

In The Beginning is an interesting historical picture of life before superstardom for Vaughan. If only there were more material on this album to appreciate.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.