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Sony Music presents
Stevie Ray Vaughn And Double Trouble: Live At The El Mocambo (1983)

"It was just a straight live performance, there just happened to be cameras there."
- Chris Layton

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: May 14, 2000

Stars: Stevie Ray Vaughn
Other Stars: Tommy Shannon (bass), Chris Layton (drums)
Director: Dennis Saunders

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:02m:50s
Release Date: December 21, 1999
UPC: 074644911190
Genre: rock


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B+ B+

DVD Review

How many times can you say a concert brought you to near tears? I threw on Stevie Ray while going about my business, scanning new arrivals and checking out news stories and press releases. It didn't take long for me to stop what I was doing, my eyes riveted to the screen. My god that man could play. And he did so with such awesome power, with such clarity, and with such truth—no pretensions, no faking it here, friends. (After later watching the interview with Double Trouble, I realize now it will seem I stole these words. I didn't. Chris Layton was simply dead-on right that Stevie was so authentic, so genuine, that his audience knew him without knowing him. I guess I prove his point.)When he gets to Pride and Joy, the tears begin to well up. I never knew the man, but I could feel him. How could you not? Layton and Shannon tell of how Stevie once touched a microphone during a concert and an arch of electricity appeared. A setup ritual then became to have a roadie test the microphone by touching it—even going as far as putting a tongue to it. But even after all that, Stevie would be playing and touch the mike and the arch of electricity would appear. As Layton says, Stevie was simply a conduit from heaven to us.

It's obvious that Stevie loved what he did; his guitar was the typewriter of his soul. His every emotion is carried through his fingers to your body, your head, your heart, as directly as a mind meld. You can just tell that here in this small, packed Toronto, Canada venue (where the Stones once played)—where he could interact with an audience only feet away from him—he is in his element. There is no fooling around here; no idle banter, no gags, no dazzling light show—only the down and dirty honest conversation of a life of pain, love and joy.

Stevie didn't believe in songlists; the band drove the lighting crew crazy because they would never know what song would be played and where they would be on stage—it was never orchestrated (the one exception being during a tour with Jeff Beck). The moves? Layton says they were all spontaneous, that Stevie was incapable of faking it—never rehearsed. Hendrix's strong influence is evidenced in Vaughn's play, and more so as he plays the guitar behind his back or behind his head as he does on track 9, Love Struck Baby. But if you want Jimi-like power then fast forward to Stevie's tribute, Third Stone From The Sun (track 11). From the guttural riffs to the feedback to bashing his guitar about the stage floor—it's all good, folks. The connection is almost unbearable between these legendary guitarists and their unfortunate early demise.

When I watch it again I try to put all this thought behind me, and relish in this stolen moment, frozen in time, the joy with which he played. It isn't long before Stevie is sweating profusely and the crowd is hooting with joy. Texas Flood (Chapter 8) is something special. Here Stevie takes you on a journey only the cold hearted could refuse, from the raw intense power of pain to the quiet solitude of joy.

The tears well up again. Why? I guess I feel connected. You see, I was at the concert the night before Stevie Ray died on the side of a hill in southern Wisconsin. Three couples enjoying the sweet sounds of Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Stevie Ray—who stole the show. The only reason we missed the next night's show was, in my youthful, cavalier stupidity, I received a speeding ticket for doing 103 in a 65 mile-per-hour speed zone. I was staying 10 minutes away. I was in no rush. I didn't have a bond card, so to avoid jail I had to pony up $130—all the cash I had. The next night was even hotter I understand, as legendary Chicago blues guitarist, Buddy Guy, joined the threesome for an encore set at the end of the show. And then in a rush to get back to Chicago, Stevie decided to hitch a ride on a helicopter. The aircraft never made it out of Alpine Valley.

"And they were singing bye-bye Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry.
And good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye,
The day the music died.




Tracks Include:

1. Testify
2. So Excited
3. Voodoo Chile
4. Pride & Joy
5. Tell Me
6. Mary Had A Little Lamb
7. Texas Flood
8. Love Struck Baby
9. Hug You Squeeze You
10. Third Stone From The Sun
11. Lenny
12. Wham!

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: This is one of the better 4:3 non-anamorphic transfers I've ever scene, particularly of older live footage. There is some bleeding of reds, as well as a disparity between the clarity of different camera angles—some being sharp, others with a softness due mostly to the angles of the lighting. Otherwise the image quality of this transfer is fantastic. Every grimace, every drop of sweat, every attack of the fret is as clear as day.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno
PCMEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: This isn't a reference level mix compared to say the redone studio track of Yellow Submarine, but due to the nature of the source material that may be too high a standard to which to compare. I'm not sure it would have been appropriate for this man or this venue anyhow. Under the supervision of Stevie's brother, Jimmy, what the remixed 5.1 track does is put you about 15 rows back from the stage, with the rears supporting by adding a reflected, rear of the room effect. If you close your eyes you can easily picture yourself there. The LFE channel is very active, if not overwhelming, so it's not like sitting next to the speaker with the bass thumping away at your head as you might experience in one of our world famous Chicago blues bars.

The PCM stereo track is adequate, but obviously pales in comparison in every regard to the 5.1 track. Although it lacks the depth and directionality of the 5.1 track, the sound is nicely distributed across the front soundstage nonetheless. Listening to the PCM track however, makes one appreciate the 5.1 track even more.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Timeline of album info
  2. Lyrics, as subtitles
Extras Review: There are a few minor irritating issues with the menus, which are otherwise very nicely presented with full motion video clips from the concert in each section. The menus are a bit clunky (access to chosen links on the disc seem slower than normal), the worst being the design of the song access in how one jumps to the next or previous page of songs (it jumps to the "Main Menu" link rather than the "Next" link in some situations). This however, should not bother but the most impatient, but as developer of user software it irks me, if only slightly. But these are my only complaints...on to the good stuff.

The disc comes with a very nice interview with Layton and Shannon of Double Trouble, speaking about Stevie Ray, and this night at the El Mocambo in particular. For over 22 minutes they give some wonderful insight into the man that Stevie was, topped, I think, by the story of his all-out refusal to headline after B.B. King—he simply thought it was not his place.

And the gods have spoken. It should come as no surprise to me that Sony, with its image transfer mastery, has also produced the one key feature for which I have been begging to accompany music DVDs: lyrics as subtitles. How pleasant to be able to see the words as they're sung, without having to leave the concert and go to another screen. Bravissimo!

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Because I am so hopelessly behind I nearly gave away this disc to one of my reviewers. Sorry, friends, but this has already become one of the most cherished discs in my vast collection.

 


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