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Roy Buchanan: Deluxe Edition

Roy Buchanan

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Album Review

The third non-crossed licensed anthology from the master guitarist focuses on his three-album stint at Chicago's blues-based Alligator Records. The artist considered the music he made during his 1985-1987 association with the label the most honest of his career. Since he received complete creative control on these discs, his 1988 suicide, a short year after Hot Wires — one of Roy Buchanan's best albums ever — was released, makes his untimely death even more shocking. With its 16 tracks — two previously unreleased — almost evenly divided between instrumentals and (predominantly) guest vocals shared by Otis Clay, Delbert McClinton, and Johnny Sayles (Buchanan tentatively and gruffly talks/sings three selections), this is not only a terrific overview of the musician's astounding guitar virtuosity, but a sad coda to a short yet intense career that never broke him through to a wide audience. "You know I ain't broke, but I'm badly bent" are not only lyrics to "Ain't No Business," but also the sad state of affairs the artist found himself in as he was recording his final disc. With a completely unique guitar style that effortlessly shifted from a crying moan (as in the opening bars) to his cover of Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine" to a raging howl — exemplified by the thumping take on Willie Dixon's "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" — Buchanan effectively covered all the blues-soul-rock bases with passion, integrity, and class. His economy of style is obvious in the concentrated 2:29 track (and appropriately titled) instrumental "Whiplash." Although the guitarist's material was often subpar on his two previous labels, the music he recorded during these three years was top-notch, and consistently throbbed with his trademarked rugged, steely tone. While he occasionally stooped to slinging out a wild flurry of fret-shredding cacophony, as in the middle of "Peter Gunn," just to provide proof of his jaw-dropping abilities, Buchanan more frequently kept those more ostentatious impulses in check. There's none of the gospel and low-key country he often dipped into during his Polydor years, yet the essence of those genres is imbedded in his blues and R&B work here. This Alligator Deluxe Edition features rare photos, adequate track information, and a heartfelt remembrance penned by label boss Bruce Iglauer. At 61 minutes, only its playing time is questionable, since there easily could have been another quarter-hour of music added. Still, for those who need a concise compilation of Roy Buchanan's phenomenal skills with no filler, this handy disc fits the bill.

Biography

Born: 23 September 1939 in Ozark, AR

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Roy Buchanan has long been considered one of the finest, yet criminally overlooked guitarists of the blues rock genre whose lyrical leads and use of harmonics would later influence such guitar greats as Jeff Beck, his one-time student Robbie Robertson, and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons. Although born in Ozark, AR, on September 23, 1939, Buchanan grew up in the small town of Pixley, CA. His father was both a farmer and Pentecostal preacher, which would bring the youngster his first exposure to gospel music...
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