It’s a far more rare event now than it used to be, thanks to the internet digitally bootlegging music and making it all available for the downloading, but there are some albums which are regarded as lauded and collectible – even now. These albums are usually hard to find (some even digitally) and often develop something of a mythos about them as a result. Records like After The Astronaut by Butthole Surfers and several Tragically Hip bootlegs which feature the “Double Suicide” version of “Highway Girl” as well as the “Killer Whale Tank” version of “New Orleans Is Sinking” are great examples of albums which have never been formally released but have a lauded cult status, but arguably the best, most collectible of the bunch (and one which has received a surprising amount of radio play over the years) is A Legend In The Making by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Cut live off the soundboard at the El Mocambo in Toronto, Canada, and shipped to radio stations to get added specialty promo after Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand The Weather and In Step all got traction under them, A Legend in the Making‘s cult status only grew. Eventually, many radio stations had no choice but to stop playing it because they’d found their promotional copy had “gone missing” over the years. That loss was remedied early in 2015 when A Legend in the Making was included on Columbia’s SRV-focused, All-In-One discography box set, but now the label has gone a step further by pressing it onto a 2-LP special release for Black Friday in order to once again make the release a collector’s item.
Playing A Legend in the Making back now, it’s possible to really get a great sense of where Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were around the time of their debut album’s release in 1983. Right off, as the band launches into a power blues jam entitled “Testify,” there’s no doubt that everyone on stage is a little nervous. While the song is an instrumental, there is an air of rigidity and slightly increased tempo about bassist Tommy Shannon’s playing, and Chris Layton is hitting his drumkit pretty hard for a song of the demeanor that “Testify” features. Even SRV himself doesn’t seem to be totally immune to the nerves of the night; on “Testify,” the guitarist ignores the pocket and stays right with Layton at every change.
Happily, it doesn’t take too long for the band to settle down and loosen up after “Testify.” After one more wordless jam (“So Excited”), Double Trouble turns to their tried and true cover of Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child” and starts stretching out and, by the time SRV is ready to step up to the mic for the side-closer “Pride and Joy,” he’s good and limber. Here, the guitarist just flies up the fretboard of his road-word Stratocaster and does not spare his voice, and the band just wails out a classic performance of one of SRV’s greatest hits – it’s instantly satisfying.
Warmed up as they are at the end of the A-side, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble fire up their magic machine on the B-side as well as on the second platter as well. Soon-to-be hits “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and “Texas Flood” weigh in beautifully on Side Two of A Legend in the Making, but the real thrills are manifest in lesser-known songs like “Tell Me” – which features a truly great, raucous and surly performance by SRV – and a fantastic, carousing rendition of “Love Struch Baby” which hops hot, fast and in a surprisingly similar manner to Flat Duo Jets in its idiosyncratic presentation as it closes the side. That closer leaves listeners hungry for more (“Love Struck Baby” is better bait than anything else) but, happily, they have a whole other 33 1/3 RPM plate after this one to hurriedly put on their turntables.
While the C-side of A Legend in the Making is a bit of a challenge to get though (there is always a doughy part of a blues set, and this is this one’s), the cover of Hendrix’ “Little Wing” goes a long way to helping it along and, by the time the D-side starts, all problems are forgotten. There, SRV and Double Trouble illustrate just how ready they are to be discovered as “Lemmy” crosswires a Hendrix chord progression with SRV’s own articulate, evocative soloing style before “Wham” lives up to its name and blows the hinges off the album’s doors. True, there is one more song left on the D-side before it closes out, but the climax represented by “Wham!” completely overshadows “Rude Mood,” making it the last afterglow before exhaustion sets in and leaves those listening in a heap.
“So does A Legend in the Making really live up to its decades-old hype,” you ask (as if this review doesn’t prove it)? Yes reader, yes it does. A Legend in the Making proves beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt that not only did Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble arrive at the El Mocambo armed with both their hit debut album and a bunch of other hits they simply hadn’t gotten around to recording yet, they were locked tight and ready to take over the world. It’s fantastic and while the music has also already been included for prosperity in a box set, having it stand alone on vinyl makes for another great and worthwhile option for those who already have all the other albums.
The A Legend in the Making LP is out now. Try to track a copy down at your local independent record store.