SRV commented that this was when he was at his very best - clean & sober.
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That was said, but it wasn't even remotely true. SRV did his best, most inspired playing while drinking and coked up, playing in Texas bars. By the time he was sober he was playing big arenas, not taking chances and pushing the boundaries like he once had. His first album was by far his best recorded work, and it was long before he went on the wagon.
@ Lloydc...I saw SRV more than a dozen times during his career, in bars and in some pretty large venues and the ONLY time he wasn't "pushing the limit" was when he was too wacked out on coke and booze (I thought his playing was actually disappointing a few times due to his being too wasted). I never saw him consciously "not take chances" in his playing. His playing and skill level continued to progress until the day he died. I was at Alpine Valley - his last show - and it was the very best I'd ever heard him play.
I also saw SRV a few dozen times, mostly in Austin bars like Soap Creek Saloon and the Rome Inn, when he was playing with Paul Ray and the Cobras. As great as his recordings are you can't get a sense of what an incredible player he was from any one recording of a song. What was most remarkable to me was that he never played a song the same way twice. His ability to improvise, sometimes wildly, while retaining the integrity of the song was something I've never heard anyone equal.
Agree that the records do not begin to capture the way SRV played live. Playing in large stadiums, as he did after going nationwide, is not like playing in a bar, where the blues belong. Stadium rock is more constrained, more pressure, less free. The best improvisations usually happen in smaller venues. Can not think of many exceptions, other than Garcia with the Dead.
When someone told Jimmy Vaughan that Stevie never played anything the same way twice, he said, "Stevie never played anything the same way ONCE."
I saw SRV play over a hundred times, mostly in Houston and Austin. Sometimes to "crowds" of a dozen people. Agree that he was occasionally too wasted to play cleanly, e.g., the Live Alive album. So what? What he would do with "mistakes" was always interesting. Imo, his best work was before he bacame famous, in the early 80's, and at that time, he was always high.
As most of you may know, AP/QRP has a forthcoming SRV 45 rpm 6 LP box. If the Doors box is any indication, this will be pretty impressive. $400 is a lot of money no doubt but this should be one of the best sounding and most luxurious packages of his material yet. I don't know if it's for me yet but it sounds like there are a few die hards here. It may be right up your "alley".
Several rooms at the recent Chicago AXPONA show were playing some "test pressings" from the new AP SRV 45RPM release, and I have to say that the sound was absolutely stunning! You could feel the vibration of Stevie's guitar strings and the dynamics of the drum kit were just amazing. The vinyl surfaces were also notably absent of noise. Given what I heard I expect that these will become a new reference for SRV fans. It was like he was back with us for the moment.
As deserved as praise and admiration for SRV is, it has always been puzzling to me that people in the US almost completely ignore Gary Moore whose playing, to me, was a few notches above SRV's, especially in the pain Gary was able to convey and the note sustain. Both amazing guitar players prematurely passing. Very sad indeed.
For me, SRV and Gary Moore were pretty different animals. Unlike Moore, Stevie had that Texas flavored thing going on. And, while he was undeniably a wonderful player, I always thought Gary Moore was fighting an uphill battle for recognition for several reasons:
1) He was Irish - not exactly a hotbed of blues musicianship
2) His rock records weren't IMHO great and they confused his identity as a blues player
3) He was never the main man in his highest profile gig - Thin Lizzy
4) He obviously admired Peter Green a lot (check out Blues for Greeny) and his early sound bumped up very closely against Green's - right down to that distinctive phasey guitar tone. I suspect that he was sometimes (wrongly IMHO) dismissed as a Green wannabe and that this also clouded his identity.
Later in his career, after the rock period, when he went back to the blues, IMHO he found a more personal voice on the instrument. I'd agree that there's plenty of overlooked gold in Moore's catalog, especially in that later phase of his career.
The thing is Gary is very widely known and popular in the rest of the world. It is only in the US that he, for some crazy reason, has never been fully appreciated. His omission from the RS 100 greatest guitarists list is as absurd as it is a case in point (not that it's Gospel, but still). His music might have been a different flavor in the '70s and '80s, but his talent was always mind-blowing. By the time he focused primarily on blues, he was already recognized as one of the greatest guitar players outside of the US, so I really doubt that anyone would even think of him as a Green wannabe. But I do agree with you that him being Irish was a big factor in his less than deserved popularity in the US. But that solo around the 5 min mark is just unreal.