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Robert Cray – 4 Nights Of 40 Years Live (Mascot Label Group)

Genre: Blues/Soul

August 27th, 1990. The date resonates with a heavy heart to anybody within the blues community. The day that arguably the last true trailblazer in the genre died. It’s 25 years and a day later and I do wonder if Robert Cray has tipped his hat to perhaps the greatest of them all, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Jumping into the CD, Cray and band have captured a scintillating slice of soul that reinforces the belief that this supreme performer does, indeed, get better with age.

There are thirteen songs recorded live across LA but the set does start slowly. I Shiver, I’ll Always Remember You and Poor Johnny ease in the crowd in like a well-worn pair of slippers before Won’t Be Coming Home finally steps up the pace and allows that voice to come to the fore.

It’s at this point that the two people who fly under the radar the most are brought centre stage. The legendary Kim Wilson lends his voice to a cover of his Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Wrap It Up and then there’s the man who RC trusts to guide his musical output right now – the genius that is Steve Jordan. And it’s nothing short of breathtaking.

There’s just enough time to settle back into the smooth groove of the newly re-introduced and very much missed horn section on Love Gone To Waste before the big guns of Bad Influence and Right Next Door are unleashed. Finishing up with an unpredictably slow burner in Time Makes Two is a very ballsy move indeed – yet it works. It’s the DVD that is the jewel in the crown here though.

Interviews are included with each guitarist involved in SRV’s last on-stage moment (Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan – who all jammed out Sweet Home Chicago as an encore at Alpine Valley) as well as Keith Richards and Bonnie Raitt.

The behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals paints a perfect picture of professionalism and camaraderie – inclusive, chilled, and focused as the main man, Jordan and long term bass player and friend Richard Cousins iron out all the creative creases.

The two ‘archive performances’ are both fantastic additions with the 1982 San Francisco Blues festival edging out the more generic 80s-influence 1987 Countdown show (and, let’s be fair, with that early days moustache it was always going to).

Yet it’s no surprise that the Smoking Gun here is the video output of the 4 LA shows and in particular that version of Wrap It Up. Stunning Stuff, and no Chicken in the Kitchen here. Buy it. John Burrows

RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Hip Hip HooCray