Judge P.S. Colbert's Irish eyes are crying.
Soul music has many colors; green, for example.
It just figures Roy Buchanan's performance on German TV's long-running concert program Rockpalast would start after two minutes of technical trouble with the legendary guitarist's instrument. If anyone ever had a right to call bad luck his own, it was this Arkansas-born bluesman.
By the time Roy stepped on Hamburg's Markthalle stage on February 24, 1985, he had been plying his trade on the road for thirty years. Building a small but rapturous following, Roy had fought battles with drugs and drink, manipulative record labels, and an industry mindset that felt he possessed neither the hairline nor the waistline for superstardom. Perhaps the biggest deterrent to Buchanan's breaking into the big time was Buchannan himself, reportedly turning down invitations from Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones to make his own music his own way.
This performance perfectly illustrates the Buchanan conundrum; a virtuoso player with seemingly unlimited imagination, forced to deal with the intrusions of an imperfect world. Unfortunately, technical gremlins persist. Buchanan often addresses a microphone that seems turned down and at times altogether dead. Keyboardist John Steele suffers organ failure during "Green Onions," and occasional glare from the colored overhead lighting distracts us from the otherwise no-frills stage.
Despite a beguiling smile and devilishly twinkling eyes, Buchanan's heavy grey-flecked beard makes him look a bit grandfatherly in front of this three piece backing band: bassist Anthony Dunn, drummer Martin Yule, and Steele, who in addition to keyboards, triples up on guitar and vocals. The youngsters are solid, seemingly resigned to their place in the background as the Fender Telecaster master sparks magic throughout his set…
• "Thing In G (Short Fuse)"
This fairly pedestrian set list seems more suitable for a late night watering hole than national television exposure, and the presence of so many over-played "classic rock" standards gives the show an uncomfortably amateurish feel. this is compounded by Buchanan struggling to remember the words to "Hey Joe" and "Foxy Lady," a tribute medley to the late Jimi Hendrix. On the other hand, there's no beating Roy's take on Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams," or his own superb composition, "Messiah." I'd recommend Roy Buchanan: Live at Rockpalast to anyone interested in seeing unbridled genius at work, warts and all.
Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full screen with a PCM 2.0 stereo mix, the A/V package offers a brilliant restoration. This is my third Rockpalast review and I've yet to be anything but satisfied with their look and the sound. Unfortunately, there are no extras.
On the evening of August 14, 1988, Buchanan was arrested in Fairfax County, Virginia, and booked on a charge of public drunkenness. He was found later hanging from the window bars of his cell, in a noose made from his own shirt.
Sweet dreams, Roy. Rest in peace.
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