Roy Buchanan

A Street Called Straight

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After an uneven four-year/five-LP deal with Polydor, Roy Buchanan (guitar/vocals) linked up with Atlantic Records for his next trio of long-players, commencing with A Street Called Straight (1976). Under the direction of Arif Mardin, and sporting the same combo that he had been using during his practically incessant touring, this disc is infinitely stronger than his previous non-live effort, In the Beginning (1974). The core unit of John Harrison (bass), Malcolm Lukens (keyboards), and Byrd Foster (drums/vocals), are augmented by a host of all-stars such as Andy Newmark (drums), Will Lee (bass), Billy Cobham (percussion), the Brecker Brothers horn section, and vocals from former Rascals' member Eddie Brigati. Perhaps Mardin's mid-'70s success, creating soul and funk-oriented platters, encouraged him to take the artist in a similar course. Buchanan definitely sounds not only in his element throughout this title , but he rises to the occasion, providing some of his most incendiary licks and aggressive instrumental interaction in a studio setting. This also manifests itself with a bounty of self-penned compositions. Rather than including one or two of his own pieces in an album consisting of primarily cover material, nine of the 11 cuts are, at the very least, co-written by Buchanan. As always however, it is his unmistakable, if not singular fretwork that truly coalesces A Street Called Straight. The frenetic opening whine of "Running Out" immediately sets the tone as Buchanan's guitar sings with a woozy fluid intonation, perfect for his expressive and emotive leads. The middle-eight solo is a prime example of his uncanny ability to switch from sharp, jagged, and sinister, to a string-stretching, bluesy intonation. This contrasts the backbeat-laden "Keep What You Got" funkfest, and the noir combination of acoustic and electric textures on Billy Roberts "Good God Have Mercy." The reading of Jimi Hendrix' "If Six Was Nine" is an almost natural extension of the original, with a brooding and slinky rhythm. While some purists may consider the overproduction slick, Mardin's creation is an undeniable improvement over his prior non-live outings.

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