Robert Cray

Authorized Bootleg: Austin, Texas 5/25/87

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Robert Cray’s entry into Universal’s Authorized Bootleg series is taken from an outdoor concert he gave in Austin, TX on May, 25 1987. Originally recorded and broadcast for the syndicated radio show King Biscuit Flower Hour, the concert captures Cray at something of a peak: his 1986 Strong Persuader album turned into an unexpected hit thanks to the single “Smoking Gun,” and he was drawing the kind of large audience blues artists usually couldn’t find during the Reagan years. But popularity isn’t the only reason that this Authorized Bootleg is a document of Cray at a peak -- his set list illustrated the depth of his blues, touching on Albert King’s “Natural Ball” and Jimmy Smith’s grooving “Back at the Chick Shack,” with his original material (including tunes written by Dennis Walker and recorded first by Cray, such as “Right Next Door (Because of Me)”) striking a balance of King’s soul-blues, Smith’s clean funk, and B.B. King’s crossover blues. Cray’s Stratocaster stabs are icier than B.B.’s leads, but he’s playing joyfully and singing with soul, which is the real reason this is a memorable date.

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