Live in Japan (2003) is said to have been Roy Buchanan's favorite of all his platters, and ironically, it was never issued stateside. However, as word spread, the title became an essential addition to his discography. Fact is that it may have never come out at all, had there not been a loophole in Buchanan's contract with former label Polydor, giving them control over his non-North American output. Joining the guitarist for his 1977 tour of Japan are John Harrison (bass), Malcolm Lukens (keyboards), and Byrd Foster (drums/vocals). They are likewise the core contributors to Buchanan's most recent studio effort, A Street Called Straight (1976), though no tracks from the album are represented here. Instead, the set consists of recent collaborations, definitive cover versions, and a few seminal Buchananclassics. The immaculate fidelity immediately separates Live in Japan from most other releases in his canon. The enthusiastic yet typically reserved Japanese audience is first treated to a laid-back and stretched-out reading of Booker T. & the MG's' "Soul Dressing." The backing trio provide a rock-solid bed for Buchanan's sinuous interjections and spacious melody lines. "Sweet Honey Dew" is a perfect vehicle for some incendiary string shredding, although the actual tune is somewhat of a derivation of a standard blues riff. Perhaps more fitting is the rousing rendition of Larry Williams' "Slow Down," uncovering the nimble accuracy accompanying the sonic kick in Buchanan's piercing fret work. Contrasting this is the lengthy jam on "Blues Otani," as the ensemble ably improvise in and around the guitarist. Live in Japan concludes with an intimate and affective "Sweet Dreams," which may well have been the artist's unofficial anthem, as his unique interpretation undoubtedly made it a signature piece. If you own but one concert recording of Buchanan, let it be this one, as you will not be disappointed.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer