Roy Buchanan

Sweet Dreams: The Anthology

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Sweet Dreams: The Anthology Review

by Lindsay Planer

This compendium could not be considered the final word on Roy Buchanan (guitar), as it would take more than two CDs just for his contributions as a session stalwart. However, until his catalog is given a thorough overhaul, Sweet Dreams: The Anthology (1992) is a satisfying overview of the man once dubbed "The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World." The collection kicks off with four previously unissued selections circa the aborted Nashville under the direction of Charlie Daniels. Although the project, tentatively dubbed "The Prophet," was eventually shelved, Buchanan's delicately pungent fretwork is unmistakably the centerpiece. His moods contrast from the blues-rocker "Baltimore" to the luminous, shredding electric leads that complement Daniels' acoustic guitar on Leonard Cohen's "Story of Isaac." The eponymous Roy Buchanan (1972) and appropriate follow-up, Second Album (1973), were documented within a five-month span in the summer and fall of 1972 with a band that was alternately known as the Snake Stretchers. In fact, Buchanan and company recorded and released Buck & The Snake Stretchers (1971), an infamous platter packaged in (no lie) a burlap sack and sold at Buchanan's gigs. Underscoring those earliest titles are the gritty and sinuous "Pete's Blues," the alternately haunting and searing solos on "Messiah Will Come Again," a blistering rendering of Erskine Hawkins' "After Hours," as well as the original "Five String Blues." While this material is uniformly excellent, by contrast, it is the concert cuts that seem to truly unfetter Buchanan. The nine-plus minute "Down By the River" that is exclusive to this compilation takes the Neil Young tune to a whole new space. There are also equally inspired moments on later studio sides -- like the rousing "Green Onions" from Loading Zone (1977) recruiting Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass) and Steve Cropper from Booker T. & the MG's. The same is true of the ballsy, driving reading Joe Walsh's "Turn to Stone," which was initially issued on You're Not Alone (1978). Sweet Dreams: The Anthology concludes with the fascinating "Dual Soliloquy," a previously unissued extemporaneous instrumental that is nothing short of a study in Buchanan's emotive techniques and flawlessly pure timbre. As such, it is both the highlight of this collection as well as an apt bookend to the artist's unquestionable talents.

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