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Robert Cray: 4 Nights of 40 Years Live Review

crayRobert Cray has been recording his unique style of soulful blues for over forty years. That’s over twenty albums and thousands of live performances. 4 Nights of 40 Years is an attempt to present Robert Cray’s career in a fan friendly, three disc package.

The first disc is billed as the “Main Feature.” Recorded last December at several L.A. rehearsal halls and venues, Cray’s current line up of bassist Richard Cousins, drummer Les Falconer and keyboardist Dover Weinberg are augmented by  saxophonist Trevor Lawrence and trumpeter Steve Madio of Paul Butterfiedl and Stevie Wonder fame.  Producer Steve Jordan adds percussion to give the band a full R&B flavor with extra bottom. From the opening track “I Shiver” it’s apparent that both Robert’s voice and guitar work are still as soulful as his fans have come to expect. Guest vocalist Kim Wilson turns in a fine performance on “Wrap It Up,” which was a huge hit for the Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1980s. However, the band stays closer to the 1968 Sam and Dave original, right down to the horn section. Lee Oskar also sits in on “Sitting on Top of the World.”

Disc 2 is the bonus disc and includes performances from the Dutch television show “Countdown” from 1987, and the Robert Cray Band’s set at the 1982 San Francisco Blues Festival. The band was touring behind the Strong Persuader release and this show contains music from that period. Peter Boe on keys and drummer David Olson were the rhythm section for this outing, with Cousins on  bass, Some of the highlights are “Guess I Showed Her,” “Right Next Door,” “Smoking Gun” and “Still Around.” The 1982 tracks feature Warren Rand on alto and Mike Vannice on tenor and organ. “Too Many Cooks” and “T-Bone Shuffle”  from the festival are great examples of what a 28-year-old Robert Cray could do with a Stratocaster even at that early age.

The DVD is a treat for any Robert Cray fan. There is lots of well put together biographical information as well as footage from the 1982 and 1987 shows interspersed throughout the disc, showing the band members discussing the trying times early in their careers. There are interviews with a lot of great musicians, including Buddy Guy, Keith Richards, Jimmie Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton. Of particular interest is producer Steve Jordan discussing how Keith Richards introduced him Robert Cray.

All in all 4 Nights of 40 Years is one giant Robert Cray love fest. In addition to the 3 discs there is a full color booklet with some great photos and even more information about Cray’s illustrious career.  The package is a fun retrospective of one of contemporary blues’ most beloved artists and is a must own for all Robert Cray fans.

The Review: 8.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Too Many Cooks
– Wrap it Up
– Smoking Gun
– Guess I Showed Her

The Big Hit

– Right Next Door

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