Roy Buchanan -- guitar, vocals; Malcolm Lukens -- keyboards; John Harrison -- bass; Byrd Foster -- drums; Billy Price -- vocals
As part of a "Guitar Impressions" show at Avery Fisher Hall (the program also included The Eleventh House featuring Larry Coryell, Oregon with Ralph Towner, Laurindo Almeida, Charlie Byrd and Tiny Grimes), bluesman and Telecaster master Roy Buchanan thrilled six-string aficionados with his singular fretboard fireworks. Once famously called "The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World," the Arkansas native and son of a Pentecostal preacher first gained national recognition following the 1971 broadcast of an hour-long PBS television documentary entitled "Introducing Roy Buchanan," which led to his self-titled debut on Polydor in 1972. A player of spine-tingling intensity and astounding technique, Buchanan combined the fretboard pyrotechnics of Jimi Hendrix with a deep-seated feel for country, gospel and blues. His riveting performance here includes a sanctified reading of the age-old slow blues "C.C. Rider" and a fierce attack on the shuffle blues "Too Many Drivers." He also turns in scintillating covers of "Hey Joe," a tune famously re-imagined by Jimi Hendrix on his 1967 debut album, Are You Experienced?, and delivered here with cathartic zeal by Buchanan, and Hendrix's hit song, "Foxy Lady." Along the way, listeners are treated to his extraordinary array of audacious string bends, keening volume swells, jazzy chords, pedal steel effects, funky chicken picking and over-the-top wailing on his Tele.
Praised by Guitar Player magazine as have one of the greatest tones of all time, Buchanan thrived through the '70s and '80s, recording a string of albums for the Atlantic and Alligator labels. But the guitarist remained tormented throughout his career, finally submitting to his demons on August 14, 1988, when he was found hanged from his own shirt in a jail cell in Fairfax County, Virginia. Buchanan's last show was just a week before that tragic incident, on August 7, 1988 in Guilford, Connecticut. While the circumstances of his death remain suspicious, it was officially recorded as a suicide. There have been several posthumous Buchanan release, including 2004's never-released first album he recorded for Polydor, The Prophet. This 1974 Newport performance captures the great guitarist at the peak of his powers, 14 years before his sad end. (Bill Milkowski)