Robert Cray, Live at the BBC (Mercury)

Those of us lucky enough to have witnessed the arrival of Young Bob back in the early 1980s recall what an amazing breath of fresh air he brought to the music scene. Sort of a Barack Obama with a gold ’64 Stratocaster, and these fabulous BBC recordings from 1988 and 1991 document that excitement. Compared to 2006’s tentative, Live from Across the Pond, this set is leagues more dynamic. The primary reason is the tag team work of the Memphis Horns, and a U.K. audience that doesn’t sit on its hands. Most of the amazing early hits are here: “Phone Booth, “ I Guess I Showed Her,” “Night Patrol,” “Right Next Door (Because of Me)” and of course “Smoking Gun.” Cray and company don’t leave a drop in the tank. On the guitar, he is more aggressive than on studio recordings, and check the tortured vocals on “These Things”—the guy wears this stuff on his sleeve. Great quality sound for a live recording thanks to the BBC engineers. In terms of live blues recordings, one day this one will be ranked with B.B. King’s Live at the Regal and Muddy Waters’ At Newport. Don’t wait until then though; get this PDQ.