Friday, December 4, 2020

Johnny Winter - Original Album Classics (1969-74 us, fantastic hard funky blues rock, 2010 editions)



Born as John Dawson Winter III on February 23, 1944, in Beaumont, Texas, where his brother Edgar Winter was born on December 28, 1946; both brothers were albinos. They turned to music early on, Johnny Winter learning to play the guitar, while Edgar Winter took up keyboards and saxophone. Before long they were playing professionally, and soon after that recording singles for small local record labels. Both of them were members of Johnny & the Jammers, whose 45 "School Day Blues"/"You Know I Love You" was released by Dart Records in 1959. 

Other singles, either credited to Winter or some group pseudonym, were released over the next several years, including "Gangster of Love"/"Eternally," initially issued by Frolic Records in 1963 and picked up for national distribution by Atlantic Records in 1964, and "Gone for Bad"/"I Won't Believe It," also a 1963 Frolic single that was licensed by MGM Records in 1965. Winter had his first taste of chart success with a version of "Harlem Shuffle," recorded by the Traits, which was released by Universal Records, then picked up by Scepter Records and spent two weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1966. 

Bringing Texas white-blues lightning to the world since 1969 – but on which albums did Johnny Winter flash brightest, strike hardest and blaze hottest? Johnny Winter, like his near-contemporary scion of the Texan upper-middle class William F Gibbons, was first exposed to blues and R&B because that was what his family’s maid listened to as she cooked and cleaned. He identified with the bluesmen because, like him, they were the wrong colour: they were black and he, as an albino, was too white. As a result, his own music was what his original bassist Tommy Shannon called ‘power blues’: “Blues, but played with the power of rock’n’roll.”

Onstage from the age of 15, he played blues, rock, pop and anything else anybody would pay for. Ten years later, following a rave review in Rolling Stone, his hot-wired, super-speedy blues-rock guitar and striking looks got him signed by a New York-based manager and sent out into the world to compete with Cream, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Soon persuaded to ditch his Texas blues band and go full-on hard rock, he scored his biggest success with the bludgeoning Johnny Winter And, acquiring a major heroin habit in the process.

His official major-label debut was both underweight and overcooked, lacking the raw spontaneity of his Austin demos, but the ‘three-sided’ Second Winter brought it all home, mapping JW’s blues-rock landscape in all its idiosyncratic glory.

Adding younger brother Edgar to the team on sax and keys, it had a great Richard Avedon sleeve-shot and a prime selection of originals and covers, including the 120mph fireball version of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, Little Richard’s Miss Ann slowed down to a languorous Lowell Fulson-style shuffle and a hectic sprint through Chuckleberry’s Johnny B Goode which should be entirely unnecessary but somehow isn’t.

And the home-brewed tunes which made up the final vinyl side were just spectacular: the stomping slide epics I Love Everybody and Fast Life Rider, the hyper-speed Hustled Down In Texas and the jazzy I Hate Everybody all revealed Winter to be more than just another white boy lost in the blues.

And, to add to this embarrassment of Roadhouse Deluxe riches, the Legacy edition comes bundled with a scorchio 1970 live set cut at the Albert Hall (and including an early version of bro’ Edgar’s Frankenstein, not to mention his finest enraged-bee vocal impression on the Nashville Teens’ Tobacco Road).

Relegated to the vaults after Winter dumped his original band in favour of the former McCoys, it was replaced on the release schedule by the subtle-it-ain’t-overwhelming-it-is Live Johnny Winter And, loaded with nuggets such as Good Morning Little Schoolgirl and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which turned out to be his all-time bestseller. Still, better 43 years late than never.

His 1973 "Still Alive And Well" post-rehab ‘comeback’ album is still Winter’s grooviest, funkiest and most likeable ‘rock’ effort, though the better, bluesier half of the And Live album runs it close. Produced by Rick Derringer, who contributed a few guitar cameos as well as writing two of the standout tracks (the title song and the gorgeous country ballad Cheap Tequila), Winter’s in full-on ‘giant refreshed’ mode, kicking off with a rousing, roaring Rock Me Baby. Elsewhere: the grittily bluesy Too Much Seconal, a hectic slide shuffle called Rock & Roll and Silver Train, a Goats Head Soup song the Stones gave him even before they cut it themselves.

Sadly Johnny Winter passed away on July 16th 2014 while on tour in Switzerland during the summer of that year. His final album, the guest-laden Step Back, was released a little over a month later, and it showed his skills as a guitar player in his last days had not diminished. For blues fans this is a must whereas for fans of hard rock or blues rock these albums that should at least be listened once in your lifetime. It will make you realize why Johnny Winter is truly a legend and an often underrated guitar player.
by Charles Shaar Murray
Tracks
Disc 1 Johnny Winter 1969
1. I'm Yours And I'm Hers (Johnny Winter) - 4:27
2. Be Careful With A Fool (Joe Josea, B. B. King) - 5:15
3. Dallas (Johnny Winter) - 2:45
4. Mean Mistreater (James Gordon) - 3:53
5. Leland Mississippi Blues (Johnny Winter) - 3:19
6. Good Morning Little School Girl (Sonny Boy Williamson) - 2:45
7. When You Got A Good Friend (Robert Johnson) - 3:30
8. I'll Drown In My Own Tears (Henry Glover) - 4:44
9. Back Door Friend (Lightnin' Hopkins, Stan Lewis) - 2:57
Disc 2 Second Winter 1969
1. Memory Pain (Percy Mayfield) - 5:33
2. I'm Not Sure (Johnny Winter) - 5:24
3. The Good Love (Dennis Collins) - 4:43
4. Slippin' And Slidin' (Eddie Bocage, Albert Collins, Little Richard, James Smith) - 2:48
5. Miss Ann (Enotris Johnson, Little Richard) - 3:42
6. Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry) - 2:49
7. Highway 61 Revisted (Bob Dylan) - 5:07
8. I Love Everybody (Johnny Winter) - 3:42
9. Hustled Down In Texas (Johnny Winter) - 3:34
10.I Hate Everybody (Johnny Winter) - 2:33
11.Fast Life Rider (Johnny Winter) - 7:00
Disc 3 Live Johnny Winter And 1971
1. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (Don Level, Bob Love) - 4:35
2. It's My Own Fault (Jules Taub, Riley King) - 11:58
3. Jumpin' Jack Flash (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 4:28
4. Rock 'n' Roll Medley - 6:47
.i. Great Balls Of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis)
.ii. Long Tall Sally (Enotris Johnson, Richard Penniman, Robert Blackwell
.iii. Whole Lotta Shakin'Goin' On (Dave Williams, Sunny David
5. Mean Town Blues (Johnny Winter) - 9:00
6. Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry) - 3:22
Disc 4 Still Alive And Well 1973
1. Rock Me Baby (Big Bill Broonzy, Arthur Crudup) - 3:49
2. Can't You Feel It (Dan Hartman) - 3:01
3. Cheap Tequila (Rick Derringer) - 4:05
4. All Tore Down (Joe Crane) - 4:32
5. Rock 'n' Roll (Johnny Winter) - 4:45
6. Silver Train (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:34
7. Ain't Nothing To Me (Eric Dunbar) - 3:05
8. Still Alive And Well (Rick Derringer) - 3:44
9. Too Much Secondal (Johnny Winter) - 4:22
10.Let It Bleed (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 4:11
11.Lucillie (Richard Penniman) - 2:45
12.From A Buick Six (Bob Dylan) - 2:38
Bonus Tracks 11-12
Disc 5 Saints And Sinners 1974
1. Stone County (Richard Supa) - 3:36
2. Blinded By Love (Allen Toussaint) - 4:29
3. Thirty Days (Chuck Berry) - 3:02
4. Stray Cat Blues (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 4:18
5. Bad Luck Situation (Johnny Winter) - 2:50
6. Rollin' 'Cross The Country (Edgar Winter) - 4:35
7. Riot In Cell Block #9 (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 3:12
8. Hurtin' So Bad (Johnny Winter) - 4:41
9. Bony Moronie (Larry Williams) - 2:39
10.Feedback On Highway 101 (Van Morrison) - 4:26
11. Dirty (Johnny Winter) - 4:00
Bonus Track 11

Personnel
Disc 1 Johnny Winter 1969 
*Johnny Winter - Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
*Uncle John Turner - Percussion
*Tommy Shannon - Bass
*Edgar Winter - Keyboards, Alto Saxophone 
*Elsie Senter - Backing Vocals
*Carrie Hossel - Backing Vocals 
*Peggy Bowers - Backing Vocals 
*Stephen Ralph Sefsik - Alto Saxophone 
*Norman Ray - Baritone Saxophone 
*Walter "Shakey" Horton - Harmonica 
*Willie Dixon - Acoustic Bass 
*Karl Garin - Trumpet 
*Wynn Butler - Tenor Saxophone 
Disc 2 Second Winter 1969
*Johnny Winter - Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Edgar Winter - Keyboards, Alto Saxophone, Vocals
*Uncle John Turner - Percussion
*Tommy Shannon - Bass
*Dennis Collins - Bass
Disc 3 Live Johnny Winter And 1971
*Johnny Winter - Vocals, Guitar
*Rick Derringer - Vocals, Guitar
*Randy Jo Hobbs - Vocals, Bass
*Bobby Caldwell - Drums, Percussion
Disc 4 Still Alive And Well 1973
*Johnny Winter - Guitar, Slide Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Randy Jo Hobbs - Bass
*Richard Hughes - Drums
*Rick Derringer - Slide Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Click Guitar, Electric Guitar 
*Jeremy Steig - Flute 
*Todd Rundgren - Mellotron 
*Mark Klingman - Piano 
Disc 5 Saints And Sinners 1974
*Johnny Winter - Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
*Edgar Winter - Synthesiser, Keyboards, Alto Saxophone, Vocals
*Rick Derringer - Synthesiser, Guitar, Bass Guitar
*Bobby Caldwell - Percussion
*Randy Jo Hobbs - Bass Guitar
*Randy Brecker - Trumpet
*Louis Del Gatto - Tenor Saxophone
*Lani Groves - Vocals
*Carl Hall - Vocals
*Richard Hughes - Drums
*Barbara Massey - Vocals
*Alan Rubin - Trumpet
*John Smith - Saxophone
*Tasha Thomas - Vocals

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