Winter's debut album for Columbia was also arguably his bluesiest and best. Straight out of Texas with a hot trio, Winter made blues-rock music for the angels, tearing up a cheap Fender guitar with total abandon on tracks like "I'm Yours and I'm Hers," "Leland Mississippi Blues," and perhaps the slow blues moment to die for on this set, B.B. King's "Be Careful with a Fool." Winter's playing and vocals have yet to become mannered or clichéd on this session, and if you've ever wondered what the fuss is all about, here's the best place to check out his true legacy.
Second Winter, Johnny Winter's second album for Columbia, originally had the distinction of being the only album in rock history that was a three-sided double LP. Musically, 35 years after its original release, Second Winter is still an oddity. Issued by Sony's Legacy division, the set has been painstakingly remastered, and expanded by bonus cuts and an entire disc of live material. It's too bluesed-out to be a pure rock record, and too psychedelically dimensioned to be a pure blues album. Tommy Shannon calls it "power blues." And as for whatever else passed for blues-rock at the time – Cream, Hendrix, Canned Heat, etc. – forget it. This set is a whole different animal. Cut in Nashville with all tracks begin done within one or two takes, the energy of Second Winter is undeniable. The sheer range of styles Winter assaulted in his restless quest is astonishing too.
With a fast, gritty, and furious slide and electric guitar style, Johnny Winter fused the blues to its rock nephew and became a white guitar legend (an albino one, no less, further adding to his stage allure) with his albums and live performances in the 1970s. This set collects some of the best of those performances at shows played between 1969 and 1977, including soaring versions of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," all of which helped set the stage for later guitar slingers like Stevie Ray Vaughan and others.
With this concert, Johnny Winter brings to the Jazzaldia Festival in Spain the brand of intense, rootsy, virtuoso blues that has been his trademark since he began his career in the 1960's. For this how, Winter mixes blues and R&B classics like "Hideaway", "Miss Ann" and "Blackjack" with his own songs, as well as a virtuoso take on the well-loved Jimi Hendrix blues "Red House". and he closes the show wiith his famous, searing rendition of "Highway 61 Revisited".
After two stellar sets for the independent blues label Alligator Records, Johnny Winter wisely changes things up on his third Alligator LP. He brings in Dr. John to play organ on "Love, Life and Money" and, more prominently, piano on "Tin Pan Alley." He plays a National steel guitar on "Bad Girl Blues" (a blues about lesbians!) and uses his slide with another National on "Evil on My Mind." And, most significant, he reunites with his old rhythm section of bass player Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John "Red" Turner (with whom he played from the late ‘60s to 1970) on "See See Baby," "Shake Your Moneymaker," and "Broke and Lonely." Particularly on those three tracks, he sounds like the blues-rock singer/guitarist who garnered so much attention when he first emerged from Texas as an "overnight" national star in 1969. Those days have passed, but Winter has matured into a dependable blues musician able to shine in a variety of styles and bring out the best in his fellow musicians.
Two cracking late-‘70s albums from Blues Rock guitarist Johnny Winter.
After two late-'60s albums on Columbia, Johnny Winter hit his stride in 1970 working with Rick Derringer and the McCoys, now recruited as his sidemen and collaborators (and proving with just about every note here how far they'd gotten past "Hang on Sloopy"). In place of the bluesy focus on his first two albums, Winter extended himself into more of a rock-oriented mode here, in both his singing and his selection of material. This was hard rock with a blues edge, and had a certain commercial smoothness lacking in his earlier work. Derringer's presence on guitar and as a songwriter saw to it that Winter's blues virtuosity was balanced by perfectly placed guitar hooks, and the two guitarists complemented each other perfectly throughout as well.