Friday, 25 October 2019

Johnny Winter - Winter Blues (1969)

Johnny Winter is rightly regarded as one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time, but growing up in the 50's, being born in 1944, meant that he also loved rock 'n' roll, and this is evident on most of his albums, where he mixed the blues with rock 'n' roll classics such as 'Johnny B. Goode', 'Bonie Morone', and 'Riot In Cell Block #9'. His recording career began in 1959 at the age of fifteen, when his band Johnny and the Jammers released 'School Day Blues' on a Houston record label, and it was at this time that he saw performances by classic blues artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland. In the early days, Winter would sometimes sit in with Roy Head and the Traits when they performed in the Beaumont area, and in 1967 he recorded a single with the Traits, 'Tramp' / 'Parchman Farm'. In 1968, he released his first album 'The Progressive Blues Experiment', but his big break came in December 1968, when Mike Bloomfield invited him to sing and play a song during a Bloomfield and Al Kooper concert at the Fillmore East in New York City. Representatives of Columbia Records were at the concert, and when Winter played B.B. King's 'It's My Own Fault' to loud applause, it impressed them enough to offer him $600,00.00, reportedly the largest advance in the history of the recording industry, to sign to Columbia Records. 
Winter's first Columbia album, 'Johnny Winter', was released in 1969, and featured the same backing musicians with whom he had recorded 'The Progressive Blues Experiment', which was bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, along with his younger brother Edgar Winter on keyboards and saxophone. The album was a mixture of blues standards, rock 'n' roll songs, and some of Winter's own compositions, and was something of a success, leading to Imperial Records picking up 'The Progressive Blues Experiment' for a wider release. Winter's blues trio toured and performed at several rock festivals, including Woodstock in 1969, and with Edgar added as a full member of the group, Winter recorded his second Columbia album 'Second Winter', which was the same mix of rock and blues as the previous two, with this one featuring a couples of songs that later became staples of his live show, Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode' and Bob Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited'. 
While all three albums are great records, I'm not that keen on the rock 'n' roll stuff, and much prefer his blues recordings, and as well as covering the classics from Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Leadbelly, he also wrote a lot of his own material. What I really wanted to hear was an album of Johnny Winter's own compositions purely in the blues style, so that's what we have here. It's drawn from his three albums from 1968 and 1969, and shows not only his skill on both electric and acoustic guitar, but also that he can pen a mean blues tune. All the tracks are the original recordings, apart from 'Dallas', which is a band recording instead of the solo acoustic take on 'Johnny Winter'. Winter was professionally active right up until the time of his death in Switzerland on July 16, 2014, when he was found dead in his hotel room two days after his last performance at the Cahors Blues Festival in France. The cause of Winter's death was not officially released.

Track listing

01 Mean Town Blues
02 Bad Luck And Trouble
03 Black Cat Bone
04 Leavin' Blues
05 I'm Yours And I'm Hers
06 Dallas
07 Leland Mississippi Blues
08 38, 32, 20
09 I Love Everybody
10 Low Down Gal Of Mine
11 Fast Life Rider
12 Kind Hearted Woman
13 Hustled Down In Texas

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