Thursday, December 20, 2012

Johnny Winter - "Second Winter" from Blues Advocate

Album Review: Johnny Winter - "Second Winter"
(About Blues / By Reverend Keith A. Gordon)

The original vinyl release of Johnny Winter’s second album in 1970 was a unique two-disc, three-sided album in a gatefold sleeve. The "fourth" side was entirely blank, of course, just smooth ebony vinyl without a note of Winter’s wiry blues guitar or soulful voice. It may have been the only three-sided album ever released, but the three sides of music they did release were hauntingly powerful....

As legend would have it, a feature story on the brash young albino guitarslinger from the Lone Star State appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, which led to a management contract with NYC club owner Steve Paul. An eventual bidding war flared up between record labels for the services of the blooze-rock wunderkind and, after signing with Columbia, Winter’s Nashville-recorded, self-titled debut was released to great critical acclaim. It also sold like flapjacks in a logging camp, which means that the label shuffled Winter and his band back to Nashville to record a quick follow-up.

Second Winter was the artist’s sophomore effort, and lemme tell ya, it rocks the house! With brother Edgar and a band that included future Double Trouble member Tommy Shannon, Winter ran through a selection of bluesy originals that were complimented by covers of Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. The heart of Second Winter, however, was Winter’s raucous reading of Dylan’s "Highway 61 Revisited." In 1969, remember, Bob Dylan was still the ‘Holy Grail’ of rock criticism, and Winter’s reckless, reverent cover of Dylan’s classic tune was embraced as sacred writ rather than blasphemy.

Winter’s covers here are red hot and smoking. "Johnny B. Good" especially features some great honky-tonk piano work and Johnny’s blistering leads. His original material - the last third of the album, really - showed a lot of promise and pointed towards the future, towards both the traditional blues and roots rock-oriented style that Winter would pioneer in the mid-1970s. "I Love Everybody" may be the best song that Stevie Ray Vaughan never wrote while "Hustled Down In Texas" foreshadowed the popularity of ZZ Top by half-a-decade, easy. "I Hate Everybody" is a jazzy shuffle with a big band sound, Winter’s loftiest vocals and axework yet.

The Legacy Edition

The original version of the album closed with "Fast Life Rider," an extended rocker with some taut leads and fiery riffs and an odd, martial-like rhythm signature. This reissue includes two previously unreleased bonus tracks. "Early In The Morning" is a Clapton-styled blooze-rock rave-up that would sound right at home on a southside Chicago stage, and a spry instrumental version of "Tell The Truth" sounds like a Stax studio duel between Steve Cropper and Booker T Jones.

The 2005 Sony "Legacy Edition" of Second Winter includes a second disc, a live 1970 show from the Royal Albert Hall in England, recorded just a few months after the release of Second Winter. The oft-bootlegged performance has been long prized by Winter’s fans, featuring a hard rockin’ song selection that includes Winter’s version of "Johnny B. Goode" from Second Winter. The entire performance smokes, however, and includes a lot of new material, including an incredible guitar-driven version of "Black Cat Bone," a down-and-dirty reading of John Loudermilk’s Southern Gothic classic "Tobacco Road" and an early performance of brother Edgar’s big hit "Frankenstein." The bonus disc provides over an hour of live electric Johnny Winter with a clean yet still raw mix and a slew of fine performances from the band.

Within a year of releasing Second Winter, Johnny would put together a new band called Johnny Winter And that included fellow guitarist Rick Derringer. The pair would lead this version of the band through two critically-acclaimed releases, including a fine live album, before evolving again into the band that would release the influential roots rock-influenced Still Alive And Well and Saints & Sinners albums in 1973 and ’74. By the end of the decade, perhaps influenced by his work with blues giant Muddy Waters, Winter would veer away from rock & roll and blues-rock and perform through the 1980s and until the present day as a died-in-the-wool, straight-ahead bluesman.

The handful of inspired blues-rock albums that Johnny Winter made in the early-70s, including Second Winter, would subsequently inform a generation of musicians, including the Fabulous Thunderbirds, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Thorogood, and even Eric Clapton. As an introduction to the charm and skills of Johnny Winter, Second Winter ain’t a bad place to start rockin.... (Legacy Recordings, 2005)

Johnny Winter - Second Winter [Full Album]

Track listing

Side one
"Memory Pain" (Percy Mayfield) – 5:34
"I'm Not Sure" (Johnny Winter) – 5:23
"The Good Love" (Dennis Collins) – 4:43

Side two
"Slippin' and Slidin'" (Eddie Bocage, Albert Collins, Little Richard, James Smith) – 2:47
"Miss Ann" (Enotris Johnson, Little Richard) - 3:41
"Johnny B. Goode" (Chuck Berry) – 2:49
"Highway 61 Revisited" (Bob Dylan) – 5:07

Side three
"I Love Everybody" (Johnny Winter) - 3:43
"Hustled Down in Texas" (Johnny Winter) – 3:32
"I Hate Everybody" (Johnny Winter) – 2:33
"Fast Life Rider" (Johnny Winter) – 7:00

Johnny Winter - guitar, mandolin, vocals
Edgar Winter - keyboards, alto saxophone, vocals
Uncle John Turner - percussion
Tommy Shannon - bass
Dennis Collins - bass

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