Sunday, 6 March 2016

"Original Album Classics" by JOHNNY WINTER (2011 Columbia/Legacy 5CD Mini Box) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Rock 'n' Roll Me Mama...All Night Long..."

This Box Set Contains The 3-Sided 2LP Set "Second Winter" released 1970 in the UK

Johnny Winter's first entry in Sony’s hugely successful "Original Album Classics" Series is a genuine nugget (there’s a 2nd box set for later albums). A 5CD Mini Box Set concentrating on his rightly celebrated Late Sixties/Early Seventies Blues-Rock output. Two of the discs even have uncredited bonus tracks and it's mid-price into the bargain. Johnny B Damn Goode on a budget. Here are the Texas White Boy Blues...

Released 24 January 2011 in the UK (1 Feb 2011 in the USA) - "Original Album Classics" by JOHNNY WINTER on Columbia/Sony Legacy 886976561727 (Barcode is the same) is a 5CD Mini Box Set with each CD housed in a singular card sleeve which repro's in miniature the back and front artwork of the original vinyl LP. Although there’s no booklet (and with the card details being almost illegible) – Sony provides downloadable recording info, production credits etc via the Net from their website. Let's get to the nitty gritty...

Disc 1 - "Johnny Winter" (34:14 minutes):
1. I'm Yours And I'm Hers
2. Be Careful With A Fool
3. Dallas
4. Mean Mistreater
5. Lean Mississippi Blues [Side 2]
6. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
7. When You Got A Good Friend
8. I'll Drown In My Own Tears
9. Back Door Friend
Tracks 1 to 9 are his 2nd studio album "Johnny Winter" - released on vinyl in the USA in May 1969 on Columbia CS 9826 and July 1969 in the UK on CBS Records S 63619

Disc 2 - "Second Winter" (46:57 minutes):
1. Memory Pain
2. I'm Not So Sure
3. The Good Love
4. Slippin' And Slidin' [Side 2]
5. Miss Ann
6. Johnny B. Goode
7. Highway 61 Revisited
8. I Love Everybody [Side 3]
9. Hustled Down In Texas
10. I Hate Everybody
11. Fast Life Rider
Tracks 1 to 11 are his 3rd studio album "Second Winter" - released as a 3-sided 2LP set in November 1969 on Columbia K2S 9947 in the USA and May 1970 in the UK on CBS S 66321 (Side 4 was left blank)

Disc 3 - "Live/Johnny Winter And" (40:12 minutes):
1. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
2. It's my Own Fault
3. Jumpin Jack Flash
4. Rock & Roll Medley:
(a) Great Balls Of Fire (b) Long Tall Sally (c) Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On [Side 2]
5. Mean Town Blues
6. Johnny B. Goode
Tracks 1 to 6 are the live LP "Live/Johnny Winter And" by JOHNNY WINTER AND - released March 1971 in the USA on Columbia CS PC 30475 and in the UK on CBS S 64289

Disc 4 - "Still Alive And Well" (44:32 minutes):
1. Rock Me Baby
2. Can You Feel It
3. Cheap Tequila
4. All Tore Down
5. Rock & Roll
6. Silver Train [Side 2]
7. Ain't Nothing To Me
8. Still Alive And Well
9. Too Much Seconal
10. Let It Bleed
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 4th studio album "Still Alive And Well" - released April 1973 on Columbia KC 32188 in the USA and in the UK on CBS S 65484
[NOTE: Tracks 11 and 12 "Lucille" and "From A Buick Six" are uncredited bonus tracks]

Disc 5 - "Saints & Sinners" (41:48 minutes):
1. Stone County
2. Blinded By Love
3. Thirty Days
4. Stray Cat Blues
5. Bad Luck Situation
6. Rollin' 'Cross The Country [Side 2]
7. Riot In Cell Block No. 9
8. Hurtin' So Bad
9. Boney Maronie
10. Feedback On Highway 101
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Saints & Sinners" - released February 1974 in the USA on Columbia KC 32715 in the USA and in the UK on CBS S 65842
[NOTE: Track 11 "Dirty" is an uncredited bonus track]

Winter's debut LP "The Progressive Blues Experiment" was released on Imperial Records in the States in April 1969 - so the first disc on here "Johnny Winter" is actually his 2nd album and his debut for Columbia Records. Along with its impossibly cool follow-up "Second Winter" (a 3-sided 2LP set where Side 4 was blank) - they are vinyl treasures I've had on my turntables for over 45 years.

Highlights from both include the twin guitar boogie of "I'm Yours And I'm Hers" along with the stunning National Steel slide of "Dallas". And as if to stamp his credentials on the genre, the cover of the Muddy Waters staple "Mean Mistreater" features two huge Blues Legends - Willie Dixon on Bass and Walter "Shakey" Horton on Blues Harp. Speaking of mean harmonica warblers – Johnny Winter's own Harp playing on "Back Door Friend" makes him sound like some 70-year old veteran. The immediately impressive "I Love Everybody" track from "Second Winter" 2LP set turned up on those CBS sampler LPs in 1970 and 1971 while his cover of Percy Mayfield's "Memory Pain" sounded so Hard Rock - a great opening salvo and a clever reading of the changing sounds of the time.

But like Rory Gallagher with his 1972 meisterpiece "Live In Europe" (another genuine guitar hero) - it wasn't until 1971 that you heard the full power of Johnny Winter and his band on the now legendary "Live" album (credited as Johnny Winter And). There are versions of the Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" that are arguably definitive - blistering stuff. I'm afraid I threw many a guitar shape to these tracks in my living room as a teenager...oh dear. "Mean Town Blues" only showed how deeply he was DNA'd to the Blues - truly amazing stuff...

The final two albums featured here – 1973's "Still Alive And Well" and 1974's "Saints And Sinners" - saw RICK DERRINGER both join the ranks and produce. The Canned Heat/ZZ Top boogie of "Rock & Roll" (lyrics above) and the Slide Blues of "Too Much Seconal" showed that the magic was still there (even if the drugs seemed to be getting the better of him). His version of the Stones "Silver Train" from 1973's "Goat's Head Soup" sounds so much like them that it might very well have been an outtake from that 1973 session with Winter singing lead vocal instead of Mick Jagger. His funky spoken intro of "I'm hungry...Let's do this f****er..." to "Still Alive And Well" raises a laugh to this day and his raucous version of Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days" is great fun too. Todd Rundgren provided Mellotron on the Rick Derringer written "Cheap Tequila" while future Disco buff Dan Hartman penned "Can You Feel It".

Despite personal health problems - the "Saints And Sinners" album still rocked. It opening with the hard-hitting "Stone Canyon" (penned by Richard Supa from the American East-Coast 'Man' band - not to be confused with the Welsh group) – all riffing guitars backed up some Lynyrd Skynyrd type girly vocals. He gives Allen Toussaint's "Blinded By Love" a Funky Rock tint and just about succeeds. Back to more familiar territory with Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days" but the production is murky and the take way too frantic. Far better is the Jagger-Richards cover of "Stray Cat Blues" – great playing and a big meaty Bluesy Rock sound from the clearly enthusiastic band. Side 1 ends on his own "Bad Luck Situation" – a good guitar tune even if his vocals seem lost in some echo room. Dan Hartman and his brother Edgar Winter provide "Rollin' 'Cross The County" – a very commercial rock single for the time not unlike BTO firing on all sixes. His own "Hurtin' So Bad" is good but best of all is the surprise Dobro/Flute Blues of "Dirty" – a sort of unannounced bonus track – what a cool, trippy addition...

To sum up - nearly 6 albums worth of great Blues-Rock for roughly two quid a record is a bit of a no-brainer really. No Johnny Winter of discontent here folks...

PS: If you want more check out his late Seventies collaborations with MUDDY WATERS on Blue Sky Records which feature Winter producing and playing on all (see the 3CD "Original Album Classics" box set). There is also a LEGACY Double of "Second Winter" and a "Woodstock Experience" version of "Johnny Winter" - both have superb bonus discs of period live material (see reviews)...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 260 entries and 2450 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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