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The State of Woodstock 40 Years Later: Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter

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Rock music ascended into heaven the minute guitarist Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
1942 - 1970
guitar, electric
left the stage on Max Yasgur's farm, Monday morning, August 18, 1969. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was a cultural hinge between the soulful, struggling 1960s and the sinful, superfluous 1970s. The release of The Woodstock Experience commercially mirrors this hinge. The box contains two-CD sets by Santana, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Johnny Winter
Johnny Winter
Johnny Winter
1944 - 2014
guitar, electric
and Sly & the Family Stone, who at the time of Woodstock recorded for different labels, making a collection like this impossible. But 40 years later, Sony has consumed the labels, paving the way for one of the most thoughtful release series in musical memory.



For each of these artists, Sony has released their entire Woodstock sets and the studio album each released in 1969. A thoughtful pairing to be sure but also a perfect business decision. The "Woodstock generation" are approaching retirement looking for a nostalgic rush, while their children (and, perhaps, grandchildren) want to know what all the fuss was about.



The cream of these releases are the Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter sets. The two artists offer an interesting contrast to one another; both are captured in their salad days, one going quasar early and the other still riding the R&B circuit 40 years later.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin: The Woodstock Experience

Sony Legacy 2009

In 1969, Janis Joplin's creative apex was nowhere in sight. After leaving Big Brother and the Holding Company in December, 1968, Joplin struck out on her own, hooking up with The Kosmic Blues Band, a group with a full horn section and a serious Stax/Volt jones. The result was I Got Dem Ol' Kosmic Blues Again Mama (Columbia, 1969), the studio album portion of Janis Joplin: The Woodstock Experience. Critically considered a letdown after Cheap Thrills (Columbia, 1968), Kosmic Blues remains vital as the conduit from Big Brother to the wholly emancipated Joplin of the post-posthumously released masterpiece Pearl (Columbia, 1971).

Kosmic Blues and Woodstock were both orbiting Joplin in all of her Left Coast hippie abandon. She was living and performing on the edge and her tenuous grasp is evident both in the studio and on stage. The Bee Gee's 1967 hit "To Love Somebody," once thought to be a poor repertoire choice for Joplin, proves, on these two discs, a revealing contrast of the singer in the studio and on stage. On Kosmic Blues Joplin sings the song barely contained. She is pleadingly soulful yet oddly relaxed, comfortable approaching the creative edge. Break to her heroin-fueled performance at Woodstock and we hear Joplin unleashed in full abandon. The performance is a glorious sloppy mess, but one for the ages.

Woodstock cast Joplin as a psychedelic mystic, a Hildegard von Port Arthur, belting our 100-proof canticles to Dionysus and Eros. Liberally performing from the then soon-to-be-released Kosmic Blues, Joplin gives the masses a good dose of her Soul Sacrifice. Reprising Big Brother's "Summertime," Joplin reveals her pan-sexuality, having too much salacious fun with the lyric, "Your Daddy's Rich And Your Mama's Good Lookin.'" To be sure, Joplin was frightening all good daughters' mothers to death. But all is not perfect. A manic "Piece of My Heart" and Snooky Flower's anemic "I Can't turn You Loose" mar an otherwise searing set.

In reconsidering Joplin, it is easy to think of what could have been. She benefits from having burned brightly if briefly. She might have delivered the definitive "Son Of A Preacher Man." As it is, these recordings document a corrosive and unstable talent, like aural uranium.

Visit Janis Joplin on the web.

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter: The Woodstock Experience

Sony Legacy 2009

Where Janis Joplin was already famous when she appeared at Woodstock, fellow Texan Johnny Winter was just making a name for himself. Well known locally in Texas, Winter was poised for a breakout when the Woodstock opportunity became available. His second recording, Johnny Winter, was released the same year he appeared at Woodstock and is included as the studio offering in Johnny Winter: The Woodstock Experience. There is not as much crossover as in the Janis Joplin set, save for "Leland Mississippi Blues," but the rest has become well known Winter concert fare.

J.B. Lenoir

J.B. Lenoir
J.B. Lenoir
1929 - 1966
guitar
's "Mama, Talk to Your Daughter" opens Winter's Woodstock set in a grand rocking fashion. He moves through his standard "Mean Town Blues" with the requisite slide guitar break. Edgar Winter joins his brother for "I Can't Stand It" and "Tobacco Road." Many of these songs may be compared to performances recorded a year later at London's Royal Albert hall and released on the Deluxe Edition of Second Winter (Columbia, 1969). These two sources represent the germination of the volcano "Tobacco Road" would become on Edgar Winter's White Trash's 1972 live recording Roadwork.

Winter also burned in the slow blues with "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now." Save for Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
b.1945
guitar
, Johnny Winter may be the finest electric blues guitarist. Being from Texas and whiter than cream cheese (Winter and his brother both have albinism), he probably has better bona fides than Clapton. His phrasing is always tight and his solos thoughtful. His rock soloing is equal to the slow blues as evidenced on "Johnny B. Good" which would receive its definitive reading on 1971's Johnny Winter And Live (Columbia).

The Woodstock Experience is a welcome series, providing previously unreleased Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter, and marking an important part of musical history. Rock music came into it own on Max Yasgur's farm that hot August.

Visit Johnny Winter on the web.


Tracks and Personnel

Janis Joplin: I Got Dem Ol' Kosmic Blues Again Mama

Tracks: Try (Just a Little Bit Harder); Maybe; One Good Man; As Good As You've Been to This World; To Love Somebody; Kozmic Blues; Little Girl Blue; Work Me, Lord.



Personnel: Janis Joplin: lead vocals, guitar; Sam Andrew: guitar, vocals; Michael Monarch: guitar; Mike Bloomfield: guitar; Brad Campbell: bass, brass instrumentation; Richard Kermode: electronic organ, keyboards; Gabriel Mekler: electronic organ, keyboards; Goldy McJohn: electronic organ, keyboards; Maury Baker: drums; Lonnie Castille: drums; Jerry Edmonton: drums; Terry Clements: tenor saxophone; Cornelius Flowers: baritone saxophone; Luis Gasca: trumpet.

Janis Joplin: The Woodstock Experience

Tracks: Raise Your Hand; As Good as You've Been to This World; To Love Somebody; Summertime; Try (Just a Little Bit Harder); Kozmic Blues; Can't Turn You Loose; Work Me, Lord; Piece of My Heart; Ball and Chain.



Personnel: Janis Joplin: lead vocals, guitar; Sam Andrew: guitar, vocals; Michael Monarch: guitar; Brad Campbell: bass, brass instrumentation; Richard Kermode: electronic organ, keyboards; Gabriel Mekler: electronic organ, keyboards; Goldy McJohn: electronic organ, keyboards; Maury Baker: drums; Lonnie Castille: drums; Jerry Edmonton: drums; Terry Clements: tenor saxophone; Cornelius Flowers: baritone saxophone; Luis Gasca: trumpet.

Johnny Winter: Johnny Winter

Tracks: I'm Yours & I'm Hers; Be Careful With A Fool; Dallas; Mean Mistreater; Leland Mississippi Blues; Good Morning Little School Girl; When You Got A Good Friend; I'll Drown In My Tears Back Door Friend; Country Girl; Dallas; Two Steps From The Blues.



Personnel: Johnny Winter: guitar, vocals; Edgar Winter: keyboards; Uncle John Turner: percussion; Tommy Shannon: bass; Elsie Senter: backing vocals; Stephen Ralph Sefsik: alto saxophone; Norman Ray: baritone saxophone; Carrie Hossel: backing vocals; Walter "Shakey" Horton: harmonica; Karl Garin: trumpet; Willie Dixon: acoustic bass; A. Wynn Butler: tenor saxophone; Peggy Bowers: backing vocals..

Johnny Winter: The Woodstock Experience

Tracks: Mama, Talk to Your Daughter; Leland Mississippi Blues; Mean Town Blues; You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now; I Can't Stand It; Tobacco Road; Tell the Truth; Johnny B. Goode.



Personnel: Johnny Winter: guitar, vocals; Tommy Shannon: bass; Uncle John Turner: percussion; Edgar Winter: keyboards, vocals.


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