Johnny Winter And Live

C. Michael Bailey By

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Johnny Winter And
Johnny Winter And Live

There is no other live rock and roll disc that is both so wrong and so perfect at the same time. Johnny Winter led a power trio in the early 1970s supplemented by guitarist Rick Derringer (who later broke through with the Derringer original "Rock and roll Hoochie-Coo" which Winter had also recorded). This particular live recording, Johnny Winter And Live smacks of finishing a contract. It documents two shows: one at the Fillmore East in New York City and at Pirate's World in Dania, Florida sometime in the fall of 1970. In this day of immediate data, admitting that one does not know an exact date is impressive. That is one reason this recording is such a mess.

Add to that the presence of a "Rock and Roll Medley" and one would expect a recording death knell even 45 years ago. But that aside, Johnny Winter And Live documents Winter in his high salad days, during a heroin addiction that would both fuel his genius and ruin it. The programming of this disc is his fault as well as that of the label. Archival material has surfaced that proves that a more competently assembled recording was possible, even then. But no matter. This recordings contains the gold standard for live recordings.

If we neglect the incipient "Rock and Roll Medley" this recording contains definitive treatments of BB King, Chuck Berry, and the The Rolling Stones as well as Winter's own Woodstock tour-de-force "Mean Town Blues." His was a contemporary talent that rivaled that of Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. The late 1960s and early 1970s at the Fillmore East in NYC was like the Paris Left Bank in the time of the Impressionists. One never knew what gods they would run into on the street.

Johnny Winter And Live contains two pieces as perfect as "Statesboro Blues" and "One Way Out" were for the Allman Brothers Band. If Jimi Hendrix is the definitive interpreter of Bob Dylan and Joe Cocker the definitive interpreter of the Beatles, then Winter is the same for the Rolling Stones. "Jumping Jack Flash" on this recording is a searing and corrosive statement well beyond the original. His "Let it Bleed" and "Silver Train" are also definitive. Winter, that albino Texas freak, gives better justification to the white man's blues than any British Invasion band could have hoped for.

And then, just when one thought it was safe to go outside, Winter redefines Chuck Berry and the whole of the big band of rock and roll. Winter's "Johnny B. Good" is 3:44 of white phosphorous heat. From the original primal "Rock and Roll!!!" to the meltdown solo to the death stomp coda, this is what we have been waiting for. That said, what was missing from this concert? Well, can one say "Highway 61 Revisited?" On the crazy three-sided two-LP set, Second Winter (Columbia, 1970), Winter covered Bob Dylan's song in a way that even made Hendrix wistful. Second Winter was later released in a Deluxe edition with a copious amount of live material that would make any Baby Boomer forgive Columbia for the initial LP release. It included "Mama, Talk to your Daughter," an early "Frankenstein" with brother Edgar and a searing "Tobacco Road" (see Edgar Winter's White Trash Roadwork later in the series). That said we were treated with a more thoroughly documented concert in the eo13 release of Live at the Fillmore East 10-03-1970.

Johnny Winter And
Live at the Fillmore East 10-03- 1970

It remains curious to me that in this 21st Century of hyper documentation that the best Columbia Records could have done in dating the performance recorded for Johnny Winter And Live. Not so with the present Live at the Fillmore East 10-03-1970. Winter and band reprise three tunes from the previous release at this October 3, 1970 concert at the Fillmore East: "Good Morning Little School Girl," "It's My Own Fault," and a ferocious "Mean Town Blues."

Notably added is an early live recording of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" which was released a year previously on Second Winter (Columbia, 1969). While it is all grit and humor at this early stage, Winter would beat this song into a peacemaker on Blue Sky Live (Blue Sky, 1976). Like Leon Russell's rock opera buffa "Jumpin' Jack Flash" at the Concert for Bangladesh (Apple, 1971), Winter's "Highway 61 Revisited" here was a show stopper...a musical Sherman march to the sea. Even better than his searing slide guitar is his rhythm comping behind guitarist Floyd Radford's solo. It is taut and commanding.

BB King's "It's My Own Fault" is superb for its first 16 minutes and should have ended at that time, but goes on for an additional unneeded minutes of aimless noodling. For my purposes, "Sweet Papa John" form Captured Live is more effective. All of this said, Live at the Fillmore East 10- 03-1970 presents Winter in his salad days when love was free and grit in music necessary for one's bona fides.

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