First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2004, Volume 11, #7
Written by John Metzger
As it turned out, 1969 was a pivotal moment for blues-rock. Cream, which had been dominating the sub-genre for several years, was nearing the end of its run, while Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers Band were just beginning to take flight. At the same time, Johnny Winter came crawling out of the steaming, hot sunshine of Texas to unleash his raucous and rowdy, self-titled, major-label debut upon the world. Not unlike the eponymous endeavors by the Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin, Winterís nine-track collection laced the music that first had been performed by Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson with the testosterone-driven fury and hard-driving energy of rock ínĎ roll. Naturally, Winter gained a lot of credibility for his work by having both Walter Horton and Willie Dixon perform on Mean Mistreater, and his brash and bold proclamations subsequently made him the poster child for a new generation of blues fans. Of course, it helped considerably that his distillation of the blues, which is in evidence on the acoustic Dallas as well as the fiery Be Careful with a Fool, sprang from a place that was purer than most.
Johnny Winter was recently remastered and reissued with a trio of bonus tracks, but solid as they may be, it is the original material the still deserves the most attention. True, Winterís own compositions bear striking resemblances to much older songs, but then again, the blues has always been about the public mutation of material as itís passed from one performer to the next. Setting that criticism aside, one is able to focus upon the performances themselves, and Winterís raw, gutsy approach provided the perfect framework for the sharp, but fluid attack of his guitar. Perhaps his biggest weakness always has been his vocal delivery, which frequently seems strained and harsh, but then again, it often matches the rough-and-tumble edginess of his music, making it far less of a distraction than one initially might think. Indeed, from the fusion of horns on a soulful cover of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl to the double-tracked guitars on Iím Yours and Iím Hers, Winterís vision is more focused, cohesive, and fresh than many of his later efforts, making Johnny Winter an excellent place for acquainting oneself with his virtuosic abilities.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box