Essential series titles are gold currency for artists under the Sony umbrella, historically Columbia/Epic/RCA, etc. After a strong career with plenty of music, and loads of fans, many artists have found their catalog hits to be featured inside the 2CD, sometimes 3CD The Essential xxxx series.
Johnny Winter is one of these. And deservedly so. Over the many decades of his Blues-infused Rock n Roll and his more traditional Blues housed on Columbia’s imprint, Blue Sky (as well as other Blues-friendly labels), Johnny Winter played some of the more blistering Rock and Roll heard in the early years of his career up through his Blue Sky years.
Few people can lay claim to the level of guitar playing that Johnny Winter has recorded. On The Essential Johnny Winter, Legacy has collected a rough and tumble batch of songs loosely distributing them across two CDs of incendiary Rock (and yes, I need to use that seeming cliche of a word). There is no chronological order. But that’s quite alright where Johnny is involved because his whole career was nearly perfect musically.
This Essential set begins with “Rock Me Baby” from Winter’s 1973 classic, Still Alive And Well. It’s followed up with the Winterized version of “Highway 61 Revisited” from his perfect Second Winter (1969). After that, it’s “One Step At A Time” from the 1978 Blue Sky album, White, Hot & Blue. Get the idea? Where Johnny is concerned, who needs chronology. The rest of Disc One is completed with selections from Johnny Winter And (1970), Captured Live (1976), Winter’s wonderful Blue Sky classic, Nothin’ But The Blues (1977), Raisin’ Cain (1980), and John Dawson Winter III (1976).
Disc Two explores the same territory with much of the material on this CD originating from many of the same places as the songs on disc one. Exceptions include forays into Saints & Sinners (1974), and two live Woodstock tracks from the earlier Legacy issue, The Woodstock Experience. There are also two borrowed tracks from Collector’s Choice’s Live At The Fillmore East 10/3/70, one on each disc. As a bonus inclusion, disc two contains a great rendition of “Harlem Shuffle” (Stones WHO?) live with Edgar Winter, and originally found on a Blue Sky issue, Johnny and Edgar Winter Together Live (1976). While I love this song, I think I would have rather had “Baby, Whatcha Want Me To Do”, the great Jimmy Reed classic performed Winter style on Together.
The included 16-page booklet is excellent with photos, the obligatory – but exhaustive – credits, and an interesting read by Brad Tolinski. In his notes, he recounts an incredible experience at a Johnny Winter concert at Detroit’s Cobo Hall where the crowd became so incensed with the music that was being played, the house turned on the lights to prevent a mesmerizing experience from becoming a disastrous one.
Call me biased. When it comes to Johnny Winter, I am. But, if you’re a Winter fan in any way, career or favored album, you cannot go wrong with this collection.
But if you ask me, a thorough Johnny Winter Box set is in order and overdue. Whattaya think?
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Label: Legacy Recordings