Johnny Winter
The Johnny Winter Anthology

Release Date: May 26, 2009
Produced by: David McLees and Robert Kims
Format: 2CD



Matt Rowe


Johnny Winter is arguably the greatest free-form guitarist that has picked up a six-string electric.  That statement may cause some consternation amongst guitar fans but no one can deny Winter's contributions from his many albums that go from blues to rock to traditional blues.  Over the decades, he has covered and created some electrifying music, coupled with a familiar growling vocal, that is remembered to this day.  That is especially true of his smoking hot version of Chuck Berry's “Johnny B Goode.”

Shout! Factory rummages through the sizeable catalog from Johnny Winter to assemble a 2CD anthology that spans from Winter's embryonic The Progressive Blues Experiment (1969) to his last album, I'm a Bluesman (2004).

Any collection for Johnny Winter will always be flawed from the beginning simply because Winter was not a singles guy, a hits persona.  Interestingly, several songs that eventually became hits for others that were directly involved with Johnny Winter are available.  One such song is Rick Derringer's “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.” Rick Derringer enjoyed a Top40 hit with that song.  On this collection, Johnny Winter's version is growled and rockin'.  The other is a rarity and does not make an appearance here (it should have).  It is a guitar-based version of Edgar Winter's (brother) immensely popular “Frankenstein.”  Johnny Winter's version needs to be heard to be fully enjoyed.  Hunt it down.

There are 35 tracks on this 2CD anthology.  They progressively move in a forward manner to Winter's last album.  On this set you'll hear many Winter classics including several incendiary Live versions of songs.  These are infinitely better as a Live setting is where Winter shines best. 

All of his Columbia output is represented here as well as a few tracks from his Alligator, Pointblank, and Virgin periods.  His classic Second Winter is represented by five tracks (“Highway 61 Revisited,” “Hustled Down in Texas,” “Memory Pain,” “Slippin' and Slidin'”) including one from the Legacy Edition bonus disc (“Black Cat Bone” - Live).  With three tracks from Johnny Winter And, which added Rick Derringer to the band (“Look Up,” “Prodigal Son,” “Rock and Roll,Hootchie Koo”), and four fiery Live tracks from the following Johnny Winter And Live (“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” “Mean Town Blues,” “Johnny B Goode”), this set starts off with some fine Winter material.

The second disc jumps into several excellent Winter issues that include his Still Alive and Well, Saints & Sinners, and John Dawson Winter III albums, all of which provide tracks like Jagger/Richard's “Silver Train,” “Rock Me Baby,” Williams' “Bony Moronie,” Berry's “Thirty Days,” and Lennon's “Rock and Roll People.”  The second disc completes with selections from his more bluesy works like Nothin' But the Blues; White, Hot & Blue; and Guitar Slinger (Alligator Records – 1984).  

The Johnny Winter Anthology is a great way to be introduced to Johnny Winter but you can hardly call it a definitive collection as Winter is truly best experienced by his many fine albums starting with his The Progressive Blues Experiment.  What this 2CD set accomplishes is that it puts together a subjective sampling (as any Johnny Winter collection can only be) of songs that help to represent the album they are culled from.  All the same, there are tracks included here that are iconic and will be easily recognized.

The bonus feature of The Johnny Winter Anthology is the included 24-page booklet.  It contains an informative 9-page essay by Jerry McCulley that compliments this compilation extraordinarily.  There are a few great 'then and now' photo shots of Johnny Winter as well as a serviceable rundown of his discography, and complete credits of each selected track.
Watch out that your fingers don't singe while handling this set.  At the rate that Johnny Winter played his guitar, combustion is not out of the question.









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