Johnny Winter And
Columbia C 30221
Here's a post for the late Johnny Winter. Winter started out playing the blues and finished his career as a bluesman, but for a little while in between he was a pretty fine rocker. I have some of his blues records and I like them fine. The guitar work is outstanding and the singing is, well, less than outstanding. This however is my favorite Winter record and it is pure 1970s hard rock. It resulted when Winter joined three of the four McCoys to form Johnny Winter And. I'm a big fan of the McCoys' two Mercury albums in the late 1960s and they bring a lot to this record both in terms of instrumental support and songwriting. The record kicks off with Winter's hard riffing "Guess I'll Go Away" driven by the dueling guitars of Winter and Rick Derringer who rock out big time. Fabulous! Mark "Moogy" Klingman's "Ain't That a Kindness" is less exciting being more in a laid-back southern rock vein. It is followed by an unlikely cover of Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi's "No Time to Live" off of the second album by Traffic. Thanks to the guitar interplay between Derringer and Winter it is better than one might expect, although it sounds more like the McCoys to me than Winter. It is followed by Derringer's classic "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" which would later be a hit single for Derringer when he released his own solo version of it in 1973. I think it is one of the best hard rock songs of its era and I love both versions although I think Derringer's is more forceful. Lots of great guitar riffing on this one and the crude lyrics are pure rock and roll. The band's drummer, Derringer's brother Randy Z (Zehringer), provided "Am I Here?" which is another track that sounds more like the McCoys than Winter with its quasi-existential romantic lyrics and its folk-rock style. I really like the song, it would have fit great on "Infinite McCoys" and it makes a nice change of pace for this record. Things return to normal with Derringer and Robyn Supraner's "Look Up" which is another riff-driven rocker with a southern rock sound to it. It is a bit generic but it rocks and features plenty of guitar action. Side two kicks off with Winter's "Prodigal Son" which is yet another riff-driven rocker with more of a rhythm and blues feel to it and some smoking hot guitar solos. Derringer's "On the Limb" is more southern rock with a nice dual vocal from Winter and Derringer. Allan Nicholls and Otis Stephens' "Let the Music Play" offers another respite from the relentless rock attack of the record. It is slow and soulful with more of a pop flavor than the rest of the record although it still boasts a killer guitar solo. Winter's "Nothing Left" is a generic blues rocker distinguished only by the quality of the playing which I have to admit is pretty high. The album concludes with Derringer's "Funky Music" which is not very funky, but rather another southern rock guitar workout. The song is ordinary but the guitar work is some of the best on the album and this is an album with a lot of great guitar on it. Unfortunately it fades out with the boys still jamming up a storm much to my annoyance. That's a minor complaint for an otherwise first rate record. The songwriting isn't quite strong enough for it to be a truly great record, but as far as hard rock goes in the 1970s, there are not a lot of albums better than this. The playing is fantastic, an aural orgy for connoisseurs of guitar noise. The partnership between Winter and the McCoys benefited both parties. The McCoys brought their pop sensibility and a strong second guitarist for Winter to engage with and Winter gave them a grittier sound and a stronger rock identity. Winter was one of the greatest guitarists in rock history and this album is a magnificent example of the talent we have lost with his passing. Recommended to fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd.