There isn’t a meaner white boy alive today who can match the scorchin’ blues guitar of the great Johnny Winter.
His work in the 1970s helped define the meat of AOR radio, a blistering, strong-arm hybrid of the electric blues that took the root theory of his heroes Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland and rewired it to keep up with the likes of such hard rock heroes of the day as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and AC/DC in terms of sonic intensity.
If you are a novice to Winter’s six-string stylings and could use an ample starting point, look no further than The Essential Johnny Winter two-disc set from Legacy Recordings. Pulling from the meat of his Columbia Records catalog, including key tracks from such classic albums as his eponymous 1969 debut and its same-year follow-up Second Winter, 1970’s Johnny Winter And, 1973’s outstanding Still Alive and Well and choice live material from such concert LPs as Live Johnny Winter And… and The Woodstock Experience.
It is a surprise that more material from his years on Columbia subsidiary Blue Sky Records didn’t get included on here, for there is some killer guitar work on such titles as 1974’s John Dawson Winter III and 1978’s White, Hot and Blue like “Raised on Rock” and “Divin’ Duck Blues” that would have stood formidably alongside the likes of “Rock Me Baby”, “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” and his staple live version of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. “Talk Is Cheap”, a highlight from his 1980 LP Raisin’ Cain, is featured quite prominently on the first disc, however, as is “Rollin’ ‘Cross the Country” from 1974’s Saints & Sinners on CD two as well as a live version of his take on Larry Williams’ rabble rousing anthem “Boney Moronie” (though it would’ve been nice to hear that spirited, soulful version of the Stones’ “Stray Cat Blues” from that album in its stead for argument’s sake).
But that’s for you, the listener, to dig into once you’ve utilized The Essential Johnny Winter as a launch pad for your education into the Albino axe master. And once you have educated yourself on this most indispensable discography of 70s AOR blues (make sure you also dig into the trio of albums he recorded with blues legend Muddy Waters, especially 1981’s King Bee ), you deserve an award.
And perhaps there is no better indicator of passing such a master class in blues guitar than Aggronautix’s latest addition to their “Throbbleheads” collection with their second Johnny Winter figure as part of their great Guitar Gods line. Whereas their previous incarnation of Winter bolstered more of a contemporary look for the guitarist, this second figure finds Winter striking a full-on old school pose straight off the cover shot from his epic 1976 concert set Captured Live.
It’s high time Johnny Winter starts getting some serious exposure in the 21st century beyond the aging Baby Boomer set. And The Essential Johnny Winter combined with this highly collectable and detailed Guitar Gods figure is a great way to pay tribute to this bonafide living legend of the “scorching blues” both on your stereo and atop of your amplifier.