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Johnny Winter And: An Appreciation

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It was sad news in the music world to hear of the passing of Johnny Winter. A blues great, a genuine anomaly, being a long haired albino, but the blues was somehow in Johnny's soul and veins, and the Texan guitarslinger proved beyond doubt to everyone he was the real thing.

One of my favorite albums by him was the rock oriented "Johnny Winter And," released in 1970 and featuring Rick Derringer and other former McCoy's Randy Jo Hobbs and Randy Zerringer, Rick's brother. For years the album has been had to get, for reasons unknown, since the Johnny Winter And band was very successful. I recently acquired a copy and had been listening to it just a few days prior to Johnny's death. (In a strange similar occurrence I have no explanation for, I'd never bought any Grateful Dead CD's, but decided to get their greatest hits album one day, on a whim. That evening I heard on the news that Jerry Garcia had died.)

It contains the Johnny Winter And band version of the massive Rick Derringer radio hit Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo, which I always preferred to the Derringer version, though I doubt it would have been as big a hit, minus the slicker production and background voices. There are other real gems on this album, like the beautiful version of Traffic's No Time to Live, wonderfully, soulfully sung by Winter. Prodigal Son, Winter's song, not the old blues tune of the same name covered by the Stones on "Beggar's Banquet," is a perfect blues rock song, which I'm surprised hasn't been covered more often. Derringer's Out on a Limb sounds like the template for not a few Aerosmith songs, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Boston Bad Boys studied this record, which came out in the year Aerosmith formed, as a young band trying to write songs. The two guitar approach Johnny Winter And used could be also be a seen as the basic Joe Perry/Brad Whitford model.

The guitar playing throughout is spectacular, as can be expected, Winter's singing is throaty and forceful, and every song delivers. Put this on at a party and watch the groove grow.

Johnny Winter left behind so much and much will be written about him in the coming days, but this record has been lost in his catalog and therefore tends to be overlooked, which is a travesty. It should be remastered, re-released, and rediscovered for the classic that it is. With Johnny's passing there'll probably be boxed sets and reissues, and hopefully "Johnny Winter And" will be finally given the prominent place in his catalog it richly deserves.

In the meantime, there are export copies available on Amazon and elsewhere, and the entire album can be streamed here from You Tube.

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