Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., June 21, 2002
Johnny WinterThe Best of Johnny Winter (Columbia/Legacy)
Edgar WinterThe Best of Edgar Winter (Epic/Legacy) Johnny and Edgar Winter rank as two of the most unlikely rock stars, not only because they were both albinos from East Texas, but because their music had little to do with rock. Johnny Winter blew onto the popular landscape in 1969, leader of a trio that included latter-day Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon. The Best of Johnny Winter captures the Beaumont native's smooth, muscular playing with 16 career-making songs recorded during his Columbia tenure. Like most blues musicians, Johnny relied on covers for his early repertoire ("Johnny B. Goode," "Come On In My Kitchen"), but his only chart-topper was pure rock, the electrifying "Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo." Johnny Winter shows its age with the extended solos of "It's My Own Fault" and "Mean Town Blues," but its stunning effect is not diminished. If Johnny was the surprise blues-rock star, Edgar was an even more unlikely glam rock star. For 1970's White Trash, he drafted a Louisiana swamp pop outfit named the Boogie Kings, renamed them White Trash, then took them from matching suits on the Southern circuit to long hair and international acclaim ("Turn On Your Lovelight," "Save the Planet," "Still Alive and Well"). In 1972, he reinvented himself from white soul man to rock star and surrounded himself with the Edgar Winter Group, including Ronnie Montrose, Dan Hartman, Rick Derringer, and Randy Z. Hobbs. The Edgar Winter Group also had two hugely successful singles, "Free Ride" and the nascent electronica of "Frankenstein," from 1972's multi-platinum They Only Come Out at Night. As best-of collections, both discs provide a satisfying sampling of the brothers' music, marred only by the lack of chronological ordering that allows for the understanding of their evolving sounds. And Johnny and Edgar shared much between them. The two recorded together and individually, with Derringer's "Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo" remaining Johnny's signature song. In the end, however, what seems most clear is that no one made music like the Winter brothers.