Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 17, 2004
Johnny WinterSecond Winter: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
Originally released in 1969 as a three-sided double LP yes, the fourth side was blank Second Winter is a blues landmark of the era. Less psychedelic than what passed for blues-rock at the time, i.e., Hendrix and Cream, it's referred to as "power blues" by Austin bassist Tommy Shannon, later of Double Trouble. Truth be told, it had more in common with bands like Ten Years After and Mountain, where attitude seems more important than taking the music to new places. Back then, Beaumont, Texas-born Johnny Winter and Alvin Lee appeared to be in a race to see who could get the most notes down on tape without regard to whether said notes actually spoke to anyone. Flash forward 35 years and Legacy has spiffed up Second Winter in a 2-CD set with remastered sound. It still sounds a little thin, though Winter's inspired take on Dylan's "Highway 61" remains the album's standout track. Also added are a couple of inconsequential cuts left over from the original recording dates. The real news here is the inclusion of Live at Royal Albert Hall, a previously unreleased recording from April 1970. Now this is blues-rock! While repeating none of the tracks from Second Winter, save for Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Winter and the same band from the album, including his brother Edgar, lay everything in their wake to waste. Winter original "Black Cat Bone" finds Johnny at his signifying best on slide, while "Tell the Truth" demonstrates his high energy soul side with exhilarating results. It's important to note that the live disc includes of the first recording of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein," which illustrates the instrumental's beginnings as a showcase for the group's many talents and is a very different monster than the classic rock staple.