Johnny Winter - Second Winter

I bought this album on vinyl when it came out - and was horrified to find one blank side on one of the two 12" platters - I checked the track listings and decided not to trade it in back at the store. Originally planned as a single 12" disc, Winter (who produced the album) decided the extra tracks were good enough to include in the release but ran over the allotted space for a single album. I was never sure why it was called Second Winter as it was his third studio album - perhaps he dissaproved of the release of his first album (The Progressive Blues Experiment) which was all over the map in terms of material and not as true to his musical path. Winter ended up producing the album himself even though Eddie Kramer (already famous for his work with Jimi Hendrix) was contracted to produce. Winter said of Kramer "He wasn’t doing his job. He was outside the studio recording rainstorm sound effects. So we fired him midstream leaving me and Edgar to finish the job of producing and recording the album."

Besides Winter producing, playing guitar and mandolin and singing on the album, the personnel includes his brother Edgar on keyboards, alto saxophone & vocals Uncle John Turner on drums, and Tommy Shannon & Dennis Collins on bass. The first side opens with a killer rendition of stage favorite "Memory Pain" composed by Percy Mayfield (who also write the classic "Hit The Road Jack") - his unbelievably fast (at the time) guitar fills played as alternate lines between his vocal phrases and soloing distinguished Winter's playing from the rest of the blues circuit, (with one notable exception Alvin Lee of Ten Year's After) and it wasn't really until metal music arrived that his sort of guitar phrasing speed would become normal to guitar performances. Put in context "Second Winter" was released in 1969, the same year as Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bayou Country, Quicksilver Messenger Service's Happy Trails, Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis and Muddy Waters' After the Rain.

After the ferocious rendition of the opener the album the second disc rolls out what for Winter is a selection of the more standard fare rockers "Slippin' and Slidin'" "Johnny B. Goode," and "Miss Ann," and he closes out this side with what became the critics favorite track, "Highway 61 Revisited" a career-defining version of the Bob Dylan composition - which he adopted as a stage favorite for the rest of his career. At the time of the release I usually found myself skipping this track as monotonous - while the slide playing he displays is as terrifying as the lyrics deserved the cliff-hanging aspect of hanging on the I proves hard to endure unless you are in the mood to listen to it really loud!

Side three includes two of my personal favorites (both composed by Winter) the uptempo "Hustled Down in Texas" which has Winter subtly incorporating the use of Wah pedal, and the next track features his brother Edgar playing sax and organ on the swing-time "I Hate Everybody" - this tracks swings as hard as any band playing on the live circuit today - "I may be crazy - but at least I'm cool!" Of the orignal fourteen tracks - seven are original Winter compositions, he had composed three on his previous studio album released also released in 1969. No small feat for a touring artist in such heavy demand that year.

If you pick up a copy of Second Winter now, you will find two more songs, "Tell the Truth" and "Early in the Morning" that were left unfinished are now on the 2004 re-release of the original.

— Martin Avery


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