Sunday, April 15, 2012

Johnny Winter Was Careful Around Fools

Back in 2004 I did a review of Sony/Legacy reissues of Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter albums. The review originally appeared in the November/December 2004 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 271). I have made minor stylistic edits. The review of the Muddy Waters reissues was posted on Friday, April 13.

Sony/Legacy also reissued Johnny Winter’s Columbia debut album – Johnny Winter. There is a nice choice of material including Mean Mistreater, Be Careful With a Fool, When You Got a Good Friend, I’ll Drown in My Tears, Dallas and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. Winter sometimes was a bit too frantic to me, particularly in his vocals, and I must confess I find his vocals most appealing when he doesn’t try to belt them out but rather sings in a more relaxed manner. So his vocal on Be Careful With a Fool doesn’t appeal to these ears as much as does his fret work, but I know others differ from me on this point.

Dallas is a splendid acoustic slide performance in which Winter engrafts his lyric upon a slide accompaniment evoking Robert Johnson’s Terraplane Blues. Mean Mistreater goes back to Leroy Carr and the accompaniment here (based on a Muddy Waters recording) includes Willie Dixon’s bass and Walter Horton’s majestic harp, with Winter giving one of his best vocals on this date. I am not sure if it was included in the original release, but there is also a terrific rendition of Texas Johnny Brown’s Two Steps From the Blues, that was made famous by Bobby Bland and Winter does a more than credible rendition of the vocal with a full backing group with horns. There is also an alternate of Dallas.

Although I have not heard Winter’s most recent album, I really enjoyed listening to his last two Point Blank discs over a decade ago. This reissue of one of his earliest albums is most welcome, and, stands up today as when first recorded.

Here is Johnny performing Be Careful With a Fool

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