The Woodstock Experience
Review by Nightwatcher
Definitely the whitest of all the white bluesmen, the Texas born albino guitarist Johnny Winter burst onto the scene in a big way in 1969. After a highly praising article in Rolling Stone magazine, he was signed to Columbia Records for a reported $300,000 a year in February. By May his second, self titled album, his first for the label, hit #24 on Billboard's Album Charts and a new guitar hero was on the scene. By August he had already played 6 large festivals in front of hundreds of thousands, wowing crowds with his authentic handling of both new and old material infused with guitar wizardry which made wide open fields sound like a Texas roadhouse had been magically transported to wherever he was playing at the time.
By the time he got to the Woodstock Music and Art Festival in Bethel, New York mid August, he was a bona fide star, albeit not on the same level as some of the heavyweights scheduled to appear. On the day Winter performed, Sunday August 17th,(Actually the early morning of the 18th) the headliner was the late great Jimi Hendrix, by which time a good majority of the once over half a million strong had started their journey home, weary after three days of high times, rain and mud, brown acid and a plethora of classic performances.
But there were still plenty who were still around when Winter and band, which included bassist Tommy Shannon (who would later go on to play with Stevie Ray Vaughan) and drummer Uncle John Turner hit the stage. Augmented by Johnny's brother Edgar on sax and vocals on three songs, the trio ripped through an hour plus set of grinding, guitar infused blues rock. Opening with a spirited version of J.B. Lenoir's "Mama, Talk To Your Daughter", by the time they close with a rousing rendition of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", it's quite clear that this was an outstanding set. One that had a portion been included in the 'Woodstock' movie and soundtrack albums would have elevated the band to the type of god like status which was afforded Hendrix or Ten Years After after their showcase in the film. Not that the guitarist didn't subsequently do bad -actually the contrary, as he became one of the biggest stars of the 70's. But it does make one wonder what could have been.
Now, 40 years later, this entire incendiary set is officially released for the first time on 'Johnny Winter -The Woodstock Experience', a limited edition commemorative specially priced deluxe package which pairs the Woodstock performance with the previously mentioned debut album, in gatefold form. A 16 x 20 poster of Winter is included, and while there are no bonus tracks with the studio recording, it is housed in a facsmile of the original album cover. The live recordings have been prepared for release by legendary producer Eddie Kramer,(Hendrix's right hand man) so you can count on the sound being stellar throughout.
If you want to hear white hot, guitar heavy Texas blues rock at its finest, look no further than this release. It's a fine reminder that before Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter was the pinnacle of American blues rock guitar heroes. The only thing which could have made this better is the release of the set on DVD, but as it is, this is an essential purchase. 10/10