The Woodstock Experience

Johnny Winter

Legacy, 2009

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Johnny Winter was an unknown artist when he received an offer to perform at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969. He would emerge from Woodstock with a fan base in place, plus a newly recorded studio album, which combined to propel him toward stardom.

His eight-song set on Sunday, August 17th had not seen the light of day for forty years. Now, the Legacy label has issued his entire set in combination with his self-titled 1969 album as a part of their Woodstock Experience series.

I find it interesting that his Woodstock set only contained one song from his Johnny Winter album. which had been released only two months prior. The studio release contained shorter and tighter tracks, while the Woodstock music is long and sprawling, which left a lot of room for the improvisation for which he would become famous. It may be that he decided to go with his strengths when playing live. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Johnny Winter was his debut album for the Columbia label. His original composition, “Leland Mississippi Blues,” is a good early example of his fusion of rock and blues music, while “Good Morning Little School Girl” shows him to be a fine interpreter of older songs. It is not this reissue, however, that is the highlight of this two-disc set, since most serious Winter fans will already have this material in their possession.

His admirers and fans of the festival itself have been waiting forty years for his complete set to be released. As with a lot of the music recorded at Woodstock, it is limited by the recording techniques of the day, plus the fact that the sound is washed out a little because of the vastness of the outside arena. Yet even these limitations cannot take much away from the historic nature of this long lost performance.

He is backed by bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, as well as his brother Edgar, who joins in on three of the eight tracks. This basic band serves him well, providing a solid foundation for his guitar excursions. And make no mistake; Johnny Winter is above all else a guitarist of the highest caliber. His technical skills are equal to just about any guitar player alive. My only criticism is that at times, his solos go on a little too long.

“Mean Town Blues” finds Winter playing a 12-string and using a slide technique which is the highlight of his set. “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now” features more hot guitar licks; he virtually plays both the rhythm and lead parts himself. He is a little more relaxed with his brother on stage, and this is more evident when Edgar handles the vocal duties.

The old standards “Tobacco Road” and “Johnny B. Goode” are both given lengthy workouts here.

The Woodstock Experience by Johnny Winter not only presents him near the beginning of his illustrious career but on one of the most historic stages in history. It is a set well worth owning.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Legacy, and is used for informational purposes only.