JOHNNY WINTER - Live In NYC' 97 (1998) & Captured Live! (1976)
Johnny Winter assembled Live in NYC '97 with assistance of his fan club, drawing all of the recordings from an April 1997 performance at the Bottom Line. Produced by Winter's longtime colleague Dick Shurman, the record doesn't follow the predictable pattern of a live album -- instead of hits, it offers fan favorites and covers, which makes for a much more interesting listen. Throughout the album, Winter simply rips, tearing through all five songs with blistering energy. This is the live album hardcore fans have been wanting for years, and it doesn't fail to deliver on its promise.
On the back cover of Captured Live!, Johnny Winter's second live album (following 1971's Live Johnny Winter And), Winter is pictured with his band (second guitarist Floyd Radford, bass player Randy Jo Hobbs, and drummer Richard Hughes) from the back, playing before a giant, open-air sports stadium full of fans. The photograph is not identified, leaving the impression, along with the large cheering heard on the LP itself, that Winter was headlining such a venue -- but he couldn't have been, because he isn't that big a name. He must have been performing as part of a festival or opening for an act that can fill stadiums, like the Rolling Stones. The photograph encapsulates the dilemma of Johnny Winter's career, seven years after he signed a lucrative contract with CBS Records (his discs are now issued by its Blue Sky subsidiary). His early renown came as a fleet-fingered blues guitarist, but the music industry pitched him as a potential superstar performer. Instead, Live Johnny Winter And has turned out to be his only gold album, and he remains a fleet-fingered guitarist, as usual playing rock & roll as well as blues. One reason he hasn't satisfied the potential the business people saw in him probably is that he hasn't turned out to be a songwriter; here, the only song credited to him is the 12-and-a-half-minute slow blues number "Sweet Papa John" that closes the disc. Otherwise, he plays the standards "Bony Moronie," "It's All Over Now," and "Highway 61 Revisited," as well as songs written for him by his old bandmate Rick Derringer ("Roll with Me") and John Lennon ("Rock & Roll People"). All the songs are basically vehicles for his guitar playing, sometimes performed in unison with Radford. Winter plays fast, filling up measures with torrents of notes that must impress any guitar fan, and he earns the big cheers heard in between numbers. It's no surprise that his biggest seller is a live album, and this one is another accomplished effort. But there's nothing on it to sest that he will ever sell out a huge stadium on his name alone.
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