Thursday, March 16, 2017

Johnny Winter - 1968 - The Progressive Blues Experiment

Johnny Winter
The Progressive Blues Experiment

01. Rollin' And Tumblin' 3:09
02. Tribute To Muddy 6:20
03. I Got Love If You Want It 3:52
04. Bad Luck And Trouble 3:43
05. Help Me 3:46
06. Mean Town Blues 4:26
07. Broke Down Engine 3:25
08. Black Cat Bone 3:46
09. It's My Own Fault 7:20
10. Forty-Four 3:28

Bass – Tommy Shannon
Drums – Red Turner
Lead Guitar – Johnny Winter

The Progressive Blues Experiment is the debut album by Johnny Winter. The Progressive Blues Experiment was originally issued on Austin's Sonobeat Records label in 1968. When Winter signed to Columbia Records, the rights were sold to Imperial Records who reissued the album in 1969.

A masterpiece and yet another classic from the era of classics - the late sixties. The Progressive Blues Experiment is the best Johnny Winter album I have heard (there are a TON of them) and has a very good shot at my top ten blues rock albums of all time (insert Kanye West joke here - thanks Sporcle). Although Winter was active before this release with various small groups and also produced First Winter, this album is considered his first major release. What makes The Progressive Blues Experiment so wonderful is the way it captures not only early Johnny Winter, but also the revolutionary way he and his band approached the blues. There certainly were blues rockers prior to Winter hitting the stage, but I can think of no one that had the musical package he possessed. Johnny plays with extreme amounts of passion, his guitar playing is in a realm that only a few people in 1968 were in, his phrasing is delicious, and his fusion of gritty vocals with his playing is electrifying. Often using long, drawn out vocal yells and vocal-guitar unison, he was able to establish a sound no one has duplicated since. Of course, all of these qualities carry over to Winter's subsequent albums, but The Progressive Blues Experiment has a unique blend of raw energy, talent, and great blues melodies. It should also be noted that Tommy Shannon (will later play in Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble) mans the bass here at the tender age of 23.

There are so many goodies here. "Rollin' and Tumblin'" opens with the most infectious melody on the album. I remember the first time I listened to it and thinking, 'wow, this is the late sixties???' This album is more than just a rock em' sock em' blues engine, Johnny whips out some fantastic slow slide guitar on two of the tracks: "Bad Luck and Trouble" and "Broke Down Engine." Both of these tracks are in the stripped down, traditional blues style and the latter of these two is just acoustic slide guitar and Johnny, no one else. If I could only recommend one track on this album, it would have to be Winter's cover of "It's My Own Fault." The track is over seven minutes in length, features amazing solos, catchy melodies, and one of the best endings I have heard to a blues rock track in a long time. Perhaps taking inspiration from Beethoven, the track sounds like it could end anytime around 6:15, but just keeps going and develops into sort of a battle between voice and guitar to try and outdo the other. More than a minute later and numerous vocal and guitar licks, the track concludes. If there was a complaint with this album, it would be that slightly more than half of the tracks are covers.

Winter obviously has a trained voice, but forcibly abuses it to achieve the intensity he desires on some of the tracks. The Progressive Blues Experiment is shockingly raw at times, the guitar is sloppy at others, and the vocals sound somewhat out of control. However, this all adds to the greatness that is Johnny Winter. As the recording manager stated, 'Before the recording session, there was Johnny Winter and his guitar. During the session, Johnny became the guitar.' This statement makes perfect sense after listening to this album. There are not many blues rock albums out there that exert this amount of intensity. As mentioned before, this album is on my short list of all-time blues rock masterpieces and should be coveted by any blues rock or rock fan.

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