Friday, March 17, 2017

Johnny Winter - 1973 - Still Alive And Well

Johnny Winter 
Still Alive And Well

01. Rock Me Baby 3:48
02. Can't You Feel It 3:00
03. Cheap Tequila 4:04
04. All Tore Down 4:28
05. Rock & Roll 4:51
06. Silver Train 3:37
07. Ain't Nothing To Me 3:06
08. Still Alive And Well 3:43
09. Too Much Seconal 4:20
10. Let It Bleed 4:09

Johnny Winter – guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, vocals
Randy Jo Hobbs – bass
Richard Hughes – drums
Rick Derringer – slide guitar on "Silver Train", pedal steel guitar and click guitar on "Ain't Nothing to Me", electric guitar on "Cheap Tequila"
Jeremy Steig – flute on "Too Much Seconal"
Todd Rundgren – Mellotron on "Cheap Tequila"
Mark Klingman – piano on "Silver Train"

There is no doubt regarding Winter's talent as he proves that he is both alive and well throughout this album. His vocal work is, as it has been in the past, expressive, fitting, and a little bit rough. As the group is still heavily based on the rock side of blues rock, most of the tracks are verse, chorus, verse style and allow for great rhythm guitar but short solos. If you loved Johnny Winter...And this album should be to your liking as there is not a great deal of deviation between the two with the exception of two of the tracks. Johnny includes his token two songs that he pens and fills the rest of the album with various covers (most of which are better than the originals).

There are no complete flops on Still Alive and Well - a poor Johnny Winter is still a good run of the mill musician. A few tracks carry the sound I am used to from the band; heavy, moving, and overly expressive. These are the tracks I love. Winter is able to take the delta blues track "Rock Me Baby" and transform it into a new beast that is a mere shadow of its original self. Both this track and "Can't You Feel It" are among the heaviest rock tracks on this album and highly recommended. "All Tore Down" is a Winter classic and one of the few rockier tracks he continues to play today. Winter makes wonderful use of the momentary pauses throughout this track to add vocal blurbs ("Good God!") that really personality. Although these tracks are all good, Winter's country track "Ain't Nothing to Me" takes my highest praise as well. Not since the psychedelic First Winter has he surprised me so much. This track is complete with pedal steel guitar and slow, meandering acoustic guitar chords. Here's an interesting revelation: Winter's lone country track here is better than 99% of the mainstream country tracks I have heard in the last fifteen years. It is a country track that country haters may even enjoy. Another shocker: the flute sees some action on the very bluesy track "Too Much Seconal." Not many blues tracks out there include instruments from the winds section, much less solo flute.

Still Alive and Well is strong, but it does not have an absolute blockbuster that some of his earlier albums had. Derringer's "Cheap Tequila" is a soothing song in itself, but does not fit well in an album mostly dominated by heavy rhythm guitars and rock beats. Many professional reviews point to "Silver Train" as one of the albums finest tracks and point out how Winter is able to capture the heart and soul of this track in a way that the Rolling Stones failed to do. Although I cannot stand "Silver Train," mostly do to the intentionally nasally vocals, I will say that every Stones song that Winter covers is a major improvement over the original. His fantastic version of "Let It Bleed" is no exception. Owners of newer editions of this album will be treated to two studio tracks that were never completed and released: "Lucille" and Dylan's "From a Buick Six," both excellent tracks despite not being complete. This is an album that takes a bit of time to fully appreciate. It initially comes across as a little abrasive and edgy, but some of the tracks stronger tunes start to shine through after a few listens. Fans of rock and blues rock should enjoy what Winter has to offer here.

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