Johnny Winter / Johnny Winter And

Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70

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For decades now, we’ve thought of Live Johnny Winter And as the seminal live JW document from the early part of his career. That record, taken from performances at the Fillmore East and from a gig in Florida, was comprised mainly of rock & roll covers and a couple of originals. As a single LP it clocked in at just under 40 minutes. It smokes, but not as hard as this set, recorded a week or two before at the Fillmore East in 1970. Sony let Collectors' Choice take some prime stuff from the vaults for this one. This is the Johnny Winter And group simply tearing it up on a selection of originals and covers. The sound quality is phenomenal and the energy on this gig not only rivals that of the previous record, it leaves it in the dust. For listeners who are casting a wary eye at this review, one need only compare the two versions of “Good Morning Little School Girl,” which are only a second different in length. That said, the symbiotic interplay between Winter and second lead guitarist Rick Derringer (who went by his real name of Zehringer then) on this version sounds like a switchblade duel. The other two cuts that are duplicated, “It’s My Own Fault” and “Mean Town Blues,” are both much longer on this gig. The former clocks in at 22 minutes and the latter at 18. The improvisation and guitar challenges are voluminous, wildly energetic, and creative. “Highway 61 Revisited" here contains the slide guitar workout from Winter we hoped for on the Second Winter album and never got. The furious abandon he plays with is unchallenged on any of his live records; it’s Elmore James by way of Mike Bloomfield with Winter's gnarly single-string fills, full of distortion and barely controlled volume. The version of “Mean Town Blues” on this set becomes the definitive one -- in large part because of Derringer’s complementary counterpoint lead work -- as does “It’s My Own Fault,” which transcends its slow tempo and becomes something wholly other. The closing read of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” is only 4:33, but makes one wish it were three times that long. Its fiery, steel-melting intensity features some of the most vicious slide guitar on record to come out of the '70s. The only track that really doesn’t impress here is “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” but not because its performance is substandard. It’s simply that in comparison to all the brilliant spontaneity and furious energy on the rest of the set, it feels too controlled. But that’s hardly a complaint. Even though Derringer wrote it, this one blows away the JWA studio version or Derringer's own hit single take. This set blows the stuff in Winter’s own officially released bootleg series away, and becomes his definitive live recording, hands down.

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