Johnny Winter

Saints & Sinners/John Dawson Winter III

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These two albums -- contained on a single disc -- were released by Columbia in 1974, and marked the beginning of Johnny Winter's creative decline as an artist. He wouldn't rescue himself until he rescued Muddy Waters a few years later. Winter had always been eclectic, always trusted his own or his first handler Steve Paul's direction. On these two records it failed. Big production (by Rick Derringer and engineer Jimmy Iovine) on certain numbers (with strings no less) halted the surge that began with his self-titled debut album. It doesn't mean these records are total losses, there are still some fine moments: Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days" comes off well, as does the nasty, tripped out, bad gumbo called "Dirty," on which Winter plays his old National guitar -- weirdly, the flute solo (yes, flute solo) by his brother Edgar, who plays tons of instruments here works beautifully. This is an absinthe dream of a track, but it's not exactly what most of Winter's fans at the time wanted. The latter recording works a lot better because of its less schizophrenic nature, but it still suffers from FM radio-ready production in places. The hardcore faithful will want this since the individual titles are not available in the U.S., but those seeking out Johnny Winter would be better served by his debut album, or the Johnny Winter And live disc.

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