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John Dawson Winter III
Johnny Winter

Blue Sky 33292
Released: December 1974
Chart Peak: #78
Weeks Charted: 12

Johnny WinterJohnny Winter, his brother Edgar and Rick Derringer form an American rock triumvirate that knows little competition. John Dawson Winter III further refines the oldest's progression from an overanxious white bluesman with a restrained voice into a tasteful and raunch rocker.

Winter the guitarist is a constant powerhouse who leaves few spaces in his frequent solos. Delivering cluster after cluster of rapidly picked notes or soaring chords, he has developed a discernible, if not virtuoso, style to replace the awkward pastiches of Chuck Berry and B.B. King that flawed his early work. Interestingly, Winter opts for less use of distortion than do most guitarists of this ilk.

He composes smartly. Knowing that even the simplest change can revitalize an otherwise staid 12-bar blues, Winter inserts a time-tested ascending chord sequence into the ninth and tenth bars of "Pick Up on My Mojo." Yet he can also succeed with a haunting, gently sung "Stranger," a pop piece reminiscent of Edgar.

Johnny Winter - John Dawson Winter III
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But it's never a one-man show. Randy Jo Hobbs's bass combines treble tones with the mandatory bottom sound, and muscular drum rolls from Richard Hughes propel the meatier tracks which dominate the album. Wisely, Winter continues to borrow from other writers: Derringer, John Lennon and Allen Toussaint are all well represented. Shelly Yackus's crisp production shows the proper measure of control.

John Dawson Winter III is not without flaws -- his vocal on "Sweet Papa John," a blues patterned after the earliest Muddy Waters sides, returns to the thin huskiness he has mostly mastered, and the horns on two cuts would have been best omitted. Still, Winter displays an unmistakable maturity that few rock artists achieve.

- Charley Waters, Rolling Stone, 1/30/75.

Bonus Reviews!

Poor Johnny Winter. Back in 1969, with an immense amount of publicity, he was presented as the albino hope of rock-and-roll. He was signed to a recording contract for $300,000, which was given as proof of his talent. His manager, a man with an eye for theater, required that the president of the label drive several miles from Manhattan for the signing ceremony in a rustic cabin.

So what happened then? Did the world fall down when the first Johnny Winter album was released? Did thousands of teens hurl themselves off building tops because they weren't able to get to the record stores to purchase a first-day-of-release copy? Alas, no. What happened is that Johnny Winter's publicity came at a time when there were so many messiahs that another one didn't make much difference. He was not in subsequent years, hailed as the godhead he was first touted to be -- but then he himself never said he was.

So what we have had, since those halcyon days of 1969, is a series of really very average albums, albeit well produced, showing a facile guitarist without much imagination playing licks that everybody -- but everybody -- has been playing for some time. Winter is the outstanding figure of rock anticlimax. Almost everything in this current album can be described as loudmouth vocals and average guitar solos. Only in two tracks -- "Stranger" and "Sweet Papa John" -- do we get any indication of a different Winter, one who might have been. Here he drops the huff-puff nonsense and actually plays a little. But the rest of it is just show biz. Too bad, too bad.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 3/75.

Winter continues his involvement with rock'n'roll sounding blues, this time around sounding more like Chuck Berry on several cuts. Quality is consistent throughout and writing contributions by Mark James, Rick Derringer and John Lennon prove to be pluses. LP should receive substantial support on the FM level, as programmers will have more than enough material to select from.

- Billboard, 1974.

Those who considered Saints and Sinners a masterpiece of hard rock and roll should find this satisfactory. I prefer to figure out why Helen Reddy's version of "Raised on Rock" scores two out of a possible three on a credibility scale of ten while Johnny's gets one. (Hint: showbiz kids relate to rock-scholck more authentically than albino bluesmen.) C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

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