The Johnny Winter Story

Johnny Winter's Live in NYC 1997

Johnny Winter's Live in NYC 1997

Johnny Winter's Live in NYC 1997

This album was released by Cema Virgin
Catalog Number: 45527

Recorded 14 and 16 April 1997 at the Bottom Line, New York City.
Released: 10 Mar 1998 Virgin Records America, Inc.

Producer/Engineer: Dick Shurman

  1. Hideaway (7:28) (instrumental )
  2. Sen-Sa-Shun
  3. Got My Mojo Working (6:53)
  4. She Likes To Boogie Real Low (6:39)
  5. Black Jack (8:21)
  6. Just A Little Bit (5:10)
  7. The Sun is Shining (6:14)
  8. The Sky is Crying (7:19)
  9. Johnny Guitar (4:32)
  10. Drop The Bomb (5:18)


Announcement in Guitarist Magazine 1998 of Johnny Winter Live in 1997, after waiting seven long years

Johnny Winter Live In NYC 1997

Guitar Magazine - Jul 1998

Johnny Winter Live in NYC 1997 Virgin/Pointblank 12796

By Tom Hyslop

Johnny Winter made some rock records early in his career, but it's been Nothin'; but the Blues for the past 20 years. He reached a highwater mark with 1992's Hey, Where's Your Brother?, and now Winter is back with Live in NYC 1997, a smoldering concert document from one of the most accomplished guitarists in any genre.

Photo of the Pointblank Promotional CD of Johnny Winter's Live in NYC 1997


Winter's trio is rounded out by timekeeper Tom Compton and new bassist Mark Epstein, rock-solid players who add funky and unexpected twists. His Lazer guitar is still downtuned to D, though his tone is thicker than the lightly chorused sound he's favored lately, and while the fluidity, imagination and precision of Winter's playing is still head-turning, it seems more deliberate and measured than in the past. Winter's singing, too, has changed: it's clearer and less mannered, with his familiar growl making only a few appearances. Neither change should dissuade long-time fans, and, indeed, the slightly less urgent feel may help bring into the fold some who had felt Winter was too much.

Freddie King's "Hideaway," which Winter has been playing for years but had never recorded, includes all of King's lines plus wicked overbends and chordal runs up the neck. Frankie Lee Sim's Texas lope "She Likes to Boogie Real Low" rolls along unstoppably, providing the launching pad for several firebrand guitar breaks. Winter invests Ray Charles' "Black Jack" with deep blues power; where he traditionally would blaze through a slow blues, his measured approach here emphasizes space more than speed. "Just a Little Bit" makes up for the lost notes with heartpounding soloing. Winter again proves to be one of the slide guitar greats on "The Sun Is Shinning" (not Elmore James' slow Chess slide but a Jimmy Reed Shuffle) and "The Sky Is Crying" (James' song, played more in the style of Muddy Waters).

Apart from absorbing and marveling at the playing, it's instructive to take the change Live offers to look into the mind of someone who has listened to and played more blues than most mere mortals. Freddie King's "Sen-Sa-Shun" turns up as the extended introduction to "Got My Mojo Workin'." The similarity between the two songs makes the pairing a natural, but many have listened to each tune without making the connection Winter makes. Much of the melodic concept for the solo in "Black Jack" is adapted from "You Shook Me."

Winter's theme song, "Johnny Guitar," is based on a Johnny "Guitar" Watson number; here Winter interpolates a snatch of Larry Williams' "Boney Maroney." Winter recorded the later song years ago, but its inclusion here is doubly significant because Williams teamed with Watson for a time in the 1960s. And when Snooks Eaglin's "Drop the Bomb" takes things out on a very funky note. Winter fans won't miss the extended nod to Johnny's own "Fast Life Rider." Live in NYC 1997 is a trip for the head as well as the ears from one of the greats. Subtitle this one "Genius at Work."

Living Blues Aug 1998 (CD Review)

By PJ Klemp

Johnny Winter
Live in NYC '97
Pointblank 7243 8 45527 2 5

Hideaway/Sen-Sa-Shun/Got My Mojo Working/She Likes to Boogie Real Low/Black Jack/Just a Little Bit/The Sun Is Shinning/The Sky is Crying/Johnny Guitar/Drop the Bomb

When Eric Clapton, another blues/rock icon whose career took off in the ‘60s, revisited his blues lineage on Journeyman, the emphasis was on his return to the genre. Johnny Winter never left. Though he has been a blues loyalist for a third of a century, rarely has he treated listeners to such an in-depth guided tour of his roots.

With his credentials as a Texas blues guitar slinger firmly established, Winter heads off into territory populated by his heroes. Not many musicians can handle the combination of chunky funkiness and agile lyricism that characterizes Freddy King's style, but Winter pulls it off. The opening track, a hot cover of Hideaway, slips and lurches in all the right places, capturing some of the master's dazzling touch. By building a medley on an unlikely pairing of Sen-Sa-Shun and Got My Mojo Working, Winter marries King's style with the rhythms of Muddy Waters ' Chicago sound. The effect is both jarring and thrilling.

When Winter sets aside his impressive guitar acrobatics, his more graceful playing is evident on the standout slow blues selections on Live in NYC. His cover of Ray Charles' Black Jack, a tale of a life lost to gambling, is packed with tension and sorrow. He transforms Elmore James' The Sky Is Crying into a dramatic slide guitar event, with swoops and quivers aplenty. Set off against James' tune by its title, Jimmy Reed's The Sun Is Shinning gives Winter another opportunity to flaunt his considerable talents as a flashy electric slide guitar player. As he dusts his broom on Reed's song, Winter moves in and out of Delta stylings, even toying with the phrasing of Roy Orbison, all the while slipping and sliding his guitar like nobody's business.

CD Review: Blues Access August 1998

By Steve Braun

Johnny Winter is like the flu. At the most inappropriate time, just when you think you've reached the apex of coolness, he gets into your bloodstream and takes over. I don't care how conversant you are about the lives of obscure Piedmont rag pickers, there's something about a squint-eyed guy with a shock of platinum hair, a snake-brimmed range hat, Rorschach-tattooed arms and a St. Vitus guitar style that just wins you over.

Now, the albino thunder god's latest, Live in NYC '97, is nothing revelatory. He's gone live before, and if you're looking for his hair-raising winterized treatments of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and the Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash," you'll have to look elsewhere. This scorching 1997 show, recorded at New York's Bottom Line, is strictly blues – and if Winter sometimes lapses into obligatory flag wavers like "I Got My Mojo Working," well, as deep into the blues life as he's gone, who's got the right to squawk?

Some facts have got to be faced up front, Winter can play like a crossroads demon, but his singing voice is barely a shade more soulful than Tex Avery's cartoon dog, Droopy. There are moments in this show, like on Ray Charles' "Blackjack," when he sounds about ready to give up the ghost. Winter has always sounded best when, as he did at Dylan's Bobfest show a few years ago, he growls along with his machine-gun guitar licks. There's plenty of growling here, but when his side licks get high and lonesome, his watery crooning can get hard to take.

The guitar work, on the other hand, is almost always stellar, even if there are times when his glassy lines sound a bit too often like Albert Collins. Stevie Ray Vaughan copped a lot from Collins, too, so who's complaining? The disc hops off with a fresh, fluid version of "Hideaway," then heads off-track with the more rare "Sen-Sa-Shun" and a rote "Mojo."

Then it gets interesting. Winter displays his Texas roots on Frankie Lee Simms' "She Likes to Boogie Real Low." It's the highlight, a cooking boogie number that lopes like an old mule. For the rest of the performance, Winter settles into his slide, groaning through, "Blackjack" and then blowing out wonderfully-twisted runs on Jimmy Reed's "The Sun Is Shinning" and the Elmore James chestnut, "The Sky Is Crying." Winter dedicates this disc to all his fans. But even those who consider him an occasional guilty pleasure, Live in NYC has lots to recommend.

CD Review: "Blues News" (German magazine)

As the review is not so good I leave it in German.

Nach sechs Jahren hat der texanische Bluesgitarrist und Sänger ein neues Album aufgelegt.Daß sein zwanzigster Longplayer eine Liveplatte geworden ist, kann Johnny Winter verziehen werden, da von neun Stücken lediglich zwei bereits vorher veröffentlicht worden sind. Aber: Mußte es ausgerechnet ein so übler Konzert- Mitschnitt sein? Winter's Gesang ist uninspiriert, seine Gitarrensoli - ansonsten ein wahres Feuerwerk - bestehen aus plakativen Licks, die nicht selten in der Intonation danebenliegen und sich darüber hinaus regelmäßig wiederholen. Erinnert man sich an Winter's fulminanten Auftritt mit "Highway 61" anläßlich des Konzerts zu Bob Dylans dreißigjährigem Bühnenjubiläum, dann kann man über seine Qualitäten an der Slidegitarre nur noch mitleidig den Kopf schütteln. Geradezu unzumutbar aber ist das ständig nervende Brummen seines Effektgerätes! Produzent Dick Shurmann, der bereits für die beiden vorangegangenen guten Alben des ständig von Gesundheitsproblemen geplagten Albinos die Verantwortung trug, hätte gut daran getan, diesen Mitschnitt, der selbst Hard-Core-Winter-Fans enttäuschen dürfte, nicht zu veröffentlichen.

Electric Blues CD Review Archive

Johnny Winter has been cranking out blues, rock/blues, and rock n' roll for 40 years. He played blues when it wasn't popular for white performers to do so. He often jammed with Jimi Hendrix, and worked with musicians as diverse as Rick Derringer, Muddy Waters , and his younger brother, keyboard and sax man, Edgar Winter. His scorching guitar style and usually ragged vocals are immediately identifiable, and not often copied. In fact, I don't recall ever hearing the phrase, "that guy sounds like Johnny Winter".

Breaking a five-year hiatus, Johnny Winter Live in NYC '97 showcases a set of songs Johnny says are dedicated to all his fans. While Johnny may have mellowed just a tad, and the ragged edge to his voice has smoothed somewhat, this recording is a great example of what Johnny has been doing for what seems an eternity. His playing is still crisp, acurate, powerful, and exciting. And although I never considered him to be a great singer, for some reason I always enjoy hearing him sing. There's this kind of arrogance to his voice. Kinda like he's saying, "I'm gonna sing it, and you're gonna love it".

There is a bit of everything on this CD, from rock 'n roll to slow blues, and, my personal favorite, some nasty slide guitar. In my opinion, Johnny is the meanest slide player ever, bar none. I won't go into describing the individual songs, except to say that they are all excellent, except for the last cut, The Bomb. This is one of those monotonous, repetitive songs that I just can't learn to enjoy. There just has to be a better song that could have been used to close out this otherwise excellent set. If not for that song, I would've given this CD a 5.0 rating.

Whether you are looking for your first Johnny Winter CD, or you have his entire collection, I heartily recommend this CD. It is definitely one that makes you wish you could've been there, the real test of any live recording.

I can't close this review however, without mentioning a couple of other Winter recordings. Nearly all of his recordings are great, but two stand out as must have items. Captured Live, recorded in 1976, showcases Johnny at his live best. This album is really more rock than blues, but is one of the most awesome live recordings ever. That set closes with the Johnny's own Sweet Papa John,, probably the most powerful slide blues performance you're likely to hear.

The other album is Nothin' But the Blues, recorded in 1977. This one consists primarily of acoustic, Muddy Waters influenced blues. In fact, Muddy and his band perform with Johnny on the album. Probably the closest to traditional blues Johnny ever got. There is some electric guitar, but the volume is turned down and the emphsis is on the vocals. These two albums show two extreme sides of Johnny Winter, with most of his other recordings falling somewhere between these two boundries.

Yeahhh!!!!!!! This is a smoker. A must for all you dedicated fans. Just finished listening to the live album for the first time and it was certainly worth the wait. I've seen Johnny several times in the last two years doing this set and this was the next best thing to bein' there. I have always loved his version of Hideaway and I'm glad to see its finally recorded. The melodic laydown of chord and lead work on Black Jack was blistering. His version of Just A Little Bit absolutely cooks and his slide work on The Sun Is Shining and The Sky Is Crying is excellent. The best, I must say, is this recording of Johnny Guitar. This is a driving high energy stomp where he uses licks from back in the good ole days. Drop The Bomb is funk at its' best.
I thought the guitar work was flawless and the vocals really seemed quite good to me. Clear vocals with less of the growl of the seventies but certainly the growl is not gone. Overall, his vocals sound healthy. I see he is going to be in the south and California for the next month before returning to NYC. If your in those areas, get out and see him. You will not be disappointed. Anxiously waiting for the video. Slatus sent out a post card announcing the album, video and interview. Only the second thing I've gotten from the fan club since joining in September of 1996. I hope Hugh is right about things looking up with Slatus but I have my doubts. I know you'll enjoy the new CD. I'm goin' back for another listen.

I guess I'll split the difference with the opinions on the CD.
I have to agree that some of the guitar playing is less than the best work Johnny has done in the past. I saw him live in 97, but the last time prior to that I'd seen him was 1975, so I don't have a good basis for comparison. The last live performance I'd seen on TV was the "MTV Guitar Greats" performance, which was from the early 90's I think. His playing on that was completely amazing. His playing when I saw him in 97 was not as good.
On the other hand, I think some of this critique is judging Johnny solely on his solo guitar technique. As I've seen Johnny say in interviews, he doesn't want people standing there reverently studying every note he plays; that isn't why he plays music. He'd rather see people up dancing around having a good time, and his ability to get people to do that is still amazing.
I think most of the playing (lead or otherwise) on Live in NYC '97 is excellent. The MUSIC is great. The BAND is great. Some of the guitar solos are merely GOOD. The only two weak points that stand out to me on the CD are (1) the solo on "Black Jack Game" (an absolutely incredible build up to that point but only an average solo) and (2) part of the slide lead on "The Sky is Crying" (off-key "zinging" above the 22nd fret).
I hope Johnny is soon able to exceed his previous performances, but, even with some apparently reduced capabilities, he's still one hell of a performer. I think "Live in NYC '97" is a great CD.
Keep rockin',

Well, we've had the cd for a week now. A lot has been said about it, mostly good, with several dissenting opinions. I think there's room for all the opinions, and they're all valid. No, this is not Johnny's "Best" album, whatever that is. No, this is not Johnny's "Worst" album, whatever that may be. Johnny has such a huge catalog of material that you're going to get differing opinions on any aspect of it. I think, Jan, you hit the nail on the head. A more thoughtful and subdued Johnny. I personally really like this new cd. I already have Montreux, Barcelona, Captured Live, Massey Hall video, ad nauseum, if I want torrential floods of stunning speed/notes and pyrotechnical (is that a word?) gymnastics. How 'bout a variation on a theme, people? He's working comfortable grooves that seem right for him and fun at the same time. He's obviously enjoying it, and damn it, so am I! Hell, you can dance to this stuff! Great slow blues boogies/shuffles from the best (I can't help it, I'm listening to "The Sun is Shining" right now!). An older, safer Johnny still puts MOST other guitarists to shame (meaning that he's very LISTENABLE and keeps you interested throughout a song). I love this new cd: it's different, it feels nice, it flows well, and it is a breath of fresh air. Plus, check it out: SOME NEW TUNES! Shock! No nth version of JJF or Johnny B. Goode, etc. Variety! Change it up! In summary, I can certainly see why our technical contingent might be somewhat disappointed, but this album can grow on you if you give it a chance. :)
Go Johnny Guitar!

I bought LIVE in NYC '97 last Friday. At first I felt little disappointed. I had hoped that Johnny would really stick a bone to every sceptic's throat, but instead of that I thought I found signs indicating Johnny's sickness. When I listened to it second time, I realized at once that I had been totally unfair and immoderate. Johnny's vocals are not as strong as before, but if you just let him, he can still easily make your socks revolve with his virtuous guitar. Just put your wrong attitude and prejudices aside. Johnny obviously suffers from the fact that many of his former recordings are so unbeatable. It is difficult to be better or as good as world's best blues guitarist at his best ! After all, LIVE in NYC 97' is an excellent blues CD - good old Johnny Winter with two world class musicians, Mark Epstein and Tom Compton. I wish I had been there when it was canned !
Mika of Finland

I loved Johnny Winter in the late 60's and early 70's but hadn't listened to anything by Johnny since then until picking up the above set on the recommendation of a complimentary review in a British rock magazine. I must tell you I was stunned at the quality of this set. Winter is just BRILLIANT and I'm sorry I missed all the years in between. First, the production has a deep, vibrant feel, one of the best-sounding live CD's I've ever heard. More important, Johnny's playing is just scintillating - precise, authoritative, always on key, with hardly any errors I could detect. Every lick shows the deep impress of his blues heritage but also has his inimitable stamp. I could cite many examples but in particular the rhythm and lead playing on the ninth track, that heavy funk-type number, just blew me away. When it stops one wants it to go on and on! And it's interesting that Johnny can keep up this heavy sonic playing after thirty years of high volume stage playing. Clearly his ears are in good shape. Finally, there is his excellent singing. I liked hearing his actual voice instead of the bluesier or grainier style he used to sing in enjoyable as that was. He is actually an excellent singer as he showed for example on She Likes To Boogie Real Low and what great guitar licks he played on that number to emphasise his vocals. Plus his drummer and bassist are real good players and compliment his sound perfectly. Just an outstanding set that deserves to be widely known. For example, much as I like Eric Clapton I think this set makes Eric's Blues release of a few years ago look weak by comparison. I would love to hear how Johnny's band plays his phenomenal Be Careful with a Fool from his late 60's record, "Johnny Winter".

I will definitely seen Johnny's band when he is next in my area and wish him much success with this current release and his future plans, and congratulations on maintaining this excellent web page.

Gary Gillman, Toronto.

ME/SOUNDS May 1998:
Features a review, they give ***, which is OK (*** still stands for good records).

Good Times (Die musik der sixties & seventies) 2/1998

Where was he since 1992? Doesn't matter, he comes back deep from the heart of Texas to New York's "Bottom Line" in Greenwhich Village.
First-class routine-gig with the sighs, "good that the albino is still there.


Review of the actual concerts

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