Johnny Winter - guitar, vocals; Floyd Radford - guitar, vocals; Randy Jo Hobbs - bass; Richard Hughes - drums
Following a nearly two-year leave of absence from recording and touring, a time devoted to rehabilitation from his well publicized addictions, Johnny Winter was poised to return to the musical world in 1973. Now healthier and stronger than he had been in many years, Winter entered the studio and with the help and encouragement of his longtime cohort, Rick Derringer, delivering the album Still Alive And Well, which served notice that he had indeed survived. While still rooted in the blues, this album was a stripped down rock 'n' roll affair, filled with cautionary tales of survival. Production was held to a minimum, serving to focus attention on Winter's masterful rip-roaring guitar and trademark gritty vocals, and in retrospect, the album would come to mark one of the high points of his recording career.
Over the course of the next several years, the powerhouse rhythm section of Randy Jo Hobbs and Richard Hughes accompanied Winter when he performed in concert. Together, this trio began developing a set that was distinctly different from the lengthy blues improvisations that initially established Winter's reputation. The songs were more compact, precise, and clean—full of blistering guitar work, but with much of the fat trimmed from the bone. By the middle of the decade, Winter added a second high-energy guitar-slinger to the band in the form of Floyd Radford, who added his own scorching counterpart leads and another rhythmic dimension to the band. This quartet lineup was the group featured on the popular 1976 live album, Captured Live, and is the same band showcased here.
Although the recording only captures the last song of the set and both encores of the band's performance at Winterland, it will be a delight to fans of his Captured Live album, as none of these classic rock 'n' roll tracks were included, making this a welcome supplement to the fiery performances that were included on that release.
The set closing Chuck Berry cover, "Johnny B. Goode," is taken at a frantic and furious pace, featuring Winter playing a modified Gibson Firebird, which would become his guitar of choice over the next decade. Both encores continue in the same vein, with Winter and Radford burning up the frets on a cover of the Rolling Stones classic, "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and another Chuck Berry classic, "Roll Over Beethoven." On all three performances, the energy level is astonishing, and it is obvious from both the stage banter and the scorching delivery of the songs that Winter and cohorts are having a fine time playing for the San Francisco audience.
While the traditional blues that captured Johnny Winter's originality best is not to be found here, these classic rock 'n' roll covers capture the sheer intensity of this particular band and the vitality of two guitarists sharing an energy level that remains at a consistent extreme. Countless artists have played these songs over the years, but rarely have they ever approached such blistering form.