Johnny Winter – Captured Live!

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Let’s face it, Johnny Winter was never really all that much of a song writer, but he sure as hell could play the blues. The guitarist first made his mark at Woodstock, where he really hit the ground running, putting in a superb performance that was in complete contrast to much of what was going on around him. Recorded over the month of September 1975 and released in March 1976, Captured Live! sees Winter in full flight, playing like some albino demon who’s just been expelled from heaven only to wind up on stage with a guitar in his hand.

Opener “Bony Moronie” is nothing like the original. Here the band revs it up and turns it into a high adrenalin workout with more licks than you can poke a pick at. The relentless pace continues on “Roll With Me”, on which Winter and Richard Hughes duel it out to the death with a twin guitar attack that would put many modern listeners into a state of confusion. John Lennon’s “Rock and Roll People” gets a bluesy, almost heavy rock interpretation, while on “It’s All Over Now” Winter tries to sound like Hendrix via Canned Heat, as if he were trying to do a boogie version of “Machine Gun”. And speaking of Hendrix, the introduction to “Sweet Papa John” (the only song credited to Winter) is the best thing on the album, with Winter performing throughout with enough intensity that I’m surprised the amps didn’t catch on fire.

“Highway 61 Revisited” is given a raucous rendering, where Johnny let’s it rip on the slide while the rest of the band thump it out in primeval style. Apart from the lyrics it bears little resemble to the original at all, to the extent that he could have called it “Blues On Highway 71” and no-one would have known the difference.

Johnny Winter Captured Live! is very much a document of its time, in other words long guitar solos, and sometimes even longer guitar solos, which is never a bad thing in my opinion. If there could be a guitarists’ equivalent to The Magnificent Seven, then I’m sure Winter would be included. He just had that vibe. Like some young western gunslinger, who held a guitar instead of a Colt Revolver. But western analogies aside, Captured is a fine album, and while not essential, I certainly won’t be giving it away any time soon.