Johnny Winter - Live From Japan

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Quite implausibly, blues guitar legend Johnny Winter was 67 years old before he was able to play in Japan for the first time, and when he did, he sold out Tokyo's historic Zepp concert hall for three successive nights. The third night of those shows was recorded for a 2012 DVD release, but an audio counterpart wasn't put out at the same time. That audio version arrives now, a year after Winter sadly passed away on tour in Switzerland, on both CD and vinyl LP. Unfortunately for such a momentous occasion, this release has two significant things against it. Firstly, peculiar to the CD version, the market is already awash with Johnny Winter live recordings thanks to the extensive and ongoing "Live Bootleg Series" of CDs and LPs on the Friday Music label. These are all audio-only recordings, so the DVD release didn't have this problem. The one area where this release could have bettered that series is in audio quality, since those bootleg recordings tend to be just that, and therefore vary greatly, but it fails. Winter's guitar has an incredibly harsh tone, and the mix puts so it so high that it dominates the sound of the whole band. Unfortunately for Johnny, this also makes the places where he is out of time, or his playing gets a little sloppy, far, far more noticeable than they would normally be in a good mix. Any fan who saw Johnny live in his later years will attest that any difficulty he started to have with his playing - like all of his movement - never affected the show, and in fact that the rawness of his playing was a delight to watch. But to listen to in isolation (which is virtually is at times, so prominent is the guitar) it is much less enjoyable. Vocally he sounded great, and the strong 14-track setlist touches all eras of his storied career, but the mix makes it a very difficult listen.

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2015, Blues, Live Albums, Quickplay Reviews,

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