Step Back By Johnny Winter

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Johnny Winter has inhabited my musical universe for as long as I can remember. It is thus bittersweet to review his last album as he passed away at the age of 70 on July 16, 2014, two days after his last performance. Stand Back was recorded and finished before his death and as such is his last studio release.

Winter has always been one of the better guitar technicians and has lost little of his ability with the passage of years. His voice may not be as strong as in its prime but it is still a fine instrument for his type of rock and blues.

A number of guests are along for his last ride. Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, Leslie West, Dr. John, Joe Perry, and more all lend a hand.

Oddly my least favorite track is the album’s first. “Unchain My Heart” never really takes off and does not have the fire of most of the other tracks. The only other slip-up is an ordinary version of “My Babe.”

Once you get past the two aforementioned tracks, the other 11 performances combine to form one of his strongest albums of the last quarter century. “Don’t Want No Woman” finds Eric Clapton in a supporting role as Winter provides the fireworks. He trades riffs with Billy Gibbons on “Where Can You Be.” They fit together well despite their having two very distinct sounds. Brian Setzer on the instrumental “Okie Dokie Stomp” and Joe Bonamassa on “Sweet Sixteen” meet Winter as guitar equals.

Johnny Winter enjoyed a career that lasted over a half-century. He did not realize that Stand Back would be his final musical statement. It is always good to leave people wanting more. An excellent final effort from one of the leading practitioners of the modern day fusion rock and blues.

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