Personnel: Johnny Winter (vocals, guitar); James Cotton, Jon Paris (harmonica); Gene Barge (tenor saxophone); Ken Saydak, Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack (keyboards); Johnny B. Gayden, Tommy Shannon (bass); Casey Jones, Uncle John "Red" Turner (drums).
The Mellow Fellows Horns: Terry Ogolini (tenor saxophone); Steve Eisen (baritone saxophone); Don Tenuto (trumpet); Jim Exum (trombone).
Producers: Johnny Winter, Bruce Iglauer, Dick Shurman.
Compilation producers: Bob DePugh, Bruce Iglauer, David Forte.
Recorded at Red Label Recording Studio, Winnetka, Illinois & Streeterville Studios, Chicago, Illinois between 1984 & 1986. Includes liner notes by Bruce Iglauer.
Digitally remastered by Brian Jensen & Bruce Iglauer (MonsterDisc, Chicago, Illinois).
Personnel: Johnny Winter (vocals, guitar); James Cotton , Jon Paris (harmonica); Gene Barge, Terry Ogolini (tenor saxophone); Steve Eisen (baritone saxophone); Don Tenuto (trumpet); Jim Exum (trombone); Ken Saydak (keyboards).
Audio Mixer: Justin Niebank.
Photographer: Paul Natkin.
Arranger: Gene Barge.
Johnny Winter joined Chicago's Alligator Records in 1984 after a four-year recording hiatus. Following 12 generally spotty albums and 11 years associated with Columbia, either on their label or his own Blue Sky imprint (which they distributed), Winter was itching to get back to the sparse, house-rocking, rough Texas blues on which he made his name, and forego the flashy rock & roll -- often just substandard rock -- which dominated many of his patchy albums, especially toward the end of the Columbia association. Alligator doubtlessly was thrilled to have him aboard their roster, as it supplied them with their first full-fledged superstar. His three albums for the label were released in three consecutive years: Guitar Slinger, Serious Business, and Third Degree were slam-bang affairs that provided an ideal forum for Winter's gritty voice and edgy, quicksilver guitar firepower. This 14-track compilation of these years rounds up the best of those releases and is a testament to the albino bluesman's substantial talents musically and as an interpreter of other artists' material. He sounds positively enthusiastic throughout, whooping and hollering like it's his first time in the studio, and when he whips out his nasty slide on "Murdering Blues," J.B. Lenoir's "Mojo Boogie," and his own "Good Time Woman" (one of the few Winter originals from the Alligator discs, as well as his lone writing credit on this collection), the searing intensity of his tone practically rips through the speakers. You can tell he's having a stone blast on the slow blues numbers like Eddie Boyd and Willie Dixon's "Third Degree" (in which Winter exclaims in the song's first 20 seconds, "I like it!"), and on the previously unreleased version of "Nothing but the Devil" (which includes a blistering James Cotton harp solo). Winter does a bit of fast country-blues on "Broke and Lonely" and pulls out his National steel on Memphis Willie B.'s "Bad Girl Blues," but generally these cuts find the guitarist in fine boogie form. The collection closes with Guitar Slinger's "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," a smoking slice of '50s R&B that proved all too prophetic; he was to release only two more studio albums of original material through 2001. Johnny Winter's subsequent work in the '90s was sporadically energized, seldom matching the ground-rumbling yet uncluttered approach he favored during these crucial years. ~ Hal Horowitz