Winger - IV - 2006 - Shrapnel Records
|Track Listing1. Right Up Ahead|
2. Blue Suede Shoes
3. Four Leaf Clover
5. Your Great Escape
7. On A Day Like Today
8. Livin' Just To Die
9. Short Flight To Mexico
11. Can't Take It Back
I would have to say Winger's "Pull" record from 1993 is one of my personal favorite hard rock albums of all time. With Kip Winger's unforgettable stylistic croon and Reb Beach's mammoth guitar surge, the record proved to be the band's defining moment, albeit a rather disappointing one as well. Shortly after the album release and subsequent tour, grunge simply killed hard rock. Winger was one of many many casualties to fall victim to flannel shirts and three chord arrangements. The musicians kept busy with side projects and mini-tours but that Winger sound was always sought after by so many disheartened fans.
In 2005 it was announced that a Winger reunion was underway. A record deal was disclosed for Frontiers Records in Europe and Shrapnel Records stateside. The band reformed with Kip Winger, Reb Beach, John Roth, Rod Morgenstein, and Cenk Eroglu to write and record "IV", the comeback of all comeback records. After three hundred plus spins it is now time to disclose my thoughts regarding this monumental event.
Let me say first and foremost that this isn't really the follow-up to "Pull" that I had in mind originally. I was putting the headphones on thinking this would be a really hard edged album with some of the down-tuned effects made popular by today's leading "cutting edge" rock acts. Instead we see a very mature Winger creating what I would consider an album that is completely different than any thing the band has done yet, going one step further with a record that really hasn't been recorded by a melodic hard rock band before.
This is stellar musicianship from top to bottom, laced with progressive, softer guitar tones while firmly embracing Kip's unique songwriting that fits today's harsh political climate. Beach finds himself completely absorbed in progressive chords and structures, often enough harmonizing so well with Beach's vocal patterns that the band seems like one flawless melody backed by Eroglu's amazing keyboard passages. Cuts like "Blue Suede Shoes" and "On A Day Like Today" are slow moving efforts that maximize the band's deep songwriting skills with very soft guitar tone and a rather laid back vibe that is metallic while still sweeping with soul and melody. "Your Great Escape" and "M16" work well as a one two punch that dominates with wide, driving melodic guitar licks and rigid chorus parts with strong backing vocals. The band still hammers home those "Pull" metal moments, banging out hard hitting tracks like "Livin' Just To Die" and "Short Flight To Mexico".
The lyrics for me were extremely moving, with most of the first album working as a concept album about an American soldier in the Middle East who is questioning his country's motives while trying to learn if his girlfriend is being faithful back home. "Right Up Ahead" talks about the protests in the US while the soldier is fighting. "Blue Suede Shoes" is about the dedication and honor serving for our military. "M-16" is in the heart of battle with political messages like "Grip my M-16, American Dream, Flowing Through My Magazine". The band really modernizes this album to fit today's turbulent social outcries while visiting both sides of the war. The second side of the album works as individual songs and are extremely strong on their own. Favorite cuts of "IV" are "M-16", "Right Up Ahead", and "Can't Take It Back".
The Bottom Line - Winger comes back in a big way, creating an album that is just as good, if not better, than their original bombshell "Pull". Let's hope "V" doesn't take as long, but if it is this good it will certainly be worth the wait.