Genre: Hard Rock
Reviewer: Jonah "Blaze" Haze
A loose and fun, shared vision
All right all you 34 year old women still in attendance of the eternal rock audience, c'mon, u know what time it is... That's right, it's Mr. Janet Jackson headphone wearing, perfect, PG-13 facial hair shaving--Kip Winger! Sharing the spotlight with the usual crew, Winger the band presents a brand new 8 track or audio cassette tape available at a musical outlet near you!
Let's take you on a journey of a band with a serious dichotomy term paper examining the hair metal stigma versus the respectful reputations as musicians' musicians. Back with a black cover for their 5th album, spanning a business lifeline for well over 20 years now--persistence, blood, media torture, misunderstood talent and mixed messages and Kip's still amazingly perfect 5 'oclock shadow has thankfully added a touch of the heavy side of Winger 2010.
The 3rd album moon cycle without Paul Taylor; shining on other roads such as Steve Perry's insistence for a solo career. Writing for it was a love affair with a definite 80's old flame that never dies within the context of Winger. So the boys tossed in their bags of bones to appease the beast of Karma. Having said that, we will take yet another trip down a lane so many have tread it's almost unwalkable. Yes, Kip Winger was a sex symbol and was held in contempt by his musical peers and some male fans. Hey, I am a guy, but would've humped his leg if I had a chance! He was just too pretty and it almost questioned the super group's abilities as performers and songwriters.
Thankfully, most saw thru the effeminate energy affecting their musical creditability. All of them have been session musicians and still are hired guns on the outside of casa de los Winger since the early 80's Shame as it twas, looking back 20 to 30 years thru the Aqua Net fires and skin-eating make up there was a proverbial plethora of professionally penned pop sensible chart topper rockers and ballads. Most in rotation were worthy, but like any genre it Frankensteins itself into a Slik Toxic or a Tygertailz. I remember bringing only the Winger self titled and Cinderella's Long Cold Winter tapes in my walkman to school for months straight. Good Times while riding the short bus! The only thing cheezy about these hair farmers was the image they and every other band had to produce for the biz part of it all.
As Kip recently mentioned on VH1's Classics "That Metal Show", he retold the story of when he asked Reb what kind of songs they were gonna write. Reb, reinacting playing his air axe alive with the silent sounds of classic 80's Winger. The finished product sent out the same message Reb intimated. Let not yourself be fooled, before we go any further, this is a heavy guitar album, much like Pull. Yet flows with a vibe like they feel not so pressured by the record company and changing times. So, we get a nice heavy album that really wrote itself and fortunately Winger were the session musicians hired to make their own Winger album!
As for a few hurt-ya-down-to-the-bone mid tempos, and a neo-nod at Kip's solo blueprints for ballads, and where would their spirit be without inspiring fans to sport a Dio sign in the air?! Singing along to the muscle anthems is fun in the sun but funner in the Summer. This band has always been about the music not the music business or they could be pumping out meaningless fodder just for the $50,000 upfront production costs and doing package tours with Enuf Znuff and a reunited Ugly Kid Joe. The touring is where anybody makes any money, if at all anymore. With a small production company with more debt than California, and virtually limited promotions via radio or TV, Winger has to tour on a package deal these days with other 80's bands to even get a chance to fill a 2500 seat venue. And when you break that all down to who gets what, it's really a tough living. We've seen that trend lately for a few years of band reunions with a greatest hits 9 day tour having to enlist Hericane Alice and Meliah Rage as support. All we can hope for is that some of our favorite bands get picked up on a huge tour with a huge band. Like Ratt for example, when they finish their neat little package with Extreme, it was my prediction they would jump on the Scorpions Summer tour and I love it when I am right. Now smaller bands have an opportunity to make some money, fill their confidence back up and take all this back to the studio to keep it alive!
They easily could've released at least 10 lp's by now, but when the time and vision is right they take no prisoners with the assurance of a great release. They prize themselves as songwriters and top of the line performers and proudly Winger are not a band to apologize. As a band and with other outside projects they never gave up on the nineties, even if the nineties had already given up on them. The Judas's, charlatans and false idols who started the great plaid shortage in the 90s were burying more 80s bands than a drunken gravedigger.
I love Winger. I love Mike judge. I love Howard Stern and I love Rush Limbaugh. So I cant say I didn't have fun along with Beavis and Butthead. Sure Winger were mocked, sure they were embarrassed, but it kept their name out there and it's still publicity. Winger were chosen for the sex look, the close-shave commercials Kip should have been doing and for the plain and simple fact that Mike knew beyond all of that. They were a simple but very viable target that would eventually be the big joke of the band but it also kept it alive, ironically. Here is what was seemingly just another aqua net, fish net, tuna net band that Kik Tracee, Shark Island, Junkyard and Baton Rouge and other b-bands looked up to and would die for the publicity. But again Winger could deliver in the making fun of themselves department and timely sell some of their back catalogue.
Go random on a WEA release during the eighties produced by, let's say Beau Hill or even Tom Werman and you may find a thanx to Reb. If the band and label are smart you wont even see his name for he is--The wizard behind the curtain teaching the guitar players their parts, recording keeper scratch trax and working out simple but believable solos for these "shredders". Reb was the modern day Bob Kulick, or Bobby Marlette, or Tommy Thayer, or even most of the Yardbirds if you wanna worry how long this has been going on; men inside the machine with no mention carrying on the tradition of making rock for the fans no matter the thankless job of making it for others to rock with the fans. That's what it is all about.
As fate would have it, Reb met Kip along the way as frequent hired guns for a few years and projects. Enough for the two of them to combine and give old good friend Morgenstein a call and ask if he would like to be in an actual band. After playing for everyone else, and covering for a lot of Hollywood hair, Winger was born.
I am realizing I talk too much, when I start writing too much. I am psycho over Rod Morgenstein as a drummer's drummer. His thunder in a bottle with a loose lid attack is loose (not as in sloppy) he's always ready to release the thunder when the song feels it. This the perfect album for Rod to get down and boogie again with hard hittin on the skins and smashin' the bass in your face!
Finally, we get down to the meat for all you vegasaurs. First song: "Deal With The Devil". You are gonna want to immediately play this song at least twice as the amazing straight from the bad ole dayz fuckin rokker sends shivers up your spine. "Deal with the Devil", gets my vote as the best 80's song never written in the 80's! OMG! I have to listen to the song at least once a day. Morning or afternoon when I rise, praising the fading light into the mania of the night. By the time you give the entire disc a good listen thru twice you'll feel like this is your secret and nobody elses; almost like it did the first time, not quite, but we are getting there kids. "It's all about the songs kid", as Richie Sambora once told me, "it's all about the songs". This is what he and I are both talking about here on Karma. This is a solid rock record--heavy and beefy, no bullshit, more of a pumped up rhythm section with the right amount of Kip's slickly produced bass guitar PG distortion, and Rebbed up guitar riffs driving these sing-along songs. Kip's voice of course sounds a little older but you cant tell when he screams with academic control and easily pulls off his regular register. He hasn't lost anything yet.
Kip throws in a couple of ballads in where he tips his razor to subtle and humble rhythm and arrangement quality in respect to his solo releases. Again, Mr. Beach saves the day by giving it some life on the hard side, and on a side note I haven't heard one solo out of him I never liked.
Oranges and Apples with all of their releases and no diss to Winger IV, but the songs were a little too reminiscent of Kip's new age-ish worldly solo musical undertakings. The songs were great of course, as was the record in whole and still this band has never been in the business of fillers. It just wasn't too much of a rock record more than a mood record. I don't think Kip is ever going to get over his wife's death in the 90's.
Great songs proceed thru the album, all of a sudden it stops and you cant believe it's over and don't want it to stop! Honestly, my vote is for this CD to be my second favorite behind their self-titled debut. Personal smiles happen when my ears tune in to "Stone Cold Killer", "Big World Away", "Pull Me Under", "Supernova", "Always Within Me", and "After All This Time". Another big change here from prior releases is the songs themselves are written heavier to play heavier in all depts, including Jon Roth as guitar and keys and vocal back up. Most songs here written by Winger/Beach and taking the production helm was Kip. A loose and fun, shared vision made by a big-balled Winger!
Thank God more bands are finally realizing you can change/modify/acclimate/reinvent yourselves without violating the original integrity of the songwriting that made the band to begin with.
None of the 80s bands with any clout ever went away, they just existed as the alternative. For Winger fans and for 80s fans who never really got into them, give it a spin, see what my big deal is all about, go out and buy the record and go the shows! Keep Rock Alive!
(4 points..until someone beats that last Whitesnake and Heaven and Hell releases, no one gets a Five!)