Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winger - IV

Winger - IV

When I was in High School, I loved Hairbands…I mean, come on, it was the 80’s after all. One of the bands I would, on occasion, listen to was Winger. They caught a lot of flack for any number of reasons, real or imagined, but guitarist Reb Beach and drummer Rod Morgenstein could both play and Kip Winger was…well, Kip Winger. As the band’s songwriter, bassist, vocalist and namesake, he was a great frontman; unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, he also didn’t look like he had just been hit by a truck…so there was way too much attention paid to the way he and the band looked and not to their musical abilities.

Anyway, after two albums full of hit singles, guitarist and keyboardist Paul Taylor left the band…to end up working on Steve Perry’s comeback album of all things, and Winger released Pull, which went right over my head. After that the band seemed to go away for the most part…that was 1993. In the interim, Kip Winger ended up releasing three solo albums, Reb Beach went on to play with Alice Cooper, replaced George Lynch in Dokken and then filled Steve Vai’s shoes in Whitesnake and Rod Morgenstein went back to playing with the Dixie Dregs and several other side projects.

Now, thirteen years after Pull, Winger, the band, is staging a comeback of sorts with their new album IV. With the addition of John Roth on guitar and Crenk Eroglu on keyboards; Winger, Beach and Morgenstein have released an album stylistically closer to Pull than either of Winger’s first two albums. It’s also a bit more aggressive than the band’s earlier offerings and infinitely more political.

Kip Winger seems to be talking a lot about the ongoing war in Iraq on several of IV’s eleven tracks. The album’s cover illustration even shows a soldier in desert gear encircled by three angels. As opposed to approaching the subject in an outwardly hostile and negative way, the songs on IV tend to come from the point of view of the soldier, not the onlooker or the protester. That’s not to say there aren’t question posed, but they are not quite the incitement of an administration that the songs on say…Neil Young’s Living With War are.

Sonically, IV still has that polished and produced “Winger” sound especially in the vocal department. Basically, it’s good sounds with lots of overdubs. One noticeable addition to IV is the inclusion of acoustic guitar in most of the tracks. That is in no way saying this is an acoustic album. The acoustic exists in addition to all of the electric guitars, they have not been excluded to make room. The acoustic guitar is really there as an addition to IV’s sonic landscape. Speaking of guitars, it was nice to hear Reb Beach again play in the context I was first introduced to him. His leads on IV, while outstanding, seem to better fit into the framework of the songs that hold them as opposed to the spectacle they were on previous Winger tracks.

Overall as an album, IV shows a Winger that’s dialed back from eleven a bit but is, in essence, still the same. There are things on IV that worked better for me than others, but on the whole, it’s an entertaining listen…especially for fans of the decade of big hair.

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