They Only Come Out At Night

The Edgar Winter Group

Epic Records, 1972

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


In 1972, blues-rocking keyboardist/vocalist/composer Edgar Winter put together a new band with the goal of pushing his music in a heavier, more rock-oriented direction. The pedigree of the group he assembled for this one remarkable album is fairly amazing -- not to mention the results.

After playing with Winter for several more years, bassist/vocalist/composer/second guitarist Dan Hartman enjoyed a successful solo and producing career until his death in 1994. Lead guitarist Ronnie Montrose -- then a kid fresh from his first big break playing in Van Morrison's band -- became, well, Ronnie Montrose (33 years later, the words "guitar legend" fit comfortably in front of his name). Drummer Chuck Ruff would have a nice run with Winter and also manned the kit behind Sammy Hagar in the late '70s and early '80s. Even the guest rhythm section present on two tracks here is worthy of note. Randy Jo Hobbs would later contribute bass to a couple of key tracks on Montrose's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Jump On It album, and Johnny Badanjek's drum credits include Mitch Ryder, Alice Cooper and Nils Lofgren, not to mention Montrose's sizzling 1988 instrumental disc The Speed Of Sound.

Oh yeah, and the producer? Some guy named Rick Derringer. If you don't recognize that name, don't come back until you can play the main riff to "Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo."

The music on this disc basically has three distinct personalities. First, there are several heavy blues-rock/boogie tracks featuring Winter's exuberant growl of a voice, including "When It Comes," "Undercover Man" and the funked-up party-time anthem "We All Had A Real Good Time." These cuts are loose and rough and the lyrics fall into clichés in places. Nonetheless, they're full of the same meaty, down-to-earth grit and boogie-fueled fire ZZ Top built a career around.

Personality number two shows up in the sunny, airy, upbeat pop-rock numbers written and sung by Hartman, notably the lilting "Alta Mira," the gentle ballad "Autumn," and the now nearly immortal "Free Ride." The latter's bouncy hook and sing-along chorus are so undeniably catchy that it's still a pleasure every time hearing the song three decades later -- even as the soundtrack to a car commercial.

This disc's third personality came to the fore in just one place, the closing track to this album, the big bad boy himself, "Frankenstein." Literally stitched together out of snippets of song ideas, this classic of instrumental rock features Winter going wild on an ARP synthesizer as the rest of the band -- notably Montrose and Ruff -- wail, thrash and generally have a blast throwing everything they have at this explosive experiment. It was… wait for it… a monster hit.

Before the dust settled, though, Montrose would depart to form his eponymous heavy metal outfit, to be replaced in the guitar slot by Derringer. The short-lived nature of this lineup doesn't alter the fact that on this disc Winter and company created one of the great party-time albums of the early '70s, featuring, in "Frankenstein" (#1) and "Free Ride" (#14), two of the era's most successful and memorable singles. They Only Come Out At Night still stands today as a milestone in the careers of the terrific players who contributed to it.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.