Atlantic Records, 1988

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Often people who write to me wonder how I choose which albums I review for "The Daily Vault," and often my answer is the same: Random pull. I just wander through the Pierce Archives, and look for titles that stand out in my mind for one reason or another.

On one such walk through the Archives recently, the debut effort from Winger caught my eye. It had been a long time since I had listened to this album (actually, I think I hadn't touched it since college), and I wanted to re-discover why some people reacted so violently against this band, a la Stuart on "Beavis & Butt-Head".

And despite some metal fans painting these guys in a negative light, their music really wasn't that bad - but this tape leaves a lot of expectations unfulfilled.

For starters, guitarist Reb Beach was quite a showman on his axe, though sometimes it seemed like he was pumping too much flash into his playing when it didn't seem appropriate. (There are only two guitarists whom I could listen to non-stop flash - Dave Uhrich and Joe Satriani.) Lead singer/bassist Kip Winger had a decent set of pipes, but more often than not he seemed to embrace a bit of a cock-rock style that belied the band's wholesome sound. Keyboardist Paul Taylor and drummer Rod Morgenstein almost sound like their talents are being underutilized with Winger.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As for the music, things start off great with "Madalaine," a song that pushes the limits of what was once described as "metal". (I've been wathcing some poor souls get into a discussion-cum-flame war about what is metal and what isn't. Three words: Get a hobby.) The vocal harmonies and guitar work are what power this track as one you'll remember for some time.

But the problems creep in on the other well-known hit "Seventeen," a tale of young lust. (I don't get it - The Knack get pissed on, and this one goes without any comment?) One has to wonder why Winger took a successful songwriting style and cluttered it with tales about doin' the nasty with the prom queen. I'm no prude, but it did ruin the mood for me.

For that matter, I question the includion of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" - what, they didn't have enough originals to pad out the album? (Or maybe this track was recorded in the hopes of getting it on the Stone Free tribute album... I don't know.) Even guest guitarist Dweezil Zappa can't help this track.

After all the strengths the music put forth on the first side of the tape, the second half of the album - save maybe for "Heading For A Heartbreak" - is formula hard rock. All flash, no substance - no interest. Too bad.

The biggest problem with Winger was that this band had the songwriting skill and the chops to really become something special - possibly a hair band with some musical bite to it. Unfortunately, the lyrics (and, on side two, the singwriting itself) proves to be Winger's downfall - they never again attained the glory they had with their two initial hits.

Kip Winger is now recording solo, and Rod Morgenstein is busy with Jordan Rudess on their side project. What we're left with is a debut album that could have been something great - but ended up to be a stereotypical early '90s metal album.


Rating: C+

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