Winger – IV (2006)

Winger IV

Winger – IV (2006, Froniters/Shrapnel)

  1. Right Up Ahead
  2. Blue Suede Shoes
  3. Four Leaf Clover
  4. M16
  5. Your Great Escape
  6. Disappear
  7. On A Day Like Today
  8. Livin’ Just To Die
  9. Short Flight To Mexico
  10. Generica
  11. Can’t Take It Back

Winger lineup 2006

Band Lineup:
Kip Winger – Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Reb Beach – Guitars, Vocals
Rod Morgenstein – Drums
John Roth – Guitars, Vocals
Cenk Eroglu – Keyboards, Guitars

Total Time – 49:57

Winger official website
Kip Winger official website

Winger was a band I got into when I was in high school. It wasn’t called “hair metal” at the time but that was the kind of music that was prominent in my circle of friends back in the day. For all the backlash the band has received from the Beavis & Butthead generation, pound for pound Winger could hold their own with any of their contemporaries in the late ’80s. Big guitars, big hooks, harmonies, melody…..they defined the sound. Sure the band was considered bubblegum for the serious Metalhead but the music was fun, that’s what it was all about.  I freely admit to liking all three Winger albums, especially PULL (1993), usually that admission is shunned. That said, I was really looking forward to hearing what WINGER IV had to offer longtime fans. Kip Winger’s solo career hasn’t grabbed hold of me like the early Winger records did. I did see him open up for someone in the last few years (Poison maybe?) and he came out and did a short acoustic set that was pretty damn good. Add Reb Beach and Rod Morgenstein and there was serious hope for a good Rock record.

The opening song, ‘Right Up Ahead’ is a slow, melodic track that starts of with the acoustic guitar and heads into a heavy riff. It has the elements of classic Winger, especially in the harmonies, and it is a good song. It’s not what I would have picked for an album opener, I would have gone with something faster/catchier. ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ follows and is another slow track, more of a ballad. It’s got that haunting feel with the enhancements on Kip’s vocal and the underlying acoustic guitar. I have tried to like this song because I like the music but the lyrics and the title distract me. 

If you can get through the first two songs, ‘Four Leaf Clover’ is a welcomed uptempo number but it sounds more like Kip Winger solo rather than Winger. By this time I’ve noticed that Kip’s voice may have lost that high upper register he used to have or that he just isn’t using it. This sounds like something I would hear from a young band today and played to death on radio. It’s actually kind of boring but it gets a pass because it’s uptempo. Boring is ‘M16’, another slower song. Kip uses some of that high voice come harmony time and the guitars have some bite but it sounds like it’s already been done and we are only on Song #4. ‘Your Great Escape’ is the song I would have used as the album opener. It’s a faster number that compares to the Winger of old while keeping up with current trends. The vocal isn’t the best but the guitar, especially the solo, is really good. This is my favorite song on the album.

I really like the bass line on ‘Disappear’, I find myself nodding along and doing some air bass. Another mid-tempo, dark, melodic brooder with killer axework. Nothing like a six minute plus song to kill the mood…..that’s what ‘On A Day Like Today’ does. It’s not a bad song, it’s just slower and boring. It sounds like I’ve already heard it four or five songs ago. Redemption comes with the harder ‘Living Just To Die’, which shows that there is some life left in the band to Rock out. The trend continues with ‘Short Flight To Mexico’, another heavy track that is buried behind all the slow plodders. I would have put this more toward the beginning of the album’s sequence.

Another six minute plus song in ‘Generica’…..when will the madness end? This song just doesn’t cut it for me. Neither does ‘Can’t Take It Back’. Both songs have some good parts but they are a part of the “slow or mid-tempo” theme of the record. Both sound like previous songs on the album.

Bottom Line:
I went into this album not expecting the old late ’80s sound but hoping it would be there. There are elements of it sprinkled throughout but it’s more a dark, melodic, modern Rock record. I would have preferred a few more upbeat songs instead of all the slow ones. The album is hard to get through, I found I was losing interest easily and I had to go back and force myself to re-listen to songs that didn’t really grab me. I gave this album a lot of airtime on the stereo hoping that it was a grower but it just left me bored. I won’t be reaching for this again anytime soon.

Whitesnake – s/t (1987)

Whitesnake - s/t (1987)

Whitesnake – s/t (1987, Geffen)

  1. Crying In The Rain
  2. Bad Boys
  3. Still Of The Night
  4. Here I Go Again
  5. Give Me All Your Love
  6. Is This Love
  7. Children Of The Night
  8. Straight For The Heart
  9. Don’t Turn Away

Band Lineup (for recording):
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
John Sykes – Guitars, Vocals
Neil Murray – Bass
Aynsley Dunbar – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Don Airey – Keyboards
Bill Cuomo – Keyboards
Adrian Vandenberg – Guitars

Total Time – 42:33

Whitesnake official website

The roots of Whitesnake began in the mid-70s when David Coverdale forged his solo career from the ashes of his time in Deep Purple. Coverdale’s first two albums, WHITESNAKE (1977) and NORTHWINDS (1977), were released under the his own name. From 1978’s SNAKEBITE to the present, the band was named Whitesnake. The early albums bore a striking similarity to that of David’s former band. Obviously being the voice of one of the premier Rock bands of the ’70s, the comparisons to Purple were easy to follow. As time marched into the ’80s, the Whitesnake sound became more Hard Rock compared to the Purple-ish combination of Rock, Blues, and Classical. My first Whitesnake album was SLIDE IT IN (1984), this album brought the band to the public ear from general obscurity.  When WHITESNAKE was released in 1987, the band and album were treated as newcomers to the game, even though this was the band’s tenth album.

‘Crying In The Rain’ starts the album with a howling Coverdale kicking into a monster Sykes riff. Right away you can hear that the album is going to sound BIG! It’s a mid-tempo grind that benefits from the serious guitar work of John Sykes, get 3:30 into the song for the solo, that is how it’s done! Serious vocal chops and a huge drum sound, Dunbar crashing the cymbals. My problem with this song has nothing to do with the performance, that is solid. My problem lies with the band lifting this song from one of their previous albums, SAINTS & SINNERS (1982), and remaking it. Another serious riff and howl opens up ‘Bad Boys’. This song showcases more of Sykes’ axe attack, there are layers of guitar that rival anything from that era. It’s a good song but only a glimpse of what was to come.

If you listened to the radio in 1987, you heard ‘Still Of The Night’. This lead single captured the U.S. market almost single-handedly, I remember the first time I heard the song I was floored. How could something sound so big? That first wall of guitar and then David coming in with the first few lines…..that is magic! The “stop and start” feel of the song lends a groove that you couldn’t help get locked into. You sing along, you get pumped up as the song builds. This song takes on the grandness of Led Zeppelin and fortifies it with a sonic wall. ‘Still Of The Night’ got overplayed back in the day but it’s a classic song that I still enjoy. Single number two was ‘Here I Go Again’, which actually became the big hit that propelled the album to multi-platinum status. Very sing-songy, made for radio, people that didn’t know the name of the band knew the words to the song. It’s a catchy tune, there are some keyboards here but they aren’t overbearing. The harmonies on the chorus are great and Coverdale soars throughout proving he is a great singer. Overplayed more than ‘Still Of The Night’, I skip this track when I listen to the album. The only thing worse is the Radio mix with the heavy keys that the Pop stations would play, it sounded weak. Aside from being played into the ground, my only complaint is that the band said “here we go again” and dipped into the SAINTS & SINNERS album a second time to redo this song. The general audience may have missed this fact but I didn’t when I discovered it as I backtracked through the band’s album catalog a few months later.

‘Give Me All Your Love’ was another big hit single, the fourth from the album, and is one of my personal favorites. It reminds me of SLIDE IT IN era Whitesnake as it has more bite to it without being too accessible. Another big sounding song: layers of screaming guitar, lush harmonies, and great vocals. Ballad time with ‘Is This Love’. This song cemented the band in the mainstream because every band had to have the ballad to grab hold of the girls. Sure it’s slow and soft but there is still power there. A surprisingly good performance by Coverdale, not that the guy can’t sing a ballad but more because he’s already pounded our ears five heavy crunchers. What I always found amusing was the guy who wrote this tender tune also wrote ‘Slide It In’. I usually skip this song as well because it bores me, I like it and it’s good but I’ve heard it way too many times.

“Are you ready to rock?” Anytime a song has this in the chorus, it’s a fist pumper. Right when you thought the band got all mushy, they hit you over the head with a heavy song: ‘Children Of The Night’. I like those drum rolls under that riffage in the beginning and there is one wild solo turned in by John Sykes. “Turn up the music, make it loud and proud”…..damn right David! My personal favorite is ‘Straight For The Heart’. Fast tempo with big harmonies and a sing-a-long chorus. This is another fist pounder even with the keyboards layering it, very catchy. I’m a little surprised this wasn’t released as a single. I think ‘Don’t Turn Away’ is sorely overlooked. Maybe it’s because it’s the last song, maybe it’s because the song really has no crunch but it’s a good ballad type song. It sounds a little misplaced at the end after all of the heavy songs have bombarded the ears.

Bottom Line:
In my opinion, one of the essential Hard Rock albums of the 1980s. It’s a big sounding album: awesome vocals, guitar heroics, layers of harmonies. It’s an album that blends the Blues based Rock of the ’70s with the technical prowess of the ’80s. My only problem, albeit a very minor one, is that the band dipped into a previous album for two songs. At the time, I didn’t know, so it’s not as big a deal as it would be if they covered another artist. I don’t really reach for this record that much anymore, the overplaying of ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Is This Love’ definitely have something to do with it. It’s excellent nonetheless. I have fond memories of this album being played over and over in the parking lots we used to hang out in at night. Imagine fifty or sixty teens, all hanging out, and rocking to the same album. It was like a mini concert! Speaking of concerts, I saw Whitesnake open for Motley Crue (GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS tour) at the Providence Civic Center on August 8, 1988. We were center in the 10th row and all I remember is David Coverdale whipping that mic stand around. I swear I thought I was going to get hit with it he threw it so much!

[Note: There are two versions of this album: the U.S. release (that is reviewed here) and the European release that tacked on two extra songs: ‘Looking For Love’ and ‘You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again’. You can get both of these songs on the GREATEST HITS record released in 1994.]

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March Metal Madness has officially begun! If you read this review, you can get three more unique perspectives on this album by heading over to Hard Rock Hideout, Heavy Metal Time Machine, and Pulses, Verses, and Other Flotsam. We are reviewing one album together each Monday in March, next Monday (3/12) there will be a round of reviews on Dio – DREAM EVIL. Stay tuned and keep rockin’!

CD Scavenger Hunt (The “No Variety, But I Have A Coupon!” Edition) – 2/28/07

A Tuesday can’t go by without visiting the local shop. Problem is no new releases of note! To get sales moving when there are no big name new releases, the local shop turns to coupons. This week’s was “$2 off each regular price CD (limit 3)”, so I printed two and ran out.

As I have mentioned before, the variety isn’t what it used to be. There were many new releases I wanted (Kelly Keagy, Shaw/Blades, Manowar) that just weren’t in stock. Online vendors have them but I still enjoy going in person and getting a new album. It’s tradition, it’s addiction, it’s the whole concept of buying music. There were also some albums on my list that came out last year (Brother Firetribe, The Poodles, Sunstorm (featuring Joe Lynn Turner) & Talisman) but they just aren’t in demand at Newbury Comics. Stay tuned for an online edition of the Hunt because I’m taking my expedition over the Net to get these releases in the next few days.

So I get to the store with my three year old daughter and they are playing the most annoying music. Does that bother anyone else? You walk into a record store and you want to really search it but the music they are playing is so bad you want/need to leave? I couldn’t understand the singer, I couldn’t make sense of the instruments…..I was getting a headache. Thankfully. an older patron asked to hear a used Phil Collins CD, that’s not bad. Actually, Phil Collins is a fine musician. With decent music playing, I checked the wallet, and started in…..

Deep Purple – Burn (30th Anniversary Edition) – (2005) – $13: I have been eyeballing this for a year now and I always pass it up because it’s usually $5 more. The price came down so I snatched it. I should have held out and bought the EMI version from the U.K. instead of the U.S. version on Rhino because the packaging is much better. Either way, I love Purple and this fills a hone long overdue

Tankard – The Beauty and The Beer – (2006) – $15: I have never heard a Tankard record but any band that celebrates beer can’t be that bad. Knowing nothing of the band except for some random reviews, I picked up their latest release based on the album cover.

Tankard - The Beauty and The Beer (2006)

Priceless!

Skrapp Mettle – Sensitive – (1991) – $15: This had to be rescued from the record shop because it’s relatively rare and I can put it up on Ebay. Yes, I am one of those guys! If I find a rare, out of print, or hard to find CD, it goes to Ebay to further fund the cause. This CD was re-sealed so it wasn’t new even though it was in the regular price CDs. There was black marker on the spine of the jewel case (over the catalog #) and on the back of the case (over the year and label info).  Upon inspection, everyting was perfect except the black marker on the disc itself (over the catalog #, year, label). I tried cleaning it but I decided to stop so as to not ruin the disc itself. I think I can still fetch $25 to $30 at auction depending on the timing.

Total (w/tax) = $45

Minus Coupon ($6 off) = $39

Can’t really complain at $13 average per CD. I still have another coupon so I may go back this weekend and hopefully there is more to buy. Stay tuned…..