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Winger - 1988 Winger

ARTIST: Winger
ALBUM: Winger
LABEL: Atlantic
SERIAL: 7 81867-2
YEAR: 1988
CD REISSUE: 2015, Rock Candy Records (UK), CANDY257


LINEUP: Kip Winger - vocals, bass, keyboards * Reb Beach - guitars, vocals * Paul Taylor - guitars, keyboards, vocals * Rod Morgenstein - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Madalaine * 02 Hungry * 03 Seventeen * 04 Without The Night * 05 Purple Haze * 06 State Of Emergency * 07 Time To Surrender * 08 Poison Angel * 09 Hangin' On * 10 Headed For A Heartbreak * 11 Higher And Higher


The late eighties hard rock scene was populated with as many mediocre acts as talented ones, Winger by a wide margin one of the latter. Mixing the elements of party rock with AOR wizardry, the bands success was guaranteed, especially with the larger than life Winger at the helm, one of the last rock gods of the modern era. The band formed after Winger and Taylor ended a stint with Alice Cooper, Beach entering the fold shortly after. Morgenstein was of course a member of Dixie Dregs, lending a veteran hand to the drum kit. Teaming up with the then prolific Beau Hill assured a commercial edge, one year earlier Winger and Beach having contributed guest vocals to Twisted Sister's 'Love Is For Suckers' which Hill had produced.

The Songs
The album spawned a succession of hits, 'Madalaine' the opener one of them. Right away it demonstrates the bands willingness to incorporate tasteful melodies without sacrificing anything in the way of heavy riffs. Many will recall the explosive (literally!) video for 'Hungry', AOR at its most dramatic and slick, bringing to mind the tension of the late 80's rock era. The provocative 'Seventeen' would be unthinkable in the lacklustre musical climate of the modern day, leaving me wondering as to how backwards everything is now. The band would probably be arrested for indecency in 2004. Was it only sixteen years ago people appreciated harmless, good time rock like this? 'Without The Night' qualifies as one of 1988's AOR milestones, overloading the keyboards and melody to breaking point, a power ballad that hasn't aged one jot. In contrast the bands cover of 'Purple Haze' rattles the floorboards, staggering heaviness that wipes the floor with many a thrash band from the period. The barrage of quality continues with 'State Of Emergency', a track I recall repeating over and over many years ago, thanks to a thrilling bridge section two minutes in, glorious pumping AOR. On a roll, 'Time To Surrender' keeps the momentum moving, demolishing the supposed classic that was House Of Lords that same year. The hard rock of ''Poison Angel' and 'Hangin' On' eclipses Poison, Warrant, Skid Row, Cinderella or even Van Halen, before 'Heading For A Heartbreak' concludes the album on an AOR high, another major hit, deservedly so.

In Summary
The common perception of Winger in 1988, and even now in 2004 is that of a formularised group of pretty boys with no depth. That's the type of logic that frustrates me to this day, people only remembering the band because of a Winger shirt worn by a fat nerd on 'Beavis And Butthead' in the 90's. Winger were the ultimate professional act, with a leader in Winger who defined what a frontman should look and sound like. Winger enjoyed more success with 1990's excellent 'In The Heart Of The Young' before grunge reared its head, a third set 1993's 'Pull' dying a quick death, admittedly weak material with a forced heavier direction that eliminated keyboards and melody. The band reformed in 2002 to tour with Poison, which I saw first hand, the band still demonstrating their prowess. Where 'Winger' stands in the AOR hall of fame with fans is unknown, but by rights it should be right up there.

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#1 | jeffrey343 on January 01 1970 01:00:00
I agree with both Georges on this one. I got this CD after hearing 'Madalaine' because I knew based on that song that I'd like it. Twenty years later, I still play it. Their next CD 'In The Heart Of The Young' is pretty good but not as consistent (to me anyway), and I got nothing from 'Pull'.
#2 | george_the_jack on June 17 2008 17:46:02
Only one song? seventeen? Madalaine??? You can't be serious....
#3 | gdazegod on June 18 2008 17:48:51
I got nothing from 'Pull' either. Not sure what Modulator is talking about to be honest. He got peeved off about some comment I made about one of his own review comments - he hasn't been back here for at least two years.
#4 | rostoned on June 18 2008 20:01:18
Interesting debate here. I have a soft spot for 'Pull' too, I rate it as their best album, the songwriting on that one is frankly superb ('Who's The One' is one of my fave). I feel Beau Hill's formulaic production hasn't helped the contagious pop metal material on the debut to age well (in addition to some very cheesy lyrics aimed to wet the gals knickers...see 'Hungry', 'Madalaine', 'Seventeen'!); in contrast the freshier, less bombastic touch of Mike Shipley on 'Pull' is a work of art, coupled with a more mature songwriting by the boys. By the way I will be the first to admit that 'Headed For A Heartbreak' is a gorgeous song, one of the best ballads of the 80s. And that Kip Winger is a helluva musician and singer, saw him solo last year and he blew me away....
#5 | rostoned on June 24 2008 10:57:39
The band was originally using the name 'Sahara' but found that a band out of LA already used the name and refused to give it up. Although they changed the name to Winger, the word Sahara can still be seen on the lower right corner of the debut album's cover. Was this a mistake or late change to originally artwork sporting that name? This is really odd since the album has always been sold and advertised as a s/t and there's no mention of 'Sahara' title whatsoever anywhere in catalogs etc....
The first demos the band recorded, while still members of Alice Cooper's touring line up, were done by Kip Winger, Paul Taylor and Ken Mary (who at the time was drumming for Cooper) at Kip's brother studio in Boulder, Colorado.
#6 | george_the_jack on June 27 2008 13:39:02
I know the story for 'sahara' name rostoned.Really interesting story disapears in the years of past. I also agree that Pull is maybe the most mature release of the band but does not have any hits that 'keep playing inside one's head' although is a piece of art. So, it's not only maturity that counts....Music consists of many other parameters.
#7 | jeffrey343 on January 13 2009 18:27:17
I've revisited 'In The Heart Of The Young' and 'Pull' since my comments several months ago, and both have grown on me considerably. Neither is quite as immediate as the debut ('Pull' less immediate than ITHOTY), but each one shows growth in the songwriting department. 'Pull' is definitely less 'hair-metallic' than the other two, and that's why I didn't warm to it as quickly. I can safely say that all three are quite good.
#8 | reyno-roxx on January 17 2009 21:19:36
'Pull' was a far better album than 'In The Heart Of The Young'. The second album lacked real substance. 'Pull' more than made up for that.
#9 | super80boy on October 18 2015 00:58:54
Yes, the late 80's were full of pop metal outfits, but these guys climbed above the fray with quality musicianship, well crafted arrangements and top shelf production from the prolific Beau Hill. All four singles are exceptional. The Hendrix cover could have been cut, but it has its curious angles.

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