CD Review: Winger / Better Days Comin’
Winger has always been a band structured around songwriting and performance, yet in the early days bassist and founding member Kip Winger could always be found on the cover of a magazine or a staple through his mid section as the centerfold. Too often the band had more articles and photos due to their physical attributes and sex appeal than their actual playing. Nevertheless no one can argue that the first two Winger albums were hugely successful and in spite of the sometimes grotesque overuse of Kip’s “whiter than white” teeth I’m sure the general philosophy was “any press is good press”.
Well thankfully in the 2014 rock world Winger gets press now ONLY for their music, a welcome change for me personally having been a fan since the first time I saw “Madalaine” on Headbanger’s Ball in 1988. Better Days Comin’ picks up right where 2009’s Karma left off with some more heavy rock tunes, complete with signature harmonies and some memorable licks direct from riff master himself Reb Beach on guitar. All of these elements put together will allow Better Days Comin’ to take its rightful place amongst the previous five Winger albums but at the same time contains some individual moments which make it unique. If I were a professor set to study this new Winger album I would title my essay “Superior Time Emergence”. why Winger appeals to my five senses with their past five records and album six gives me added depth with a new sense to be able to predict future events. Better Days Comin’ indeed.
“Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine” starts the record off on the fast track. Terrific hook, catchy lyrics and of course Reb’s signature riff on the bridge. Love the harmonies – if you are listening while driving please be aware of your speed..those are police sirens at the end of the song but look in your rear view mirror anyway.
“Queen Babylon” is another hard rocker. Not as fast moving as the opener yet has more groove. Interesting lyrics this track has with great potential as a single because of the visual element the listener gets while following a short story.
“Rat Race” is more uptempo and talks about what we all deal with every single day as a member of the working force. Great choice as the first single and video; I like the dual lead guitar work of Beach and Roth combined.
Title track “Better Days Comin” reminds me of something off of Pull. A little different but still definitive Winger. I’m not entirely crazy about the chorus, it’s a little too soft for my taste. I think the track would be better acoustic and I love the harmonies. Some of Kip’s best bass work on the album is here.
“Tin Soldier” is very elaborate and over the top with several time changes. I would qualify this track as DEEP. Great musicianship, meaningful lyrics yet it still rocks. Not my favorite song on the album but the one that most impressed me. This is Winger personified.
“Ever Wonder” slows down the tempo quite a bit. One of Kip’s strengths is his ability to carry off a ballad without it seeming too sappy or boring. Strong track with several strong moments throughout and even a little Reb riff. Reminds me a lot of “Headed For a Heartbreak” in its approach but holds its own identity.
“So Long China” is one of my favorite songs on the record because it sounds like vintage Winger with a strong vocal from Kip, plenty of up tempo playing and plenty of commercial appeal. Even some vintage three part harmonies towards the end of the track – a real winner.
“Storm in Me” has the heaviest guitar work found on the record but I don’t care for the chorus at all. I’m also not fond of the tempo either. Muddy, too slow and the vocal on the chorus is just awful. This song passed me by very quickly.
“Be Who You Are, Now” is a slower tempo track and almost has a Beatles feel to it. A very different type of track for Winger fans but it worked for me because the chorus was so well done. Sounds like Sgt. Pepper with Reb’s riffs thrown in for good measure.
“Out of This World” is a mid tempo track that has some fierce vocal moments from Kip and also some real standout guitar parts from Reb. Perfect album closer because it’s a song that builds as it goes along and just has an outstanding jam at the bridge. Elaborate yet it flows wonderfully.
With all that each member of Winger brings to the table in terms of his own mystic and musicianship if you were to toss all of those elements into a blender you never know exactly what you are going to get. As Winger matures it’s obvious they are no longer relying on a sound of the day or are following any trends musically. They have developed their own unique persona as a band that attracts not only hardcore musicians who marvel at their abilities but also melodic hard rock fans who respect the past and look forward to new music and tours. “Better Days Comin” will I think satisfy the needs of all Winger fans because it contains elements of why any of us were attracted to them in the first place – catchy tunes, strong musicianship combined with commercial appeal. Regardless of solo projects, other band commitments and outside musical activities Winger is a special band that has its core audience and will always be appreciated for what they have done and hopefully will continue to do. Clearly Better Days Are Coming.