Sunday, May 11, 2014

Winger - Better Days Comin’

Better Days Comin’
Frontiers Records

Given that I was a fan of Winger back in the late ‘80’s, I was curious to see what the band had to offer fans when they decided to reunite after going their separate ways in 1994. But despite being a fan of the various members’ solo output throughout the years, I wasn’t all that impressed with Winger’s 2006 comeback album ‘IV’. It was far from what you would call a complete disaster, but it hardly qualified as one of the band’s more memorable efforts. Despite my disappointment towards ‘IV’, I did check out the band’s follow up studio effort ‘Karma’ (2009), and found that while the band’s past is often ridiculed and overlooked, their present output is a class above most so called hard rock acts.
Over the last five years, vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Kip Winger has been focused on his solo career and score work, while guitarist/backing vocalist Reb Beach has been kept busy with Whitesnake. And then there’s guitarist/backing vocalist John Roth, who has been on the road and in the studio with Starship and drummer Rod Morgenstein, who spends his time teaching as a professor at Berklee College Of Music. But as luck would have it, the various members managed to get their busy schedules to line up, which has resulted in Winger’s new album in ‘Better Days Comin’’. And for the most part, the band’s sixth studio effort is a worthy follow-up to the band’s highly acclaimed last album.
Winger starts the album off in heavy rock fashion with the opening track ‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’. Beginning with some effects that bring to mind Kiss’ ‘Detroit Rock City’ (1976), the song soon shifts into high gear courtesy of Beach’s solid riffing and Kip Winger’s signature crooning vocals. Heavy enough to rock hard, and yet catchy enough to sing along to (Courtesy of Kip’s infectious melodies and backing vocals), ‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’ is everything you could ask for from Winger.
The follow-up track ‘Queen Babylon’ sees the band maintaining the heavier edge of the opening track (Albeit with a slower tempo) without forsaking any of the band’s trademark melody, while the first single ‘Rat Race’ is without a doubt one of the most adrenaline fuelled rockers Winger have ever produced, and a true showcase of the combined talents of Kip on vocals and Beach on guitars.
The title track ‘Better Days Comin’’ is an interesting detour into grunge/funk territory that locks into bass heavy groove with a killer chorus, while on ‘Tin Soldier’, the band’s progressive side to showcased a little more (And stylistically more in line with 1993’s ‘Pull’ direction wise), and proves once again that behind the visual and sonic façade, Winger boasts some truly talented musical individuals.
No Winger album is ever complete without some slower tracks, and ‘Better Days Comin’’ is no exception. ‘Ever Wonder’ is a solid addition to Winger’s long list of ballad-like efforts, but it’s the psychedelic/Beatles tinged ‘Be Who You Are, Now’ that really stands out of the two.
Returning to more orientated terrain is the melodic ‘So Long China’, the heavy/groove/angst driven ‘Storm In Me’ and the guitar driven ‘Another Beautiful Day’, before the band closes things with the soaring ‘Blind Revolution Mad’ (‘Pull’) like ‘Out Of This World’.
‘Karma’ was a step up from ‘IV’ for Winger in terms of song writing. And while ‘Better Days Comin’’ isn’t a huge departure from what you would generally expect from Winger, it’s at the very least on par with the best the band have ever offered up fans  the past – and that’s the heaviness of ‘Pull’ combined with the classiness of ‘Karma’. What more could a Winger fan ask for really?

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© Justin Donnelly

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