Review by Paddy Gallagher for MPM
What can I say about Winger “Seven”? This is the 7th studio album from the American band formed in the early 1980’s in New York by Denver, Colorado native Kip Winger, the band enjoying initial success from their first period of activity, 1988’s debut self-titled album up until 1994 during which they released a further two albums, 1990’s “In the Heart of the Young” and 1993’s “Pull”.
The first two albums turned platinum although “Pull” sales suffered, like so many, because of the onset of Grunge.
A seven-year hiatus followed, as did a reunion compilation “The Very Best Of…” and tour in 2002. Guitarist Reb Beach’s commitments to his full-time gig with Whitesnake brought about a halt to touring, but the second half of the 2000’s saw the release of albums 4 and 5, 2006’s “IV” and 2009’s “Karma”, followed by a 5-year gap to 2014’s “Better Days Coming”.
Lumped in with the Hair Metal scene of the late 80’s, Winger’s music has always been more than bubble-gum Metal for Sunset Strip. Their song writing craft and musicianship setting them apart from their peers with Progressive traits evident throughout with Kip once stating they were a “hair band Dream Theater”. I’d throw in a wee bit of Styx too!
The new album adds a fine opus to their catalogue. Released May 5th, 2023, we are straight into a melodic riff-fest with first track “Proud Desperado” with a chunky clear-cut riff and catchy vocal melodies during the chorus. “Heaven’s Falling” is fine, easy listening melodic heavy rock, a bit AORish in places with track 3 “Tears of Blood” going back to Riffsville with a fine catchy piece of guitar work.
As the album continues there’s no doubting that Kip and Co have not lost their edge in the song writing department, and the musicianship takes the music to a level way higher than their somehow bigger selling contemporaries. Perhaps the only critique would be I find the production slightly clinical.
Kip does have a fine voice as demonstrated throughout and the strummed acoustic guitar led ballad “Broken Glass” building to the big-riffed chorus is in serious power ballad territory.
The pace picks up again on “It’s Okay” and “Stick the Knife in and Twist” the latter the probably the heaviest song on the album: limber up those neck muscles folks. “One Light to Burn” sees Rod fair thumping his kit accompanied by Reb burning the fretboard. “Do or Die” sees the re-emergence of the acoustic guitar overlaid by a heaviness and Kip’s powerful vocals.
If you want a trip back to the heyday of Hair and MTV friendly Heavy Rock, this is an album to take you there. To the music snobs out there that may turn their noses up at that description, fear not! The song structures, song writing, and musicianship is on a different level to other bands in this genre, and perhaps the “Hair Metal” label levelled on them early in their career may have done them a disservice. I can see this album’s tracks being extensively played on many Winger tours in the future, and not just in smaller venues, they would fit well in arena size venues. Check it out!