The One After the Big One: Winger, IN THE HEART OF THE YOUNG
Let us all rise and sing in praise of the great Kip Winger. No mere lite metal god he; a classically trained musician and ballet dancer in his youth, Winger went from backing Alice Cooper in the mid-’80s to fronting a powerhouse rock band later in the decade, to creating solo material of quite remarkable depth, before swinging back around to rock with his band once again. And let’s reiterate, has band was awesome – you had a mind-bendingly dexterous lead guitar player (Reb Beach), a versatile keyboardist (Paul Taylor), and ex-Dixie Dregs drummer Rod Morgenstein, who could pretty much play anything from jazz fusion to progressive metal.
With those weapons at his disposal, Winger (the dude) could bring more to the table than the usual hair band cliches, and he did, though few gave him or Winger (the band) credit for doing so. Most of it was due to the image Winger (the dude and the band) projected – showboating players in tight, bright clothes (the earmarks of the day’s glam metal style) with the shirtless front man teasing his hair, twirling around the stage and grinding beneath and around his bass guitar. And that was just in the video for “Seventeen,” the first hit off Winger (the band)’s 1988 platinum debut album.
With 1990’s IN THE HEART OF THE YOUNG, they followed up that hit album with another million-seller that was arguably better than the band’s first. Winger (the dude) still embraced the image of sex god with the come-hither leer (there was a lot of money in that leer), but from the jump – leadoff track and first single “Can’t Get Enuff” – the first thing you noticed as a listener was the foot-stompin’ groove, slicing guitar and pleading lyric. “Loosen Up,” “Easy Come Easy Go” and “Dirty Little Blonde” are cut from the same cloth, ensuring the band’s hard-rock cred and giving fans something to gently bang their heads to.
The coolest cuts on the record slow are slower in pace, but mightier in anthemic power. “Miles Away” was the hit ballad, and all these years later, it still holds up as a lighter-worthy moment in any concert. “Under One Condition” bathes Winger (the dude) in a mist of keyboards that clears just in time for the chorus; conversely, the lyrics of “Rainbow in the Rose” are downright cloudy, but the music that helps deliver them is crisp. These all serve as the setup for the album-closing title track, a synth-heavy Statement (note the capital S) on which Winger (the dude) reaches for his upper register and, in the middle of the track, summons one of Beach’s best solos.
Winger (the band) would record only one more album in their initial incarnation, which is something of a shame. IN THE HEART OF THE YOUNG shows that, in their heyday, they were the cream of the commercial hard rock crop – worthy of that title then, and of another listen today.
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