Part II of a Winger DOUBLE SHOT.
WINGER – II – In the Heart of the Young (1990 Atlantic)
Another awful album cover; another Winger album! The ambitious follow-up, still sonically mutilated by producer Beau Hill, was several steps forward and a few steps backwards at the same time. The year was 1990, and while most bands were starting to toughen things up and go a little heavier, Winger turned on the tap marked “syrup”.
Truly awful is “Can’t Get Enuff”, which Winger admitted took about five minutes to write, when he decided they needed to “make a video about sex”. Because that’s never been done before. Nor has a song called “Can’t Get Enough” (spelled correctly). There is nothing new or necessary here; the talented band are neutered by programmed rhythms and cheesey, generic lyrics. Not good enuff, although the second tune “Loosen Up” is better. There could have been some rock and roll groove with “Loosen Up”, but the plastic and thin production removes its teeth.
Keyboardist Paul Taylor, who left the band after this tour, wrote the ballad “Miles Away” by himself and it hits all the bases that a power ballad needed to hit: Big chorus, sad keyboards, and sappy lyrics! “Miles Away” never quite felt like it fit on the album stylistically, but it’s actually a decent ballad. It’s well written and arranged, but so pigeonholed to its time.
I hate synth horns, therefore I hate the single “Easy Come Easy Go”. There is no substitute for real horns. Keyboards are quicker and easier, but there is no comparison to the real thing. Thankfully Winger did utilise real horns on “Rainbow in the Rose”, the first of two epics on the album. Where “Can’t Get Enuff” was written in minutes, “Rainbow in the Rose” took a year to compose and arrange. Its complexity is admirable, but a better producer could have given it the finish it deserved. It’s a shame that with a complicated track like this, you can barely hear what drummer Rod Morgenstein is doing. He’s one of the best in the world, but he’s buried under keyboards. When you do listen to what he’s doing, it’s quite incredible work. As for the song? The chorus kills!
The second side was more of the same, including another epic at the end. “In the Day We’ll Never See” was Winger’s attempt to write more serious lyrics, and that’s all well and good. With a peppy riff and serious tone, it’s a good enough song for a car tape. Reb Beach’s anthemic guitars are the highlight. Another side; another ballad — “Under One Condition” sounds like a Warrant song, although that’s probably being unfair. Warrant could never play like Winger.
Side two has a slew of annoying songs in the middle. “Little Dirty Blonde” is as putrid as it sounds, but let’s face it folks, it’s not as bad as Kip Winger rapping. The story goes that they wanted to get Tone Lōc to do his thing over “Baptized By Fire”, but that didn’t happen so Kip rapped it himself. It’s as annoying as you expect. One of the most impressive moments on the album is just a short instrumental break, sounding like speedily tapped guitar and bass, right before “Baptised By Fire”, but it’s over too soon before MC Kip takes over. “You Are the Saint, I Am the Sinner” improves the outlook mildly, annoying title aside. That leads to the final epic track, “In the Heart of the Young”. Like “Rainbow in the Rose”, this is a more ambitious arrangement, done with skill and care. Once again, focusing on Rod Morgenstein allows you to hear the complexities within. The melodies are strong and Kip’s singing is under-appreciated.
Winger were on to something with the more progressive material. Where they lost fans was with the dumbed down sounds of songs like “Can’t Get Enuff”, and they paid for it during the grunge onslaught down the road.