November 20, 2008

CD Review: Kip Winger - From the Moon to the Sun

Kip Winger has had an interesting career to say the least. With a name that seems hard to take seriously and a run in the glam rock scene of the late 80's that skyrocketed him to fame, Kip is one of those musicians you would suspect would turn up on some VH1 special. However, it appears that will not happen as his songwriting skills seem to only be getting stronger over the years. Of course, this is my first official time with his solo material but I am very impressed with what I am bearing witness to.

The first time I came across the name "Kip Winger" was with Alice Cooper's 1986 release Raise Your Fist and Yell. At that time he was a member of Cooper's band, but he was also an up and coming song writer (with co-writing credit on the song "Gail"). A couple of years later he would have his own band, Winger, riding high on the glam scene. The music was good but typical of the genre.

Winger was one of those bands that I really liked during this time frame, although public opinion seemed to turn fast as they were identified with rock fans who were on the wimpy side, typified by the lame Stewart character on MTV's Beavis and Butt-head (he was often depicted wearing a Winger t-shirt). Still, my enjoyment soldiered on, it would not be undone by a feud between Kip and show creator Mike Judge.. They were even the very first band I ever say in concert, back in the Spring of 1991 while on tour for their second album. What a blast that was.

The band would only release one more album during their heyday, the criminally underrated Pull in 1993. The band would go on to reunite, releasing a fourth album in 2006 (which I have not heard yet). In between then and now, Kip did not remain stagnant, releasing a couple of solo albums, as well as an album of acoustic takes on Winger hits mixed with prior solo recordings.

kipAll of this leads up to the lush From the Earth to the Moon, which is, quite frankly, a beautiful album. I am sure there are at least a few of you who will scoff at the very notion of Kip Winger producing well-crafted, thoughtfully composed music, willing to linger on the bass-holding, pirouette-performing, teased-hear wearing, spandexed version of Kip from the glam years. Those of you holding on to that image are just missing out.

This album is not a hard rocking album, don't expect another Winger release. This is an album filled with great melodies and atmospheric tunes that are soothing and introspective, yet is still grooving and catchy. There are strong classic rock undercurrents flowing beneath the music, yet it still sounds contemporary, relevant, and original. There are hints of world music injected into the proceedings, likely from his collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Cenk Eroglu, hailing from Istanbul, Turkey.

I was instantly grabbed by the opening notes of "Every Story Told" with its use of samples and synth, blended with layered acoustic guitar accompanying Winger's strong voice. This leads the way for such numbers as "Nothing," the sadness tinged "Where Will You Go," and Middle Eastern flavored instrumentals like "Ghosts."

From the Moon to the Sun strikes me as a deeply personal album for the songwriter. There is much sadness throughout, balanced with moments for hope and redemption. The music here is filled with the emotion of a man working through tough emotions, letting them all out in the recording studio. I have never thought Kip had great tonal range as a singer, and it is true, but there is something that makes up for any range issues in his music, and that is passion. Just listen to him sing, it is brimming with emotion without a tinge of sentimentality. Frankly, this may be the best music I have heard from him.

I have seen Kip perform a solo acoustic show. I was terribly impressed with his ability, it opened my eyes to the artist that I took for granted so many years ago. While I was, and still am, a fan of Winger I cannot say I ever thought much of him as an artist thinking my enjoyment may have moved into a purely nostalgic form. Seeing that live performance, and greatly enhanced by this recording, I am amazed at the artistry that he puts on display. Perhaps I shouldn't be, perhaps I should have paid more attention to his earlier solo work. Be that as it may, I am here now with an album that is downright enchanting.

Bottomline. This is an album that should not be ignored or written off. It is a mature work from an artist who seems to be more comfortable i his own skin the further into his career he goes. Where the majority of songwriters may be petering out, he is only growing stronger.

Highly Recommended.


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