The Edgar Winter Group
Released: May 1974
Chart Peak: #13
Weeks Charted: 23
Certified Gold: 7/18/74
Edgar Winter was the most unlikely rock star of 1973. For five years we had been led to believe that is was his brother Johnny who was going to make it big -- but a gold single, "Frankenstein," and the platinum album from which it was culled, They Only Come Out at Night, have changed all of that.
The junior Winter brother has seemed an increasingly viable pop star musician since he formed his first serious rock band, White Trash -- one of the great white horn bands. But it mainly served to prove to him that the rock and soul he had played for cash in Texas was just as artistically worthy as the more esoteric stuff he had played after hours for friends.
The Edgar Winter Group is best, not at innovation, but at distilling the Anglo-American heavy rock tradition. Their power comes from an ability to bring discipline and control to a genre that often seems predicated on the absence of those prerequisites of pop. This is due in large measure to Derringer's ever steady production hand (they are much more lax onstage) but also speaks of increasing maturity on the part of the musicians.
In fact, if the album has a major flaw, it is that the teenage idiom in which it is written often seems forced. These are not kids, even if they are playing primarily for a young audience. Song titles like "Some Kinda Animal" and "Rock & Roll Woman" are indicative of an occasional strained attempt to become more commercial which leads them into a certain silliness.
Edgar Winter's songwriting is more sould inflected. He is one of the very few white musicians who has had the good taste to pick up on the directions pointed by Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone. On "Do Like Me" Winter's synthesizer sounds especially like Wonder, and his guttural vocal is out of the Sly handbook. However, Edgar adds his own distinctive touch -- one of those strange scat vocals, set against guitar, whose origin is known only to himself.
Rick Derringer is apparently, and I think unfortunately, reserving his songwriting for his solo albums. Since his playing and production are so dominant in the group, this may seem only a minor misfortune. But the problem is accentuated because his lyrics are just the kind of facile, unpretentious stuff Hartman's and Winter's never are: He doesn't overreach for poetry, he just tries to write a song.
Shock Treatment is fun to listen to, even if it doesn't produce anything substantial to ponder after it's over. Hopefully, increasing maturity will allow an otherwise excellent, if derivative, rock group to replace the teen veneer with something more substantial.
- Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, 7-18-74.
Edgar follows his last LP (which hit the number one spot) with a set that does more than anything he has yet come up with to showcase his instrumental skill, ability to move through different kinds of material from wild rock to softer sounding cuts to soulful tones, and his fine band. Winter is outstanding on keyboards, synthesizer and saxophone and is a more than capable vocalist on the cuts he handles lead on. Group member Dan Hartman, who wrote the majority of the cuts, is a truly outstanding vocalist and writer while Rick Derringer plays his usual choice guitar as well as handling production chores. A number of potential singles here, and the set should receive ready airplay from AM and FM stations. Winter has long passed the gimmick stage, and this LP should be final proof. Best cuts: "Easy Street," "Sundown," "Someone Take My Heart Away," "Maybe Someday You'll Call My Name."
- Billboard, 1974.
Rock critics are, for the most part, a very cynical lot. The ratio of garbage to good stuff a critic is exposed to within a year's time runs something like 20 to 1. Particularly upsetting to the scribes who act as music judges are the so-called "supergroups," bands that just about never live up to either their self-contained expectations or the hefty advance press that precedes their work.
The latest Edgar Winter Group had all the ingredients necessary to become such a band, and to be very truthful about the matter I dropped their latest album on my turntable fully expecting to be bored to tears. But lo and behold, Shock Treatment turned out to be one of those precious 1 in 20 shots -- it's exciting, it's honest, it's commercial, but most importantly, it's good music.
The major problem of supergroups in the past hardly plagues this one at all -- Messrs. Winter, Rick Derringer, Dan Hartman and Chuck Ruff have found a way to integrate their diverse individual talents so that no one's psyches or the band's own self-identity is tromped upon. Winter's New Orleans blues roots are finally realized in the down-home funky "Easy Street," while at the same time maintaining his caricaturistic monster persona on "Animal." Hartman has always loved hard 'n' heavy metal rock. Here he presents two potentially smasheroo singles in the vein -- "Some Kinda Animal" and "Queen Of My Dreams." Derringer plays a mean, lowdown guitar and puts his production talents to about their most effective use ever seen on the beautifully cinematic "Sundown." Ruff anchors the proceedings with solid forceful drumming from beginning to end.
This is a solid album on both the critical and commercial fronts -- a rare occurrence these days but certainly a welcome one. And it's proof that there are indeed musicians capable of making the supergroup formula work.
- Gordon Fletcher, Circus Raves, 9/74.
Considering that the last Edgar Winter album was rather exciting, this one seems to be a bit of a letdown. Dan Hartman's doing a heavy share of the writing, and there's nothing as dynamic as "Hanging Round" or "Free Ride." The production is thick but impairs the sound. Perhaps a return to something more basic might help reorient their sound, but it appears that due to the long delay between albums they've lost direction, and are reaching out in new areas which do not allow them to perform comfortably.
- Jon Tiven, Circus Raves, 9/74.
A lot of heavy pop talent concentrated in this group -- Rick Derringer, Dan Hartman, wow. Too bad about Edgar. At least when he brought out his saxophone you could say he was different. Which is no doubt why he spends so much time with his synthesizer. C+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.comments powered by Disqus
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