Edgar Winter – “Tell Me In A Whisper, The Solo Albums 1970-1981” (2018) review
Edgar Winter – Tell Me In A Whisper, The Solo Albums 1970-1981 (Cherry Red Records, 2018)
Born in Texas in 1946, two years after his famous brother and blues guitar legend Johnny, Edgar Winter first began performing with his elder sibling in the 1960s, but since 1970 has been a successful solo artist in his own right. Cherry Red Records, UK, has compiled and released the musical legacy of Edgar Winter from 1970 through 1981 in the form of two box sets.
The first of these, the six disc “I’ve Got News For You” contained ninety tracks and covered the recordings done with his bands, White Trash and The Edgar Winter Group between 1971 and 1977. The label completes their survey of his work during this period with the four disc, fifty five track “Tell Me In A Whisper” comprised of his solo albums released from 1970 through 1981. My review of the first compilation was published recently, so now we turn to the second and final installment of this incredible retrospective series.
Disc one contains Edgar’s first solo effort, 1970’s “Entrance” a twelve track LP released on Epic Records and setting the stage for Winter’s future recordings. Side one of “Entrance” is a seven tune musical collage “Winter’s Dreams” and is a continuous medley of the songs, opening with the three and a half minute title track. The tracks making up “Dreams” are jazz influenced rock dominated by Edgar’s work on piano, organ and alto saxophone as well as his gorgeous vocals. The highlight of the musical collage is the nearly seven minute “Fire And Ice” displaying Winter’s keyboard and saxophone prowess as well as some incredibly tasteful guitar work by Randal Dolano. Another tune of note is the short, just over two minute, “Back To The Blues” with Edgar’s famous brother delivering a fine performance, not on guitar as one would expect, but rather on mouth harp. Side two of “Entrance” opens with the oft recorded J.D. Loudermilk classic “Tobacco Road” a song that has been recorded numerous times by Winter, and remains a mainstay of his musical repertoire up to this very day. On this version Edgar is joined once again by brother Johnny, who delivers an inspired performance on lead guitar, and the rhythm section of Tommy Shannon on bass and Uncle John Turner on drums, who would be long time members of Johnny Winter’s band and will always be remembered for their contributions to his body of musical works. “Jump Right Out” is another standout with Dolano’s wah wah guitar contribution being of special note. The disc is fleshed out with both sides of the single released in connection with the album, an edit of “Tobacco Road” and its non-LP b-side “Now Is The Time” with the former appearing in its promotional mono version. “Entrance” charted, sneaking into the Billboard Hot 200 Album charts at #196. The single, though certainly worthy, failed to chart.
Disc two comprises the 1975 album “Jasmine Nightdreams” released during the high point of Edgar’s career as measured by record sales, with the LP topping out at #69 on the heels of 1972’s #3 double platinum smash “They Only Come Out At Night” and 1974’s “Shock Treatment” which reached #13, both credited to The Edgar Winter Group and representing his final releases on the Epic label, as “Jasmine Nightdreams” was his first to appear on Blue Sky Records which would be home to both Edgar and Johnny for a period of time in the 1970s and 1980s. “Jasmine Nightdreams” was, in essence, an Edgar Winter Group album, with Winter joined by bassist Dan Hartman, who co-wrote two of the long player’s twelve tracks, long time companion Rick Derringer on guitar, and drums by Chuck Ruff, although Rick Marotta occupied the drums kit on a couple of tunes. In addition, Johnny Winter sat in contributing slide guitar on hard rocking, standout track tracks such as “Shuffle Low, ” “Hello Mellow Fellow” and “Outa Control.” These tracks have a Johnny Winter And feel to them, featuring the dynamic guitar duo of Johnny and Rick Derringer. Edgar proves quite capable of serving up fine, less edgy music on tracks such as the non-LP b-side bearing the album’s title, a seven and a half minute number showcasing Edgar’s work on saxophone and synthesizer, with Derringer contributing a tastefully restrained guitar solo as well. The song is a wonderful example of Edgar’s ability to write and perform accessible jazz rock, tastefully commercial and containing a fine pop hook. Of special note are a couple of space rock numbers, the just over two minute “Sky Train” and the five minute plus “Solar Strut” both featuring excellent performances by Edgar on synthesizer. The album is supplemented by a whopping nine bonus tracks, including mono and stereo single edits of “Little Brother” a soulful, funky jazz tinged number dominated by Edgar’s organ, as well as the mono and stereo single edits of “One Day Tomorrow” (co-penned by Winter and Hartman) and “I Always Wanted You.” While the album achieved solid sales, none of its singles made any impression on the charts, a sad reflection of record buyer’s tastes, but certainly not the quality of the material released on his 45s.
Disc three collects 1979’s “The Edgar Winter Album,” released on Blue Sky Records. The LP’s nine tracks, all written and produced by Winter, represent a funkier, jazz influenced side of Winter’s music, dominated by fine synthesizer performances and represent the artist in quest of finding a market for his fare. “Forever In Love” features a synthesizer and guitar led sound, with feedback reminiscent of “Frankenstein.” Noticeably absent are the guitar and production contributions of Rick Derringer, who was fronting a band bearing his name at the time, and there are no guest appearances by brother Johnny, which may explain the albums failure to chart, despite the solid quality of material. Winter returns to his gospel roots on the piano dominated “Dying To Live” a gentle, spiritual tune The album’s highlights, however, may well be its opening tune “It’s Your Life To Live” a jazz tinged pop number and the synthesizer laden jazz rocker “Above And Beyond” both released as singles, though neither charted. The former is included in its single edit as a bonus track, while the latter is presented in its single edit, as well as extended stereo instrumental and vocal performances, all as bonus tracks.
Disc four presents 1981’s “Standing On Rock,” again released on Blue Sky Records. The albums eight tracks find Winter exploring his fascination with science fiction and the LP’s sound reflects its title, with a heavier sound than any of Edgar’s previous solo efforts, featuring hot guitar work by Al Ferrante, such as on the album opener “Star Garbage” with Winter’s synthesizer joined by an almost heavy metal guitar workout and solo by Ferrante. The album’s title track is a hard driving number with a wonderful mix of Winter’s keyboards and Ferrante’s guitar. I think the song would have been an excellent choice for single release, but it was not to be. “Love Is Everything” is a mid-tempo number, again featuring a fine mix of Winter’s keys and Ferrante’s guitar. The album’s strongest track is the space rock number “Martians” filled with wonderful wah wah guitar by Ferrante and synthesizer by Edgar, topped off by flashes of feedback, again. reminiscent of “Frankenstein.” Ferrante also stands out on “Rock And Roll Revival” co-written by Winter and fellow White Trash frontman Jerry LaCroix and the hard rocking “Everyday Man” which was culled from the album as the b-side for the single “Love Is Everywhere” a mid-tempo number again dominated by Winter’s keyboards and Ferrante’s guitar. The single edit of “Love Is Everywhere” is included as a bonus track to close out the album and the box set. What a shame that “Standing On Rock” failed to sell, as the heavier rock style seems to fit Winter well, and it would have quite interesting to see where the change in sound would have led musically, but sadly this was not the case.
While Edgar Winter’s musical adventures certainly did not end in 1981, that is where our story stops. “Tell Me In A Whisper” is a most interesting collection of the varied musical directions Winter explored when not recording with White Trash or The Edgar Winter Group, and certainly deserves a place in the collections of Winter fans, jazz rock and even space rock fans, a reflection of the eclecticism contained within the four discs composing the box set The package is rounded out by a 16-page full color booklet, with complete track listings and album credits, an essay by Malcolm Dome, album artwork and wonderful photos of Winter, and wonderful sound thanks to the outstanding mastering job by Tony Dixon, all contained in a sturdy clamshell box. A wonderful complement to “I’ve Got News For You’ the set comes very highly recommended.
– Kevin Rathert
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