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The Edgar Winter Group with Rick Derringer
Blue Sky PZ 33798
Released: November 1975
Chart Peak: #124
Weeks Charted: 8

Rick DerringerEdgar WinterIf the Edgar Winter Group has not scaled their ultimate heights, it's not due to any poor efforts -- I have yet to hear a truly bad Winter cut -- but rather their lack of a major, landmark recording. This is not that milestone but it does continue a standard of excellence that few bands reach and even fewer sustain.

The four adapt various rock styles iwth remarkable ease. "Cool Dance" is a rocking soul number with plenty of Winter's wailing saxophone, a rare treat since he usually sticks to keyboads. "Infinite Peace in Rhythm" is an instantly catchy pastiche of reggae and early Byrds 12-string guitar. Dobro and stand-up bass define "Can't Tell One from the Other," an unlikely yet workable path for this hard rock combine. To be sure, Winter and company follow trends but they plagiarize only themselves: "Chainsaw" is a variation on their well-known "Frankenstein," and they lift the soloing segment on "People Music" from "Free Ride."

The Edgar Winter Group With Rick Derringer
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Rick Derringer's rise to equal billing with Winter is deceptive: His guitar stays generally in the background, rarely stepping out to solo. However, he penned three of the record's 12 songs, and here some problems surface. The grouip in the past has tended to cater more to juvenile tastes, and this occasion is no exception. Winter does this with his frequent screaming, which though technically brilliant rings emotionally false; it's mainly for show. Derringer in turn composes along these lines and it's often hard to differentiate between mere childishness and a genuinely youthful enthusiasm. He plays this role to a hilt on "J.A.P. (Just Another Punk)" by overechoing the voice track and repieating a desending chord slide for mock outrage. On "Modern Love" his boyish tenor strains for high notes as he relates a simple boy-meets-girl tale. Condescending and cynical as it may be, Derringer manages to make it listenable and sometimes even fun. Ironically, his lean but strong production stands in its own shadow: Shock Treatment, the group's previous record where the able Shelly Yakus worked with Derringer, had a rawness and power that are missing here, as are the tone textures that distinguished the arrangements.

Dan Hartman is the overlooked mainstay of the quartet. Composing about half of their material, he is probably most responsible for the group's wide range. The aforementioned "Cool Dance" and "Can't Tell One from the Other" belong to him, as does the gentle "Paradise," a tune evocative of John Lennon and George Harrison. A superb bassist, he expands the traditional approach -- staying at the bottom of the rhythm arrangement, in step with Chuck Ruff's firm drumming -- by integrating melodic fills. He can slide smoothly from a secondary rhythmic style into that of a lead instrument almost at will. Hartman facilitates these transitions by using mild distortion, creating a sustained sound not unlike an organ. What's more, he plays guitar and keyboards and handles much of the vocal work. Like Winter himself, he is close to being a one-man band.

Above all, the Edgar Winter Group demonstrates that quality need not include originality. Winter, Derringer, Hartman and Ruff can indeed be criticized for never taking risks -- but when they make it work, why complain? Not many rockers can play it this safe and make it sound so good.

- Charley Walters, Rolling Stone, 12/4/75.

Bonus Review!

With his preceding two albums respectively platinum and gold, one of glitter rock's kings is sure to find another eager welcome in the marketplace. This is a beautifully produced album, technically gemlike. With three of the group's foursome now contributing effective songs, the range of material on this LP is wider and more pleasing than previously. Winter is taking more of the lead vocals as well as writing more, and his contributions seem to make the difference between a set of all-out rock and the more musically ambitious package we find here. Best cuts: "Diamond Eyes," "Chainsaw," "Let's Do It Together Again," "Infinite Peace In Rhythm."

- Billboard, 1975.

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