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Edgar Winter's White Trash
Epic 30512
Released: April 1971
Chart Peak: #111
Weeks Charted: 19

Edgar WinterThe first time I heard this album I wasn't sure whether Edgar Winter was a gospel singer gone mod or a fire eater escaped from Ringling Bros. & Co. The second time I was sure he is both. A master of both, no less.

White Trash is a pure delight, the more so for its unexpectedness. Winter sings, writes, plays piano and sax, and works with a seven piece R&B group. This is his second album -- his first with his own group -- and on it he conveys as great a sense of personal style as any white bluesman on the scene today.

Edgar Winter's White Trash - Edgar Winter's White Trash
Original album advertising art.
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The sound of the band is loose and rangy in the best tradition of white Southern R&B (a la the best of John Fred and His Playboy Band) and Winter's singing is fully equal of it: he never stops at mere competence. On a quick listen some of the music could have easily been mistaken for Stax soul. But the difference is in the white gospel roots that both Winter and co-vocalist Jerry laCroix exhibit throughout the record. Up-tempo songs like "Save the Planet" and "Keep Playin' that Rock and Roll" are fine rockers but the guts of the album is in slow, semi-religious "You Were My Light." The latter is the highlight of the album: Winter sings flawlessly, first in front of his superb rhythm section, and then with a beautifully arranged and blended horn section. On the choruses the three elements come together with tremendous impact -- enough to blow me back listen after listen. The lyrics here, as throughout, are almost charming in their openness, directness, and simplicity. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the album is the emergence of Edgar Winter as an excellent songwriter.

At the peak of their frenzy, both Winter and laCroix cross over the gospel line and into pure shrieking and screaming. In the controlled doses they administer here, it is very powerful stuff. Such vocal techniques are easily misused, but like everything else on White Trash, Edgar keeps it under control and makes it work for him. The results are a revealing and exciting album -- hopefully, only the first of many more to come. It's the kind of record that makes you want to see the group perform. What higher praise is there for a new album by a new group?

- Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, 5/27/71.

Bonus Reviews!

Edgar Winter, brother of the more highly-publicized Johnny and one of the most adept performers on today's pop scene, is having difficulty putting it all together. Clearly, his skills trace to a jazz-blues background (he is a good enough saxophonist to play with most major jazz groups), yet Columbia seems intent upon transforming him into a heavy-rock star.

Given that decision, however, the group Winter has assembled includes the sort of players who can make it work -- who should make it work. Paired with him in the front line is tenor saxophonist/singer Jerry LaCroix, a solid talent in his own right; the back-up ensemble of trumpet, tenor saxophone, and rhythm section plays with self-assured professionalism and the down-home raunchy-rock South Texas blues feeling Winter is reaching for. The problem, for me, is that the qualities that make Winter most interesting -- his fine technical skills both as a saxophonist and a keyboard player, for example -- are shunted aside in favor of his singing, and in favor of his generally derivative compositions (usually written in collaboaration with LaCroix). Winter's vocals are peculiarly hard to pin-point; sometimes he sounds like Joe Cocker, sometimes like Leon Russell, and only rarely like an exciting new singer. I assume the higher-pitched, wailing voice that carries most of the harmony lines is LaCroix's; it sure doesn't do much to improve the music.

So, this is a generally uninteresting recording from a generally interesting performer. One of the rare fascinating moments is provided by the White Trash version of an old Woody Herman blues hit called "I've Got News for You"; Winter doesn't much sing like Woody, but the arrangement has copped one of its best accompaniment figures from the old Herman chart.

- Don Heckman, Stereo Review, 10/71.

This is my pick for the greatest album of the year; it certainly is the most impressive surprise masterpiece to hit the rock scene in months. Forget Edgar's syrupy debut Entrance album of last year, and don't expect the Johnny Winter hard blues sound. White Trash is a superbly produced, fantastically performed, well written rock masterpiece in the tradition of Cream, Traffic, and Joe Cocker. It has all the powerful excitement and freshness of the great rock albums of 1967 and as much musical competence and authenticity as anything around today.

The band includes several horns but instead of playing orchestrated unemotional music the way Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears are wont to do, White Trash cooks with its brass and takes you far out. Edgar's voice is satisfying and hard to forget. He sings with uniquely controlled emotion which periodically bursts into a shriek. That shriek undoubtedly will come to be his trademark. The arrangements are unencumbered by formula or boundary. Producer Rick Derringer has a secure reputation after this one. The mood is always changing, but always connected. The album is unforgettable.

Edgar's version of the Ray Charles classic "I've Got News For You" is a high point, but a big part of the album's impact are the fantastic original tunes. Edgar wrote most of them, but was ably helped by Jerry laCroix who plays tenor sax and harp and helps with the singing. "Fly Away" would be a good choice for a single because of a lovely refrain and hauntingly beautiful rock sound. "Keep Playing that Rock and Roll" is a fast moving good time dance number, "Dying To Live" is a beautiful ballad destined to be a much-recorded classic, Edgar's voice in it moves with a profound sensitivity he previously has kept hidden. And "Save The Planet," sung by laCroix, is the first authentic ecology rock song, bursting its words of sanity through a memorable musical background.

It's a little embarrassing to write such an unqualified rave, particularly for an artist who has never had a popular record. But the album is so powerful, so well put together, and so exciting, that my real regret is my inability to do it justice. It does derive a lot of its sound from other contemporary musicians, most apparently Sly and the Family Stone; but it is put together so well that it takes you through several pleasant changes, always exceeding expectation until it builds into an experience. The songs and sound will grab you the first time you put it on. White Trash establishes a new superstar whose talent will bring his songs to millions of ears.

- Danny Goldberg, Circus, 5/71.

The cover shows Edgar Winter (who looks very much like brother Johnny) and his Texas band on the slushy streets of the Lower East Side. But the music on Edgar Winter's White Trash is white blues and Gospel, straight out of the South. This fusion of black with white, rip-up frenzy with careful New York production and impeccable performance makes for an album of stunning power. Edgar's superlative singing and writing, aided by Jerry LaCroix, are best evident on "Let's Get It On" and "Save the Planet," but every cut is the work of a group that has been able to get it amazingly together. Trash collecting, as a movement, begins right here.

- Playboy, 10/71.

So this is that hard-ass roadhouse rockaroll, eh? Sounds like overkill to me, which I guess is very Texas, but I figured in Texas they'd be too real to mistake hysteria for a good time. And since when do they rhyme "subjective" and "objective" down there? Or wonder whether the world will be saved by Mr. White or Mr. Black? C

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A full R&B outfit with horns. Texas raunch. Only the ballad sounds dated. * * * *

- Robert Gordon, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Edgar Winter's White Trash covers hard rock, soul, funk and blues -- often at a blistering pace. The impassioned "Save the Planet" and melodic "Where Would I Be" accompany a salvo of rocking R&B in "I've Got News for You" and "Give it Everything You Got." * * * * 1/2

- Patrick McCarty, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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