The Winkies were probably six months late in cutting and releasing their debut album -- six months, and one set of sessions. The news, earlier in 1974, that they were in the studio with Brian Eno was greeted with wild enthusiasm and anticipation; the collapse of those sessions, and Eno's replacement with Guy Stevens, somewhat less so. Far from the maverick icon which his posthumous reputation canonizes, Stevens' mid-1970s reputation owed more to his unreliability than his knob-twiddling skills, and it was no surprise whatsoever when The Winkies finally arrived, bearing more in common with the pre-fame Mott the Hoople (of course, Stevens' last major project) than the glorious glam pub hybrid which the band had hitherto nurtured. But time has done The Winkies considerably more favors than contemporary critics ever did. It does still sound like vintage Mott, but that's something to be celebrated now -- imagine if Ian Hunter and Co. had not gone off with Bowie following 1971's madcap Brain Capers album, but if Ariel Bender had joined the group regardless. The Winkies is edgy urban rock, as distinctly Dylan influenced as its role model (there's even a cover of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh"), but shot through with Philip Rambow's chiming, scything guitars and strained, emotional vocals. There're hints of the Heavy Metal Kids in the mix, and that's a grand thing as well -- side by side, their debut and The Winkies illuminate the future direction of British street rock as brightly as any other period albums you could name. True to the pub rock template, there are occasional glances towards beery country ("North to Alaska"), and a nod towards heartland Americana (Bob Seger's "Long Song Comin'"). But the heart of The Winkies is carved out between Rambow's slow-burning "Red Dog" and Guy Humphreys' "Put Out The Light," tough blues stompers with a Stones-y grind and an enviably dissolute lurch. And then there's "Davey's Blowtorch," a Rambow cut which swaggers like the New York Dolls and caused rampant confusion in the archaeological ranks when it was selected to represent the Winkies on the Naughty Rhythms pub rock anthology. While everyone else was doing the greasy boogie shuffle, here come the Winkies sounding sexy as your sister. In a way, the mid-1970s critics were right. The Winkies isn't the album it could have been; may not be the record it should have been. But all that really means is, the band didn't trot obediently off down the path they were meant to and looked instead to their own needs and instincts. The future would thank them for their indulgence.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson