The Very Best of Winger

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Winger wasn't the worst of the poppy hair metal bands of the late '80s/early '90s, but they were the brunt of more jokes than any of their peers. Perhaps that was because Mike Judge seized the opportunity to use them as a visual and verbal punchline throughout the run of Beavis & Butt-Head, but it's more likely because of the group's fondness for a bombastic melodic hook and of Kip Winger's model good looks and dazzling Colgate smile (well, there's also the matter of lyrics like "I'm only seventeen/I'll give you love like you've never seen," which are just ripe for lampooning). Such an atmosphere led to a never-ending series of prods and jabs, making easy Winger jokes very hard to resist (witness the above, if you need proof), but the fact of the matter is, they weren't that bad; they were even pretty good, as Rhino's exhaustive 16-track collection, The Very Best of Winger, proves. They weren't necessarily the best of the bunch, and they never transcended the genre, but they did have some good hooks, a good guitarist in Reb Beach, nice chemistry within the band, and a knack for a power ballad, which resulted in three classics of the genre -- the cheerfully sleazy jailbait paean "Seventeen," "Madalaine," and "Headed for a Heartbreak," one of the best power ballads of its time. Unfortunately, the reverse chronological sequencing of this collection makes you dig to hear these attributes (it opens with the new track "On the Inside," written around the time of Pull, and works its way backward like it was the pop-metal equivalent of Memento). Even with this nasty fault, it's does contain Winger at their best, complete with good liner notes from Dave Ling and an introduction from Kip Winger, and it does demonstrate that the jokes, no matter how much fun they are to make, are not entirely warranted.

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