As a teenager Edgar Winter began playing the blues and R&B with his older brother Johnny back in the mid-'60s. This culminated with an appearance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 where he performed on a couple of tracks during Johnny's scorching set.
Edgar got his own record deal in 1970, and promptly released the first of many great albums, Entrance, that same year.1971 saw the birth of his powerhouse R&B band, Edgar Winter's White Trash, which spawned an album of the same name, and a double-live LP, Roadwork, the following year. The band would feature a young Rick Derringer on guitar, as well as some guest guitar wizardry from his brother Johnny.
In 1972, Winter hit the jackpot with his third studio album, They Only Come Out At Night. The album made it to #3 on the Billboard Albums chart, and spawned two of his biggest hits, "Frankenstein," and "Free Ride," which made it to #1 and #14 on the pop singles chart. Winter has continued to record and perform quite steadily, releasing a few excellent albums in the 90's, and touring with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band in 2006 and 2008.
In 2004, Winter co-headlined a 31-show, UK tour, with legendary Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee. The tour culminated with a show at London's Royal Albert Hall on May 27th, 2004, which is the subject of this excellent new concert DVD, Reach For It.
The setlist is a short one, with only nine songs, lasting just over an hour, but you get a good cross section of his classics, as well as a few new songs. Winter was promoting his latest album at the time, 1999's Winter Blues, which provides three songs to the set.
Winter opens the set with a couple of White Trash staples, "Keep Playin' That Rock 'N' Roll," and "Turn On Your Love Light," but unfortunately they fall a little flat without the backing of a horn section. They were good, just not White Trash good. Winter should really tour with a small horn section as most of his best stuff features horns.
From here, they delve right into two of the Winter Blues tracks, "New Orleans" (titled "Nu'orlins" on the album), and "Texas." "New Orleans" featured the distinctive piano work of Dr. John on the album, and Edgar does an excellent job with his parts here. "Texas" is, in Edgar's own words, "a Texas-guitar-boogie-shuffle," and it has a very Robben Ford-like vibe to it. Doug Rappaport does some ace guitar work throughout the song, and is also allowed an extended guitar solo at the end of the song, to showcase the rest of his excellent chops. He reminds me a lot of Steve Lukather in both style and appearance.
Speaking of excellent guitar work, after Edgar performs his ballad "Dying To Live," which he explains was recently redone by Eminem for the movie Tupac Resurrection, Mark Meadows gets his turn with a funkified extended bass solo during the third Winter Blues song, "Show Your Love." Drummer Chris Frazier would also get a turn later in the set, and he too was impressive. Winter certainly did not surround himself with a bunch of slouches on this tour.
Edgar breaks out the big guns to close out the set, starting off with "Free Ride," which they kick off with a few bars of "Crossroads," and then waking up the "Frankenstein" monster. Before launching into that sinister opening synthesizer riff, Edgar tells the crowd how he was the first guy to come up with the idea of a strap-on keyboard, and one the first to feature the synthesizer as a lead instrument.
If you've never seen Edgar Winter play live, he will occasionally strap a keyboard around his neck, and I'm not talking about one of those little "keytar" things that you might see some other keyboard punk tinkering with, I'm talking about a goddamn, full-sized, Roland keyboard hanging around his skinny neck. It's worth the price of admission alone just to see him throw down some "Frankenstein" riffs on that monster.
They close out the set with a ten minute jam on "Tobacco Road", the blues standard he first performed with his brother Johnny at the Royal Albert Hall back in 1969, and then hit out of the park on his Roadwork album in 1972. This isn't quite the home run he hit back in the White Trash days, but Edgar and the boys certainly do not disappoint this time around. The London crowd was not all that responsive during Winter's set, maybe most of them were there to see Alvin Lee, but they did wake up somewhat during the big hits.
The production quality of this DVD is quite good. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio tracks both sound excellent. The widescreen picture was not very sharp, and appeared soft and fuzzy especially during the longer shots. There was also a video defect, similar to a color test pattern that appears along the top portion of the screen for a few seconds, just after the band first takes the stage. I am not sure if I just have a bad disk or if it is distribution wide. The camera work was outstanding overall.
Bonus materials include a 40-minute interview segment, and 11-minutes worth of backstage footage, which shows some of the band sound check and gives you a nice little tour of the Royal Albert Hall. The interviews highlight the affectionate relationship Edgar still shares with his wife of 25 years (at the time), Monique, which is not all that common for a musician of his stature. Guitarist Doug Rappaport also does some hilarious Ali G impressions during the interview feature.
I was motivated to pick up this DVD after seeing Edgar perform "Free Ride," and "Frankenstein" with Ringo Starr's band a few years back, and, although the set list is very short, this new Edgar Winter DVD is well worth your money.
1. Keep Playin' That Rock 'N' Roll
2. Turn On Your Love Light
3. New Orleans
5. Dying To Live
6. Show Your Love
7. Free Ride
9. Tobacco Road / Shout
Performance – 7/10
Production – 8/10