Kip Winger finally re-releases his solo albums after a time period where they were out of print. The big difference this time is he has released them only in a box set simply called the Solo Box Set Collection. The set includes 5 CD including his 4 solo album as well as a bonus CD of bonus tracks from all the Japanese editions of his albums and one new song.
Before Kip started with his solo albums, you would know he was in the band Winger, obviously. Winger’s last studio album prior to the solo albums was 1993’s ‘Pull’ (and one of my favorite Winger albums). After this album, the band sort of dissolved and wasn’t doing anything anymore. Then in 1996 Kip started his solo career. That solo career produced 3 studio albums, 1 acoustic album and now some Classical pieces that he did not include in this set.
Before we get into the music, let’s talk about the set itself. It comes in a very sturdy box that was nice and thick, well made and should last a long time. The one thing you notice is the sad figure on the cover. I am sure it is some famous painting or something, but I do not know who it is or what the story is with the picture. Another thing you notice is Kip’s name. He now puts C.F. Kip Winger as his name. He has been doing that with his Classical pieces he has written and now it is spilling over into his other solo work. The C.F. are his initials for his name Charles Frederick Kip Winger. Maybe “Kip” didn’t sound professional enough for the classical music scene.
The CDs all come in little cardboard sleeves that are exact replicas of the original solo CD release and even includes the original booklet with that release. The CDs themselves have been turned into a replica of a small Vinyl disc with even the little groove-like lines showing where the songs start and stop. It was a very nice touch to make the set that much more special and unique.
Now, about the music. What can I tell you? Well, if you are expecting it to be more Winger, you will be disappointed. There are times where the songs might fit under that Winger umbrella, but for the most part this is very different. You get a very different Kip Winger with the music. You are getting someone who has gone through some more life experiences, whose likes & dislikes are changing and who is willing to experiment and take chances like never before.
The music is never really heavy, it is much more laid back at times and the lyrics are definitely more thought provoking so don’t expect the lyrical lows of something like “Seventeen”. Kip puts nicely in the linear notes of the extra booklet that comes with the box set.
Kip states “that it (solo career) represents a completely new phase of my life, a time of extreme highs and lows, serious soul searching, and questioning everything around me.”
You can tell in the music and the lyrics that it is a different Kip Winger. What I love most about the solo albums was that Kip wasn’t afraid to try new things. The different sounds, styles, and the chances who took with each album makes them much more interesting. During this time, he was also mastering Classical music and that mastering was slowly bleeding into his solo work. You can hear it in the numerous songs that incorporate some sort of orchestration into the music whether it be percussion, strings or wind instruments. It definitely adds to the beauty behind some of these songs.
This Conversation Seems Like A Dream (1997)
Let’s get into the music. I will go ahead and say this is my favorite one of his 3 solo releases. It is the most consistent album of the bunch and it has the best flow. The album has a more laid back feel even though he did experiment at times it it the most recognizable album if you were expecting the Winger sound even though that doesn’t show up very often. Right out of the gate, he has already started incorporating some classical instrumental stylings into some of these songs.
Kip’s band is outstanding. Andy Timmons is on guitar and you might know Andy from another band called Danger Danger. Kip also uses Robby Rothchild on percussion for a lot of song, but he also has a drummer you might be familiar with on a number of these songs. That guy is Rod Morgenstein from the band Winger. For this album, that is the only former Winger member to join him.
This might the only album of his 3 main solo works that I wouldn’t delete any song. I like so many songs that there is no reason to just pick the highlights as there would be too many. I think my favorite might be “How Far Will We Go” and maybe “Steam”.
Made By Hand (1998)
‘Made By Hand’ was actually titled ‘Down Incognito’ when it was originally released. I am not sure why the name was changed for this one. Even the album cover is different. Here is what it looks like now.
And here is what it was at the time of its original release…
Quite a big difference. The only other difference is the last two songs on the original release are now on the Bonus CD. Outside of that the album is the same.
This release is an acoustic album that incorporates songs from his first solo release and some Winger releases. It does give us a brand new song called “Another Way” that is the opening track. The album is an absolute gem. It is incredible hearing all these songs stripped down to the bare bones. They are played and sung beautifully and is really a highlight of this set.
Songs From the Ocean Floor (2000)
This release opens up with one of Kip’s most personal songs “Cross” and he would open up his solo shows with this song. This album has one of my favorite solo songs called “Landslide” which actually sounds like you are under water. Kip really started experimenting with this album. It also has his first instrumental song “Free” which contains a lot of violins and string instruments. Although he experimented a lot, it didn’t always work with this one. The last half of the album tended to be a little less enjoyable for me at times.
The musicians came out in droves on this one. We still have Andy Timmons and Robby Rothchild, he now utilized John Roth more on guitar (who toured with him for his solo band. As far as Winger representation, we have Rod Morgenstein back as well as Reb Beach makes an appearance on the song “Resurrection” where he does the guitar solo. The Zappa kids are on the album as Moon Zappa does backing vocals on “Sure Was A Wildflower” and Dweezil is supposed to be on it, but I don’t see him credited in the linear notes.
From the Moon to the Sun (2008)
Before this solo album, Winger actually got back together in 2006 and released their fourth album called ‘IV’. At this point, I thought his solo work was done, but thankfully he still had a little life in him. For his third album, he really stretches his wings on this one. He tries new sounds and really pushes the envelop at times. The song “Nothing” is another of my all time favorite of his solo songs. It opens with some Middle Eastern singing and then just turns into a full on rocker. One of the heavier songs he has done in his solo work. The whole album takes you on a musical journey that explores different themes and stylings and you can’t help but want to take that journey over and over.
Musically, his band got a little smaller. He still had Andy Timmons and Robby Rothchild as well as Rod Morgenstein at times, but it was an overall smaller pool of musicians with Kip handling the bulk of the work. The album doesn’t have the same consistent feel throughout as he tried so many different things so there isn’t the best flow, but the album still works beautifully.
The final disc is full of bonus tracks, demos and live versions of songs including one new track called “Hands of Love” which was an outtake from the ‘Songs From the Ocean Floor” record.
Tracks 2-3 are from the Japanese release of “From the Moon to the Sun”. From the Japanese release of ‘This Conversation Seems Like a Dream’, you get tracks 4, 6,7,9,10 and 11. From ‘Down Incognito”, you get tracks 12 & 13. And from “Songs From the Ocean Floor you get Track 14. That leaves Track 5, “Ghosts” which is an excerpt from the classical piece he did for a ballet composition and Track 8 “Don’t Let Go” which is a demo from the song on his first solo album.
If you had the solo albums and didn’t have the Japanese Editions of his albums, then this set is definitely worth it to pick up these songs. The songs on this set are really great and the highlights for me were the “Monster” remix (and I hate remixes), the Ghosts classical song and I really loved the acoustic versions of the two winger songs “Rainbow in the Rose and “Blind Revolution Mad” (a favorite Winger song), but you can’t go wrong with any of it.
My verdict…yes, absolutely this set is worth the price. Since I had sold my physical copies year ago, I really missed having them so it was nice to get them all in one set with all the Japanese bonus tracks as well. I never had the acoustic CD ‘Made By Hand’ so that was an added bonus. The only thing missing from this set would be a nice Live Show from one of his solo concerts. That would allow me to give this a 5 out of 5. Without it, it gets a strong 4.5 out of 5 stars. Now, I am biased as I am a fan first. Oh yeah, the album is streamable, but you won’t be able to stream the bonus CD as it was only available for the physical CD boxset which only 1,500 were made.
Now, one last interesting fact. Out of the 59 songs in this set, there is only one that is NOT written by Kip Winger in some fashion or another. Can you name that song?…Let me know when you got…have you figured it out yet?? I am starting to get impatient so I will go ahead and tell you…it is “Miles Away”. That was written solely by Paul Taylor of Winger for Winger.
Ok, I have rambled on for quite some time. Thanks and have a great day.