Graded on a Curve:
The Edgar Winter Group, They Only Come Out
at Night

Who, I hear you asking, only comes out at night? Why albinos wearing jewel-encrusted tiara necklaces of course, or so it seems judging by the cover of 1972’s wonderful They Only Come Out at Night by The Edgar Winter Group.

The younger of the Winter Brothers, who on his previous LP White Trash established himself as a pink-eyed soul man with some nasty rock’n’roll edges, appeared poised to join 1972’s Glitter Parade on this one. But despite They Only Come Out at Night’s glamtastic cover, it’s anything but a case of cashing in on the worldwide glam bam thank you ma’am craze.

Rather, the pale Texan—with lots of help from Dan Hartman—opted to cover a dizzying variety of stylistic bases on They Only Come Out at Night, and the amazing thing is he pulled it off. A tasty country rocker, a definitive rocker for the ages called “Free Ride,” and one very monstrous instrumental that answers to the name “Frankenstein” on the same album? Sure. And hey, why not throw in some Ted Nugent-school power tool neo-metal and a very limpid but lovely salute to the fall season while we’re at it?

The Edgar Winter Group included some top-notch talent in the form of Rick Derringer, Ronnie Montrose, and the aforementioned Dan Hartman, all of whom would go on to enjoy some modicum of solo success. And They Only Come Out at Night succeeds in large part due to their contributions, especially those of Hartman, who wrote and sang both the great “Free Ride” and “Autumn,” while co-writing five other tracks with Winter. As for Montrose he handled lead guitar duties, while Derringer produced and played various instruments including slide guitar (check out “When It Comes”) and the tasty pedal steel guitar that makes “Round & Round” such a country rock treat.

The LP’s oddest note is that mad scientist song construct “Frankenstein,” which depending on how you look at it is either a sui generis work of mechanistic funk or one very pale electric keyboard savant’s tribute to the spastic jazzoid instrumentals Frank Zappa bequeathed us on Hot Rats. Winter’s saxophone is also tres Zappaesque, as is Montrose’s guitar work. At the opposite end of the musical spectrum we have Hartman’s wimp-rock classic “Autumn,” which is about as pretty as they come and which I’ve loved and wept to since I was a wee sprog. Dan Hartman you sound like a sweet girl and I love you! And somewhere in the middle lies the impossibly cool “Free Ride,” which features one helluva guitar riff and is as good a car song as I’ve ever run across or over while drunk. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” indeed.

“We All Had a Real Good Time” is a guitar and piano-fueled ode to blacking out; “I don’t remember what I did last night,” goes the lyric, summing up my twenties with eight words. This is good time music for people who can’t remember whether they had a good time or not, while “When It Comes” features Winter punching out the vocals like a belligerent Dr. John. You don’t mess with an albino from Texas, especially when he can whip it out on saxophone the way Edgar does. Meanwhile, “Hangin’ Around” is a paean to Saturday night and just driving around after dropping out of high school due to sheer laziness. And not feeling even a tiny bit guilty about it either!

“Undercover Man” expands on a kinda dumb metaphor and wouldn’t move me much if it weren’t for Montrose’s explosive guitar and the gritty Stones-like texture of the proceedings, especially as the song winds down. Which is I suppose is my longwinded way of saying I like it, just as I like “Rock ‘N’ Roll Boogie Woogie Blues,” which could have been a failed exercise in having it three ways but instead sounds like a slowed down Ted Nugent riff. Could this baby be the blueprint to the Nuge’s whole stupid career? Decide for yourself!

This is my favorite Edgar Winter LP and may be the best LP by an albino ever unless you lean towards brother Johnny’s Still Alive and Well, which I do. But that still makes it the second best LP by an albino ever and there is no shame in coming in second unless you subscribe to the old notion that winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing, which I don’t. They Only Come Out at Night is a great party LP and you can never have too many great party LPs, and to that notion I do subscribe. Party on!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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