Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


George Winston puts out Doors tribute album

They are in a smoky, dimly lit bar, in a high-school band room, in a glistening studio, in the basement or on the sidewalk. Countless musicians are in the world right now, performing everywhere imaginable. Some are just beginning, and others have played their whole lives.

Some find making music as natural as breathing; others work ceaselessly and progress minimally.

As in any human endeavor, there are a small number who rise above the mediocrity and possess raw, breathtaking natural talent. Listening to them gives us chills.

These people were born to play music. Practicing and drills built a foundation for these rare few, but then something else took over. Something indefinable and mysterious that we just call “a gift.”

The Doors had a gift, individually, and when they came together collectively they created timeless, era-defining songs. The kind that everybody wishes they had written but couldn’t even fathom how.

Although mortality has silenced the Doors, their music is still handed down from one generation to the next like folktales. And in each retelling, the music is interpreted differently.

Enter George Winston. His solo-piano discs are typically filed under new age in record stores. Consequently, music buyers are often deterred when they see his albums sitting on the shelf somewhere between John Tesh and Yanni.

But music fans, you have to dig for treasure, and George Winston is case in point.

If you brave the new-age section and pick up one of Winston’s eight solo-piano albums, you will find that he ranks among the most exceptional pianists of our time. He is indisputably in possession of that aforementioned gift.

Winston began playing organ and electric piano in 1967 at age 18. Five years later, he recorded his first solo-piano album, Ballads and Blues. He followed this debut up with a series of season-inspired discs, such as Summer and Autumn.

The compositions on the season discs are chilling, sweet, melancholy, joyous and even a bit bawdy at times. George Winston’s technical achievements on the piano are awe-inspiring, but it all serves his rich and emotive melodies.

In 1996, Winston released Linus and Lucy ? The Music of Vince Guaraldi. The disc was a rousing re-interpretation of Guaraldi’s timeless Peanuts songs.

This week, Winston’s newest solo-piano disc was released, Night Divides the Day ? The Music of the Doors.

Winston throws all his talent and 35 years of piano experience into the project of retelling the Doors.

The result is a stunning album that somehow captures all of the complicated, multi-layered innuendo of the Doors and conveys it on a single piano.

The music on Night Divides the Day is beautiful, and the display of skill is jaw-dropping.

The first track begins with a complicated roll of notes that sounds like four hands playing. This roll moves like a wave down the piano and crescendos into the haunting “Spanish Caravan.” Only 20 seconds in and it is already clear that this album is going to be amazing.

Winston’s take on “Love Me Two Times” is driving and raucous. Maybe it’s the deep, rolling bass tones in this interpretation, but Winston manages to make his piano sound downright sexy.

In the middle of the disc comes the holy grail of Doors’ songs, “Light My Fire.” Winston has a great deal of courage to take that one on. But all skepticism is silenced when the track begins. I would venture to say there’s probably not another living pianist who could pull off an interpretation like this, save Ray Manzarek, of course.

And the Doors’ original keyboardist is quoted on the back of the album as saying, “great work. I love this CD. You’ve captured the Doors’ essence and added your own unique voice. Congratulations.”

Perhaps Winston’s accomplishment on this album is partly due to the fact that he’s been listening to them since 1967; 35 years of adoration have led to this fantastic tribute.

When describing the Doors, Winston says, “[Jim Morrison] sang, crooned and screamed from the depths of agony and ecstasy — with the band right there with him on every level.

“They were like the light in the darkness, the darkness in the light, and the shifting aspects of the yin and the yang.”

Night Divides The Day? The Music of the Doors is a triumph of beauty and a testament to George Winston’s enviable skill. Those who buy it and listen to it will get that great music-inspired chill and think, “what a gift.”

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