STEVE WINWOOD — Talking Back to the Night

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STEVE WINWOOD - Talking Back to the Night cover
1.29 | 3 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1982

Tracklist

A1 Valerie 4:03
A2 Big Girls Walk Away 3:50
A3 And I Go 4:10
A4 While There's A Candle Burning 3:08
A5 Still In The Game 4:48
B1 It Was Happiness 4:58
B2 Help Me Angel 5:04
B3 Talking Back To The Night 5:42
B4 There's A River 4:38

Line-up/Musicians

Steve Winwood / Synthesizer, guitar, keyboards, vocals,
Nicole Winwood / Background vocals

About this release

Island Records ‎– ILPS 9777 (UK)

Thanks to Chicapah for the addition and snobb for the updates

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STEVE WINWOOD TALKING BACK TO THE NIGHT reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Chicapah
Having proved to himself and the rest of the music industry that he could do it all by himself, thank you very much, on his highly successful album “Arc of a Diver,” Steve Winwood next faced the task of following it up before the public’s notoriously short memory came into play and turned him into a fading blip on the radar. I don’t know this for a fact but I suspect that the chaps upstairs at Island Records were more than encouraging in his adopting that strategy and they may have slipped over into the realm of applying a modicum of pressure to get it done ASAP. The reason I say that is because this record doesn’t have the nearly as much warmth and heart that the previous disc owned in such an admirable quantity. Whereas “Arc” had taken him years to conceive and complete, “Talking Back to the Night” took about seven months to put together and that sizeable difference may be the true culprit in it not measuring up to his high standards. I’ll stop short of accusing Steve of not being as meticulous this time around because I can’t substantiate that allegation. He may’ve been just as inspired and motivated as he ever was before but, as always, the music can’t lie or bamboozle for long and, in the final analysis, it just doesn’t challenge, entertain or move me. Being a huge, lifelong fan, that’s the last thing I thought any of Winwood’s work would make me say but sometimes the truth hurts.

He wisely opens with the album’s most impressive song, “Valerie,” a cut destined to be a hit single five years later after being remixed for the greatest hits package, “Chronicles.” It has an undeniable pop feel but the keyboard chord structures contain a lot of jazz flavorings that keep it from being petty. The tune is well-written and arranged and Steve’s synth solo has a substantial amount of lively zip. I love the line of “So cool, she was/like jazz on a summer’s day/music, high and sweet/then she just blew away…” “Big Girls Walk Away” follows and it’s a slice of jazzy R&B riding atop a steady groove but the song’s fundamental composition is merely average. I detect a New Wave influence in his synthesizer settings that, unfortunately, robs it of any and all depth. Will Jennings’ lyrics about a party girl are the only upside I can find. “You hold your broken heart out/and you say it just won’t stop hurting/like there’s something I can do,” Steve sings. “And I Go” is a classic love ballad with a respectful hint of the famous Philly soul sound and attitude surrounding it. His trusty Hammond organ gives it a cozy backdrop but the number just sorta lies there like a limp dishrag. “While There’s a Candle Burning” is more of a rock/pop ballad in that it has a bit more drive behind it yet there’s still no memorable handle to grab onto. At this point even Will’s words are starting to fail him. They make little sense.

Things briefly get better with “Still in the Game” (despite its beat being entrenched in the then-trendy New Wave clique) because it dredges up enough vitality and spirit to lift itself out of the doldrums. That relentless momentum is its lifeblood and the big, fat synthesized strings at the end are grand enough to hold your interest. “Here’s to letting go/though sometimes it does get lonely,” he sings revealingly. Maybe he should’ve let go more often while making this album. On “It Was Happiness” a mind-dulling sameness takes over. It’s an obvious crutch in his presentation and a deal killer for me if there ever was one. It’s like Winwood couldn’t decide what he wanted this song to be and the result is that it lacks focus in its intent. The ambience is dry and emotionless and the lame lyrics don’t help. “Help Me Angel” sports a light reggae rhythm to provide a welcome change of pace at this juncture but, yet again, it’s the weak and unimaginative writing involved that keeps it from blossoming into something worthwhile. Dynamics are essential to the execution of even the finest of musical material but there are none to be found on this cut. The record’s obligatory dance number with a semi-disco personality, “Talking Back to the Night,” isn’t as drab and that alone makes it stand out from the others. Steve’s vocal contains some decent passion, an aspect of his craft that’s inexplicably missing for most of this album. Maybe he was inspired to emote by Jennings’ lines that describe a musician caught in the web of drug addiction. “His dream is getting smaller/and he wonders where to turn/and he’s trying hard to make it/and he’s trying not to burn,” Winwood croons convincingly. The closer is “There’s A River” wherein an intriguing, old-school pump organ vibe emanating from his synthesizer distinguishes it from the rest of the tracks. It has a folky gospel feel to it that’s inviting but in the end it’s another disappointment because it doesn’t evolve beyond its initial premise. The payoff never arrives.

“Arc of a Diver” had imperfections but they also gave it character and charisma. “Talking Back to the Night” in many ways is too pristine and slick for its own good. It’s as if Steve had, through difficult trial and error, mastered the art of solitary, unassisted music-making and he not only got rid of all the blemishes but all of the soul in the process. It’s entirely too smooth and almost devoid of a jazz presence. I’ve written in other reviews that Winwood’s voice is his ace in the hole that can make even mediocre material rise above its pedestrian status and shine brightly but in this case it doesn’t do the trick often enough. I think he didn’t spend the necessary time this record required, rushing through the preparation too hastily and forgetting the essential ingredient; songwriting. Perspective is a horrible thing to lose. The bad news is that he can’t do anything about it now. It is what it is. The good news is that he learned from this experience and moved on.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
Well after the rather-amazing success of arc Of A Diver, Winwood took advantage of this second chance and rode on the predecessor's wave and repeated the formula almost note for note, but with less of a success and a diminished inspiration as well. Indeed he played everything on this album again (apart from having his wife sing back up), which is sort inexplicable given the preceding album's massive commercial success. Sooooo whatever flaw you've found with AoaD, you'll find here, magnified by a lack of inspiration and the "surprise" now gone. Indeed, instrumentally the 70's are completely erased and stevie is quite adamant to forget his famed Hammond organ, and his relitively good guitar skills are limited to mostly strumming along to accvompany the general melody. Don't look for instrumental interplay (he plays with himself, but that's about it), because it was deemed a no-no back in those days and a reason for a red card from the massive FM-radio airplay.

Despite some very-much inferior songwriting, the music industry pushed the album and force-fed the public via massive radio airplay beyond reasonable reasons. Indeed we were faced with the uninspired title track and other bad songs (sorry Stevie, but calling a cat a cat) pouyred into our aching ears, album, which despite its low quality contents, still manage to hit the early-80's Yuppies syndrome and still sold enough to probably break even. Understandably Winwood carefully chose to wait a few years to come back with a relatively stronger album and actually bring back his famed Hammond organ into the fold. Best avoided, unless you like a second-league Arc Of A Diver album.

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