Pop/Art Song/Folk / Jazz Related Rock • United Kingdom
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A soulful teenage wonder initially, he pursued more adventurous territory in Traffic and Blind Faith then settled into a solo career.

As a solo artist, Steve Winwood is primarily associated with the highly polished blue-eyed soul-pop that made him a star in the '80s. Yet his turn as a slick, upscale mainstay of adult contemporary radio was simply the latest phase of a long and varied career, one that's seen the former teenage R&B shouter move through jazz, psychedelia, blues-rock, and progressive rock. Possessed of a powerful, utterly distinctive voice, Winwood was also an excellent keyboardist who remained an in-demand session musician for most of his career, even while busy with high-profile projects. That background wasn't necessarily apparent on his solo records, which established a viable commercial formula that was tremendously effective as long as it was executed with commitment.

Stephen Lawrence Winwood was born May 12, 1948, in the
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STEVE WINWOOD albums / top albums

STEVE WINWOOD Stevie Winwood album cover 3.58 | 3 ratings
Stevie Winwood
Jazz Related Rock 1977
STEVE WINWOOD Arc of a Diver album cover 2.74 | 3 ratings
Arc of a Diver
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1980
STEVE WINWOOD Talking Back to the Night album cover 1.29 | 3 ratings
Talking Back to the Night
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1982
STEVE WINWOOD Back in the High Life album cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Back in the High Life
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1986
STEVE WINWOOD Roll With It album cover 4.62 | 7 ratings
Roll With It
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1988
STEVE WINWOOD Refugees of the Heart album cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
Refugees of the Heart
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1990
STEVE WINWOOD Junction Seven album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Junction Seven
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1997
STEVE WINWOOD About Time album cover 3.00 | 2 ratings
About Time
Jazz Related Rock 2003
STEVE WINWOOD Nine Lives album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Nine Lives
Jazz Related Rock 2008


STEVE WINWOOD live albums

STEVE WINWOOD Greatest Hits Live album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Greatest Hits Live
Jazz Related Rock 2017

STEVE WINWOOD demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

STEVE WINWOOD re-issues & compilations

STEVE WINWOOD Winwood album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazz Related Rock 1971
STEVE WINWOOD Chronicles album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1987
STEVE WINWOOD Keep on Running album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Keep on Running
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1991
STEVE WINWOOD The Finer Things album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Finer Things
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1995
STEVE WINWOOD 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Steve Winwood album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Steve Winwood
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1999
STEVE WINWOOD Classic Steve Winwood album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Classic Steve Winwood
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2001
STEVE WINWOOD Revolutions: The Very Best of Steve Winwood album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Revolutions: The Very Best of Steve Winwood
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2010
STEVE WINWOOD Greatest Hits Live album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Greatest Hits Live
RnB 2017

STEVE WINWOOD singles (2)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Holding On
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1988
.. Album Cover
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Spy in the House of Love
Pop/Art Song/Folk 1997

STEVE WINWOOD movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)



Album · 2003 · Jazz Related Rock
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After serving as a beacon of musical sanity and hope during the MTV virus-infected 80s by delivering top-quality albums like “Back in the High Life” and “Roll With It,” Steve Winwood’s focus inexplicably blurred and the two studio CDs he put out in the decade that followed were weak and insignificant. He did co-create an above-average reunion album with former Traffic brother Jim Capaldi in ’94 but his solo career sank like a flooded submarine, making many of us fear that he had thrown in the towel and retired to raise sheep on his farm till the cows came home. Early in 2003, six long years since his last release, rumors began to surface that Steve was back in the studio with a new configuration of musicians and a revived enthusiasm for writing songs and making music. My wife and I have always been big fans of his so I bought the aptly-titled “About Time” disc when it came out that June and purchased tickets for us to see him and his combo perform in a relatively small venue in Dallas later that summer. I only wish the record was as satisfying as the concert was.

From what I gathered through sound bites and short interviews Winwood had gotten burned out by his phenomenal success and had become wholly disgusted with the process of manufacturing songs by layering instruments and vocals on top of sterile click tracks instead of being part of a cohesive band. “About Time” was an effort to return to the basic idea of making records with a unified, group-generated spirit of cooperation in play and to hell with the “I don’t hear a hit single” mentality. Steve book-ended himself with a core duo consisting of Jose Piresde Almeida Neto on guitar and Walfredo Reyes, Jr. on drums with sizeable contributions being provided by Karl Vanden Bossche and Richard Bailey on percussion and Karl Denson on sax and flute. In even better news, Winwood was purposely restricting himself to his famous Hammond B3 organ and playing all the bass lines on its pedals. While the nobility of his intent was very appealing to many of us it would still, as it always does, come down to how good the songs were and, in that crucial category the album is, unfortunately, somewhat unremarkable. But make no mistake, this CD is not a failure. Steve’s voice is as good as it’s ever been and that factor alone more than qualifies it for your consideration.

The impressive opener, “Different Light,” starts with rhythm guitar followed by drums, congas and Steve’s fat B3 that jump into the groove. The strong Latin vibe is irrepressible and very Traffic-like in its essence, especially when it’s supplemented by Denson’s subtle saxophone ride. Winwood explains his absence to an extent when he sings honest lines like “I had overlooked a part of me/I was escaping my reality/I have questioned my philosophy/so that I could see the truth in me” and then goes on to prove that he still possesses a special gift for making his Hammond organ wail. “Cigano (For the Gypsies)” is next. Its funky R&B feel is engaging and the arrangement has an attractive flow to it. Steve’s organ solo is coolly coy but during his guitar lead Jose reveals the limitations in his technique that would curb the album’s ability to soar when it needed to. “Take It To The Final Hour” is one of the disc’s highlights. Winwood’s ode to his late father sports a sneaky Caribbean beat that’s kept under firm control by Walfredo’s deft drumming and they wisely leave lots of open spaces to be filled by Steve’s intricate vocal inflections. The gritty tone he conjures from his trusty B3 in the latter going provides an excellent contrast to the smooth sailing of the quieter verses. On “Why Can’t We Live Together” a sultry Bossa Nova approach emphasizes the tight relationship between Reyes’ drums, Bossche’s congas and Bailey’s timbales. Overall, the tune is a nostalgic throwback that captures Marvin Gaye’s aura quite well and Neto shows that he’s much more adept when required to play in a more classical guitar style but Winwood’s organ ride is disappointingly tame.

“Domingo Morning” is a perky Spanish-sounding tune presented without drums (congas only). It’s pleasant enough but it falls far short of being memorable. The driving momentum fueling the motivational, anti-drug message of “Now That You’re Alive” is reminiscent of Steve’s outstanding work in the 80s that made him an icon. Karl’s saxophone gives the tune a classy personality and Jose smartly avoids overreaching on his guitar lead. “Bully” is more Latin-tinted funk but Winwood’s inimitable singing elevates the number significantly and the tasteful jam they indulge in at the end is a minor treat. On “Phoenix Rising” a dangerous atmosphere of familiarity begins to seep into the proceedings in that it sounds much like what has transpired before. Thank heaven for the welcome addition of Denson’s spirited flute and some fiery outbursts from Richard’s timbales that rise above the mediocrity of the unimaginative arrangement. “Horizon” is a peaceful ballad buoyed only by guitar and organ. It’s very pretty but it doesn’t create a lasting impression. “Walking On” is a rocker with yet another Latin hue. Karl’s flute grants it a life of its own and the percussion tandem of Bossche and Bailey help to keep the track vibrant. Otherwise, it’s more of the same old same old. They close with “Silvia (Who Is She?),” an epic eleven and a half minute track composed by Steve and Jose. The mysterious intro lends some drama to the atmosphere and Walfredo’s ensuing heavy drum groove is refreshing but Neto’s extended guitar solo torpedoes the endeavor. He starts out okay but when he gets frantic it gets away from him in a hurry and his clumsy shredding becomes a distraction. The only bright spot happens when Reyes breaks off from the straight beat and cuts loose with some outstanding drumming in the final segment.

While many of you may find more to like in “About Time” than I do, I can only wish that it would’ve contained more in the way of delivering some variety. There are times when a simple piano would’ve provided a boost without tampering with the fundamental, bare-bones concept they were striving to present. I also would’ve loved to have heard more from Denson’s saxophone. He tore the roof off the theatre when we saw them on stage and I can attest that the boy’s got game. The rhythm section is outstanding throughout as is Winwood’s voice and organ-playing but I get the feeling they painted themselves into a corner at times and got tunnel vision. The jazz influence is kept to a minimum and that’s another underused angle that could’ve made the album less predictable and a lot more exciting. As it is, it’s a good record that runs out of gas a half mile from the border of greatness.

STEVE WINWOOD Talking Back to the Night

Album · 1982 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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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.

STEVE WINWOOD Arc of a Diver

Album · 1980 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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Sean Trane
Well, did anybody still expêct Stevie Winwopod to count still on the rock-pop scene by the turn of that new dacade?? Indeed his worthy debut album had gone completely unnoticed a few years bafore and prior to that Traffic had died a slow inevitable death after completely running out of steam with that "Landed" Eagle album. Most likely his Island label didn't either, since Winwood was allowed to play every single instrument on the album's recording session, which probably says quite long about their faith into his rebounding. Of Course Stevie is a talented multi-instrumentalist, but leaving him to play the drums? I mean why not calling on buddy capaldi for a few private sessions. So as you'll probably guess, one shouldn't expect much instrumental quality (despite the man's ability on guitars and keys) on an album that coul've been done in one's basement if it wasn't for Winwood's status.

Somehow, some of these tracks really hit the average joe's imagination, especially the While You See A Chance (you take it) probablty was in phase with the times and the republican's fture accession to the US presidency or even Tatcher's accession the previous year. But that's probably not enough to justify that song's accession to the top of the charts, but it certainly cannot be the chosen bad synth sounds (well we're in those awful 80's), something that the title track (also receiving much airplay) or the uninspired Spanish Dancer. Even the longer tracks like like the 8-mins Nightrain and Dust are very much unsurprisingly uninteresting when it comes to musical interplay, because Stevie only plays with himself, and you hjust know how un-fun masturbation can be when it's not shared with fellow musicians.

This album had everything to be a stinker and sink in anonimity, but somehow an underdog does manage to defy the odds and strangely tops and buries an immensely superior debut solo album. So, just how did this album ever end up topping the charts and ruin my life soundtrack for the next few years, it's difficult to assess, but it's clear that the up-coming New Wave movement that allowed for instrumentally untalented bands and artistes played an obvious and unarguable role. Of course Winwood didn't appeal to New Wave kids, but more to the AOR markets, which was dominated by the no-less awful Journey and REO bands, so everything was possible back then, in the worst decade of the pop-rock realm. Best avoided if you love real music, but if you're just into mindless pop, and into early-80's nostalgia, go for it.


Album · 1988 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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If you’re young enough to not remember the pitiful state music was in during the 80s then consider yourself fortunate. The vicious MTV virus devastated everything in its path throughout that decade. It fiendishly turned attention away from the quality of aural art and the craftsmanship involved in its creation and directed the public’s focus on how clever and/or alluring the video accompanying the 3 to 4 minute song was. If it would’ve been limited to pop that would’ve been horrible enough but it infected every genre. The jazz realm was left out by default but it still suffered from being ignored more than ever. The courageous jazz-influenced popular artists who refused to buckle under the pressure to be cable TV icons instead of serious musicians were a minority but, due to their perseverance, they stood as beacons of hope beaming light over an ocean of toxic waste. That’s how I view those few of Steve Winwood’s stature when I look back on those dark times. He just kept on improving in his ability to play a wide array of instruments, in using his inimitable voice to express his thoughts and in writing exceptional tunes (with the likes of Will Jennings) that would have meaning for folks like me. For staying true to his calling while so many of his peers were succumbing to the dumb-it-down plague he’ll always be a hero in my eyes.

After wowing his admirers with his self-made “Arc of a Diver” in 1980 and then finally garnering world-wide recognition with his superb album-of-the-year, “Back in the High Life,” in ‘86 many of his fans, including me, figured he’d probably reached the apex of his career. We were wrong. In June of ‘88 he released “Roll With It” and, lo and behold, he’d outdone himself again. Despite shooting straight up to #1 and selling over 3 million copies it didn’t nab multiple Grammys like its predecessor did but that’s never been a barometer of greatness for most jazz-minded people, anyway. I consider it to be his best solo record ever and it qualifies as a masterpiece for one central reason: I’ve yet to tire of hearing any of its eight memorable cuts. There are just some CDs I don’t hesitate to pull out of the stacks for any occasion and this is one of those special treasures that never fails to please. At this point Steve was no longer relying solely on his own talents to assemble his songs, recruiting some of the most gifted musicians in the business to assist him, but his decision to include the Memphis horns this time around is what rockets “Roll With It” into the stratosphere. The classy tint of big band jazz they bring to the party is the icing on the cake.

He begins with the album’s namesake #1 hit single tune and it’s a wonderfully uplifting track wherein Winwood’s piano, drums and Hammond organ (as well as the aforementioned horn section) are so powerful they eliminate the need for a single guitar lick. At the time this came out I was in the initial phases of the dissolution of my first marriage and I can’t tell you how encouraging Steve’s soulful delivery of simple lines such as “Hard times knocking on your door/I’ll tell them you ain’t there no more/get on through it/roll with it, baby” were to my fragile psyche. When you chance to hear this number again pay keen attention to Winwood’s subtle B3 solo and incidental riffing toward the end. It’s killer stuff. Another smash, “Holding On,” follows and, like several songs on the album, it owns an unstoppable groove that implores you to jump to your feet and get your blood flowing in the right direction. The tight arrangement of the brass by the Memphis Horns is punchy yet non-intrusive, the tune’s dynamics are electrifying and Steve’s light guitar lines are tasty. “People soul-searching all night long/for a reason to help them live/and I do hope they hear this song/get through take/and you get to give,” he sings and, believe me, I was listening. “The Morning Side” is next, a jazzy ballad with a silky keyboard-generated backdrop that effectively supports Winwood’s emotional voice. You can’t put your finger on the source but there’s a mysterious tension that builds up till John Robinson’s huge (and I mean HUGE) drums make their dramatic entrance on the choruses. Just let me say that I love recording artists who aren’t afraid of pushing the drum fader up to the max in the mix. “Now my life has changed/and now my eyes can see/now I’m living on the morning side/now I’m letting all the sunlight into me/now I’m free,” he cries. Positive messages like that still mean the world to me.

“Put On Your Dancing Shoes” has an irrepressible rhythmic current running through it that delights and the synthesized brass blasts hone a sharp edge as it carries you right out of your obstinate mood. Steve’s guitar playing in the 60s and 70s bordered on annoying but he’d obviously been practicing because he delivers a damn decent R&B-flavored ride on this track. “When you’re all over/when you know you’ve done all that you can do/put on your dancing shoes/it’ll see you through,” he suggests. I took his advice and dang if it didn’t work! One of the best contemporary jazz R&B songs ever written follows, the #6 hit “Don’t You Know What The Night Can Do?” Dense keyboards give the tune a percussive pulse that guides it through the verses till Robinson’s fat snare explodes and propels the catchy chorus. “There are times that never come again/memories there for making/when the night calls we better let it in/all this love for the taking,” he sings. Bashiri Johnson’s striking percussion is cool but it’s the backing vocalists (Tessa Niles and Mark Williamson) that are the secret ingredients hoisting this one up and over the top. After a slight tease of an intro for “Hearts On Fire” John’s monstrous drums crash in and it’s Katy bar the door for the next 5 minutes. This track literally sizzles like bacon frying in a hot iron skillet so crank up the stereo and dance your fanny off. The Memphis Horns ring out clear as bells and the screaming Hammond organ solo shows why Winwood is revered as a virtuoso on the instrument. The song’s words about finding new love made me feel there was hope for this romantic fool yet.

The soul/gospel vibe of “One More Morning” arrives at just the right juncture to give the proceedings balance and Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love’s old-school horns grant it a touch of class. Written for his mother, Steve’s passionate vocal will warm even the hardest of hearts as he sings “In the sky, light is coming/so glad we all have this day/we all want one more morning/just to know the night won’t stay.” It’s beautiful. He opts to take it home with what I deem to be Winwood’s most underappreciated composition, “Shining Song.” He programmed a strong, energized drum machine-driven track that motivates relentlessly below the glistening, thickly-layered keyboards and sterling backing vocals. He urges us all to beat down our blues with an elevating shout-out of “Love’s a light/it keeps leading us on/when it’s right/it’ll shine till we’re gone/keep it bright/out there in the unknown/you know we better keep shining, shining/keep shining right down the line.” My favorite moment comes when he lets the bottom drop out directly after his perky mini-moog ride. That’s when the tune acquires a transcendent quality that lifts whatever room you’re in off its foundation. It’s a handful of precious seconds of bliss that don’t grace one’s sphere of existence every day. Take advantage.

I know that some will attribute my affection for “Roll With It” to the therapeutic salve its uplifting tone and message generously applied to my sad, defeated countenance when I needed it most. You’ll get no argument from me. Yet I must add that there have been other songwriters’ albums that have comforted me during various episodes of misery that I no longer listen to because they bring me down. This record makes me look back on an awful period of my life not with sorrow but with a remembrance of the healing Steve Winwood’s music provided. I can give it a spin with full knowledge that it’ll still sound as great and refreshing as it did the first time I played it back in ’88 and when a record holds up in that extraordinary fashion I can’t call it anything but a masterpiece.

STEVE WINWOOD Back in the High Life

Album · 1986 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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Steve Winwood impressed millions of his fans with his brilliant do-it-yourself project, “Arc of a Diver,” as the 80s began. He made the mistake of listening to his handlers, though, by rushing through the composing for and production of his follow-up album, “Talking Back to the Night.” That record wasn’t half bad in the technical department but songwriting is not something you can hurry along because you end up cutting corners and settling for what you deem is “good enough.” It was the glaring deficiency in that vital area that doomed and sank that particular frigate. When assessing what went wrong I’m sure that Steve, being the seasoned veteran that he is, learned from that haste-makes-waste misstep and then calmly informed the suits at Island Records the next one might be years in the making. He wasn’t blowing smoke up their chimneys, either. It was almost four years before “Back in the High Life” would hit the shelves and the airwaves but I doubt you’ll find anyone who would say it wasn’t worth the wait. The disc turned out to be one of the monsters of 1986, spawning four popular singles and sitting in the top 10 for weeks on end.

I suspect that Winwood had tired of being the sole jack-of-all-trades for the construction of his art since “Arc” and “Talking” demonstrated without question that he had nothing left to prove about his abilities. It was time to return to the strength-in-numbers approach. He had so many admirers in the biz that getting them to contribute required but a single phone call and that accounts for the presence of industry giants like Chaka Kahn, Nile Rodgers, Randy Brecker, Joe Walsh and James Taylor on various cuts. The sound is immaculate and the performances are top notch as one would expect but, as I inferred earlier, if the foundation isn’t built on great songs the whole multi-roomed mansion is bound to collapse. That’s not a problem on this album and that, more than anything else, is why it was a huge smash. The record clearly lived up to the promise of its prophetic title.

Steve wisely kicks it off with the eye-opening barnburner, “Higher Love.” Crisp Latin percussion leads you into this energetic pop/jazz number that owns an irresistible charm that propelled it straight up to #1. Chaka’s penetrating voice is a perfect compliment to Winwood’s and it’s one of those tunes that doesn’t have a flaw to point out. It also demonstrates how far synthesizer and drum machine programming had advanced throughout the 80s because there’s nothing fake about the power the track possesses in quantity. “Take It as It Comes” is next and its driving rock momentum is beefed up by a real drum kit (as are most of the cuts), this time with Mickey Curry at the helm. A jazzy big band horn section gives the song a classy sheen and the lyrics reveal a bit of personal history. “I’ve played a King/and a down and out fool/some like it hot/some like it cool/do what they want/but don’t be their tool/savor the throne/but don’t mind the stool,” he sings. I also must mention that Steve’s guitar solo is a vast improvement over most in his past. The #20 hit “Freedom Overspill” follows and its proud, struttin’ groove pulls you in immediately. Of note is the exemplary mix of Hammond organ, sassy brass and Joe Walsh’s slide guitar that sits atop Steve Ferrone’s exciting drum explosions. It’s always a treat to witness Steve’s manhandling of his B3 as he does here and his soulful voice is one for the ages.

Winwood was instrumental in creating some of the greatest music of the 20th century but “Back in the High Life” is my all-time favorite of his. It may have peaked at #13 but it’ll always be #1 in my heart. I reckon I’d call this funky folk music with a kick-ass beat yet in actuality it defies labeling. His spirited Mandolin strumming provides the tune with a special atmosphere that sets it apart from everything else from that era and its refusal to conform to current trends is but one of its many assets. Bringing in James Taylor to harmonize was an inspired choice as together they deliver life-affirming lines like “we’ll have ourselves a time/and we’ll dance to the morning sun/and we’ll let the good times come in/and we won’t stop till we’re done.” Considering the dark clouds that were gathering over my head in those days this incredibly uplifting song helped more than any other to get me through some of the stormiest nights of my existence. Speaking of positive messages for a confused world, few contain words as effective as those in “The Finer Things.” The intro’s gorgeous, intertwining synths are invigorating and the song’s Caribbean aura lends the track an engaging bounce. This #8 hit benefits from the lift the background singing of Dan Hartman and James Ingram give to the infectious chorus of “the finer things keep shining through/the way my soul gets lost in you/the finer things I feel in me/the golden dance life could be.” The cavernous bridge section is breathtaking, the arrangement’s inherent dynamics keep it fresh and Steve’s synth ride at the end sparkles like sunlight on water.

“Wake Me Up on Judgment Day,” after its massive, enveloping beginning, turns out to have a hard rockin’ drive that coasts underneath some unusual twists and turns in the tune’s structure. Overall, it’s the runt of the litter because of its lacking a central focus but it’s still better than anything on “Talking Back to the Night” by a mile. I can relate to the look-to-the-future lyrics. “Wake me up on judgment day/let me hear golden trumpets play/give me life where nothing fails/not a dream in a wishing well,” he cries. In terms of rock, though, “Split Decision” does it with balls. Winwood’s room-filling Hammond organ, co-writer Joe Walsh’s gruff but exhilarating guitar work and John Robinson’s fat, killer drums do this tune justice. The “it’s a fine line/a very fine line” chorus sticks in your brain thanks to the memorable female-heavy vocal ensemble and Joe’s solo is a zinger that he, as always, avoids overdoing. The quieter closer, “My Love’s Leavin’,” is an excellent R&B ballad. The legendary Arif Mardin’s synthesizer string arrangement is rapturous and the passionate emotion in Steve’s inimitable voice is heartbreaking. “I cry myself awake each night/I can’t believe it’s true/here am I/where are you?” he pleads. Anyone who’s known that pain can commiserate.

In retrospect the 80s were pretty bleak for me musically so this album shined like a lighthouse in the middle of a brackish ocean and I’m not the only one who felt that way about it. “Back in the High Life” garnered several Grammy awards, including Record of the Year for “Higher Love,” and returned Winwood to his rightful perch as one of the planet’s most respected, revered singer/songwriters. Its success justified the three plus years it took him to put it together so perhaps the disappointing mediocrity of the “hit ‘em while you’re hot” record that came before it served a valuable purpose. This disc has more of a jazzy rather than pop air flowing through it though neither genre dominates. I’ve always treasured it as a record I can rely on to consistently cheer me up when I’m down and, since that’s one of music’s most essential and therapeutic properties, I consider it a must-have.

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