Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

New music in brilliant old form from Steve Winwood

Back in April, I reviewed a recent release from Peter Wolf (of The J. Geils Band). Writing today’s post reminds me of this because I found a great release from an artist whose popularity peaked 20+ years ago and whose best days might have been thought to be behind him.

If you’re reading this and you’re out of your 20s, you probably know Winwood began with The Spencer Davis Group in the 60’s and eventually became the chief songwriter and front man for Traffic and was a major creative force in Blind Faith. He also had some solo hits in the 80s, though the stuff from his “Back in the High Life” era was nowhere near the genius of the “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” days.

Smaller, groovier, and not over-produced. Stevie is back.

Smaller, groovier, and not over-produced. Stevie is back.

I picked up some of his late 80s and early 90s stuff and found it surprisingly commercial and uninteresting. Like a lot of aging artists, it seemed that maybe he had said everything musically he had to say or perhaps the creative juices had simply run dry.

Fast-forward to 2003 and the release of ‘About Time.’ Having been a tremendous fan of so much of Winwood’s work (including some of the early 80s stuff I just disparaged), I happily spun this disc, though with somewhat low expectations. To my delight, it is a strong release that shifts masterfully through a variety of styles.

A lot of songs on ‘About Time’ are 5 and 6 minutes long, like Winwood used to produce when he wasn’t writing radio-friendly Pop hits. He seems to have gotten back to what he does best on this album but it doesn’t feel like a retread. The music is fresh-sounding and riddled with smooth grooves and improvisation that is right in the pocket. I really like this album and recommend you pick up the whole thing or at least see if you can find these 4. Amazon doesn’t sell the MP3s, but go to the album’s page on AllMusic.com and listen to these samples.

  • Different Light – A patient but funky percussion and organ intro gives way to an introspective, existential look at the unpredictability of life. The vocal melody rides above all this with great energy.
  • Cigano (For the Gypsies) – Coming in at over 6 minutes long, this one probably feels the most like an old Traffic tune on this album. Great song.
  • Final Hour – This is a fantastic head bobbing blues number. Winwood’s vocals and keys, the guitar, and even the percussion play this piece with a lot of soul.
  • Domingo Morning – Spanish-flavor guitar and that ever-present Hammond organ sound anchor the pretty melody during the verses and provide a cathedral feel during the chorus.

In 2008, Winwood released another album, ‘Nine Lives,’ which even featured a track with Eric Clapton. Might be worth a listen.



August 20, 2009 - Posted by | Classic Rock, Popular, Rock

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