Steve Winwood has been one of my favorite artists for many years. Some fans who like Winwood from his days with The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic cringe when it comes to his more pop-oriented solo albums from the ’80s. I dig both, his old stuff and the music he released during the ’80s and later. I find there is just something about Winwood’s voice that makes almost any song he performs great, similar to what was the case with Tina Turner.
Released yesterday (Sep. 1), Greatest Hits Live is Winwood’s first new album since 2009’s Live From Madison Square Garden, which featured Eric Clapton. According to a press release, the record is available as a 2-CD and a 4-vinyl LP set. All tracks were handpicked by Winwood from his personal archives of live performances. The new recordings of these 23 songs sound fresh, which makes for a great album.
“I’m excited about the release because I have recorded every show for many years and so it evoked many memories of the performances and reactions from the fans over the years who have supported me,” Winwood stated. “I suppose it is sort of a tribute to the band members and crew I’ve been fortunate to have with me on the road. The songs were chosen for being the ones most recognized throughout my career which have left an impression and so I hope the record will be a souvenir that brings to mind happy memories of a good time experienced at one of my shows.”
The album features rare, previously unreleased material touching on all aspects of Winwood’s extensive catalog, including contemporary arrangements of the music he created with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith, and on his classic solo recordings. The collection channels R&B, Jazz, Funk, Folk, Classic Rock, Pop, and Afro-Caribbean & Brazilian rhythms, highlighting Winwood’s ability to fuse multiple genres into a singular, cohesive musical expression. The album not only showcases Winwood on his seductive Hammond B3, but also illustrates his guitar skills. Following are clips of a few tracks.
Can’t Find My Way Home was written by Winwood and first recorded for Blind Faith’s eponymous 1969 album, the blues rock “super-group’s” only release.
Dear Mr. Fantasy first appeared on Mr. Fantasy, the 1967 debut from Traffic. The tune was written by Winwood and his band mates Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood.
The next track I’d like to highlight is Gimme Some Lovin’, which was released as a single by the Spencer Davis Group in October 1966. Written by Winwood, Spencer Davis and Steve’s older brother Muff Winwood, it is one of my favorite ’60s tunes. Every time I hear that growling Hammond B3, my neck hair stands up.
While You See A Chance is an example of a Winwood pop tune. The song, which was written by Winwood and Will Jennings, first appeared on his second solo album Arc Of a Diver, released in December 1980. Climbing to no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, the record was Winwood’s breakthrough solo album.
The last tune I’d like to call out is the Memphis soul-style Roll With It, one of my favorite Winwood tunes from his solo career. It is the title song of his fifth solo record from June 1988, which became a no. 1 album in the U.S. and has sold more than three million copies. Also released as a single that topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for four weeks in the summer of 1988, the tune was written by Winwood and Jennings. Later, legendary Motown songwriter trio Holland-Dozier-Holland gained co-writing credits due to the song’s similarity to the Junior Walker hit (I’m A) Roadrunner.
Winwood is supporting the album with a tour through the U.S.. which kicks off in Indio, Calif. and is currently set to conclude in Hartford, Conn. on September 23. The U.S. leg will be followed by gigs in Europe in the fall.
Sources: Wikipedia, Steve Winwood press release, JamBase, YouTube