By John Wirt
May 23, 2008
Steve Winwood is a “classic rock” artist who transcended that description even while he was making music that later would be tagged classic rock.
A British singer, organist and guitarist who found fame in the 1960s via the Spencer Davis Group hits “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m A Man,” Winwood’s singing is as vital on his ninth solo album as it was all those years ago with Davis, succeeding groups Traffic and Blind Faith, and ’80s solo hits.
As he did in the jazz-rock bent Traffic, Winwood synthesizes genres in his new songs, creating something that’s distinctively his own. Nine Lives begins with the contemporized acoustic country blues of “I’m Not Drowning,” an echo of Winwood’s early love for American blues. “Raging Sea” successfully blends Winwood’s soulful singing and Hammond organ with Brazilian native Jose Neto’s guitar.
“Dirty City,” a track that would fit Traffic’s classic ’70s album, Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, adds a guitar solo from Winwood’s old pal, Eric Clapton. African pop influences the soul-rock of “Hungry Man” by way of sparkling guitar and percussion.
Winwood’s Hammond organ colors “At Times We Do Forget,” a song that recalls his hit 1986 album, Back in the High Life album. Playing organ throughout Nine Lives, Winwood provides so much musical character through so few notes. He’s in great form for Nine Lives.