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Album Review: Steve Winwood's Nine Lives

Published // 21.Apr.08

Features Eric Clapton on the song "Dirty City"
Album out 28 April 2008 (29 April in the U.S.) from Sony / Columbia

Continuing the musical trend of 2003's About Time, Steve successfully combines world, jazz, blues and rock musical genres, in a musical mixing bowl which lends more of an ear to his music with Traffic, than the successful musical formula he adopted in the late 80s.

The album has a very "live feel" and indeed the music was recorded with his touring band. Much of the music apparently evolved from musical soundcheck jams whilst on tour over the last couple of years. Steve has teamed up with a new lyricist, Peter Godwin, and there is an underlying spiritual feel throughout the album. The excellent Brazilian guitarist, Jose Neto, is again heavily involved in the musical composition and certainly his diverse range of styles is one of the album's highlights.

The opening track, "Drowning Man," is a real musical throwback for Steve. He picks out a repetitive acoustic country blues guitar part, with simple foot tapping percussion and sings the blues like he was 15 all over again, albeit the voice has mellowed a little, like a fine wine. The editor of Where's Eric! Magazine reckons it sounds like something from the John Mayall School of Blues and who am I to argue?

Rather than dwell on every track, I'll cover the highlights, one of which you'll be pleased to hear Clapton plays on "Dirty City" which starts off with some very dirty sounding fuzz-tone guitar from Steve and some sparse but effective Hammond organ. The music has a sinister tone, until near the end when a crafty time change kicks in and Steve starts singing like his life depended on it. There is a wonderful musical groove going on in there and Eric gets to wail away to his heart's content for the last couple of minutes, with a lovely fluid tone, which sits perfectly with the song. An edited version of the song is available from iTunes (only their USA site), where Eric's solo is played in the middle of the tune - we'll call that a public service announcement for all you Clapton completists.

Other tracks I must mention are "Secrets" for its wonderfully infectious acoustic guitar / Cuban rhythm driven groove, "Fly" for its wonderful tranquility and "Raging Sea" for the great guitar riff, conjured up by Jose Neto.

Oh and I nearly forgot, Steve's vocals are a delight. I'm well over my allotted word count so, in summary, please make sure you give this album a listen.

by Paul Minkkinen
Coloured Rain Magazine

Advance review published with the kind permission of Coloured Rain Magazine

Related Story:

New Steve Winwood Single Features Eric Clapton (Previously published on whereseric.com 23 February 2008)