After building a stellar reputation with the Spencer Davis Group, and then Traffic, expectations were high for Steve Winwood's solo career. But it got off to a slow start with his self-titled debut, a good, if unnoticed record. For his follow up in '81, "Arc of a Diver," Winwood played all the instruments, provided the vocals, produced and engineered. It was a true solo project. It was also his best with the keyboard drenched "While You See A Chance" being the premier track. For "Talking Back To The Night," Winwood began a songwriting partnership with Will Jennings and the two continued to write together through the '90s. Released in '86 "Back In The High Life" with "Higher Love" (guest vocals by Chaka Kahn) was Winwood's major commercial success. "Roll With It" which contained the R&B influenced title track hit in '88. Winwood kept recording and touring through the '90s. He even toured with two of Traffic's original members (Mason and Capaldi). '03 release "About Time" was Winwood's first album in five years and featured worldbeat embellishments and comfortable grooves.
Though Winwood and Clapton's partnership in Blind Faith was short-lived (a single album in '69) the two have managed to remain good friends. In '07, they shared the stage at Clapton's Crossroad's Festival, the guitarist's fundraiser for the drug treatment facility he founded. Their joint set included a pair of Blind Faith tracks, Clapton's "Presence of the Lord" and Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home."
The following year Winwood and Clapton performed three sold-out shows at NY's Madison Square Garden. An EP, "Dirty City," distributed via iTunes, was the result. Later in the year, Winwood issued "Nine Lives" which featured Clapton on "Dirty City."
1977 Steve Winwood
1980 Arc Of A Diver
1982 Talking Back To The Night
1986 Back In The High Life
1988 Roll With It
1990 Refugees Of The Heart
1997 Junction Seven
2003 About Time
2008 Nine Lives
"Arc Of A Diver" is Winwood most accomplished solo album. "Back In The High Life" ("The Finer Things" and "Higher Love") and "Roll With It" are next. "Steve Winwood," is a solid debut. "Chronicles" covers Winwood's solo career to the late '80s but the box set "The Finer Things" takes the story from the Spencer Davis Group through Traffic and on to the mid-90s. It provides an excellent overview of a brilliant musician.
"Nine Lives" is a low-key effort resembling a cross between Traffic's "John Barleycorn Must Die" and "Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory." The R&B infused polished pop of '80's hits "Higher Love" and "Roll With It" are nowhere to be found. Rather Winwood lays strong, catchy melodies over percolating percussion.