Sunday, April 29, 2007

Steve Winwood

@ Steve Winwood
At 57 years old, Steve Winwood has logged one of the most esteemed careers of the rock era, one that incredibly spans more than 40 years. Throughout his success, he has sealed his place in history both as a solo artist and as a member of such celebrated bands as the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith. He has registered chart-topping, platinum-selling albums and singles, garnered acclaim of permanence on the U.S. and international music scenes, collected Grammy awards and has jammed and recorded with everyone from George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix to Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. He has absolutely done it all.

That considered, he'll nevertheless tell you that the wonder and fascination he developed for music as a teenager remains as potent now as it was 40 years ago: "Music is a never-ending learning curve," he says. "There is always something to know and discover about it."

While for the world at large, his exploration of soul, rock, blues and world music began some four decades ago—with the smash success of Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'"—Winwood says that it technically began even earlier, thanks to his father, who not only wholeheartedly supported his interest in music, but brought him into the fold. Reared in Birmingham, England, Winwood played guitar in his father's band in 1957 at the age of nine.

"I was very lucky," he says. "My father was very flexible in his approach, and encouraged me that if music was something I felt passionate about, and if I wanted to do it, then that was enough reason to do it, even if it wouldn't serve me well as a career."

Serve him well it did, though—and virtually right off the bat, no less. As a teen, Winwood expanded to keyboards and played in backing bands with some of the pillars of blues music, from T-Bone Walker and Sonny Boy Williamson to Memphis Slim and John Lee Hooker. But with a vocal style recalling Ray Charles and a deeply soulful voice that sounded much bigger and older than he was, Winwood wouldn't remain a sideman for long.

In 1963, at the age of 15, he co-founded the Spencer Davis Group, which would score chart topping radio hits with “Keep On Running” and “Somebody Help Me” in England and Europe, where they had worked hard to grow their fanbase a good year before "Gimme Some Lovin'" became a smash in the States.

Yet, in 1967, Winwood departed the group to form Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason and Chris Wood. Debuting that year with Mr. Fantasy, Traffic would register consistent chart hits. Mason left Traffic early on and was therefore absent when Winwood and Capaldi wrote many of the songs that shaped the band's direction, stretched boundaries and honed the sound that was Traffic. All of the original studio discs entered the top 10 on the U.S. charts, while helping define psychedelic rock with such iconic tracks as "Dear Mr. Fantasy," "Medicated Goo," "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" and "Pearly Queen."

When Traffic disbanded briefly in 1969, Winwood formed Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker and late bassist Rick Grech—two-thirds of Cream, another rock titan that had then-recently disbanded. Considered by many to be the world's first supergroup, Blind Faith enjoyed great, however brief, studio and stage success with its lone, self-titled effort which gave birth to Winwood’s “Can't Find My Way Home.”

Traffic returned without Mason and scored another hit with 1971's The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and later released Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory, On The Road and When The Eagle Flies. In 1974 Traffic disbanded; thirty years later, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

By the time Traffic broke up, Winwood had already guested on albums by Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, triggering a trend that would continue with guest spots on albums from George Harrison and Toots and the Maytals, among others, during the three years predating his solo bow. "I think I was perhaps searching a bit during that '70s period," he remembers, "and gaining great experience from playing with lots of great people."

In 1977, he offered his eponymous debut, which climbed to No. 22 on the U.S. albums chart. Four years later, he returned with a force, climbing to No. 3 on that chart with the celebrated follow-up, 1981's Arc of a Diver, which spawned the top 10 hit "While You See a Chance." Playing every instrument on the album, in addition to adding the stamp of his signature vocals, Steve produced, engineered and mixed it as well. Arc of a Diver spent 43 weeks on Billboard's albums chart, ignited a slackjawing pop run that gained momentum with the release of Talking Back to the Night, just a year and a half later, featuring the massive single "Valerie," which peaked at No. 3 on the singles chart.

But it proved just the tip of the iceberg, as 1986's Back in the High Life would hit No. 7 on the albums chart, on the strength of "Back in the High Life Again" and the No. 1 hit single "Higher Love." Delivering Winwood a level of success that even he had never tasted before, Back in the High Life was nominated for five Grammys, winning the Best Male Vocal and the coveted Record of the Year trophies. Yet he was only getting started.

Steve Winwood returned in 1988 with his first No. 1 album, Roll With It, whose title track topped the U.S. singles chart. While his follow-up, 1990's Refugees of the Heart, cracked the top 30, Winwood was already losing interest in making mainstream music, feelings that would intensify after his reunion with the late Jim Capaldi for Traffic 1994's release, Far From Home, and resulting tour.

By his own admission, Winwood lost his way while crafting pop albums in the '80s and early '90s. It was a time when he probably considered outside opinions more than he really should have, he remembers. If there was a turning point, it came with his reunion with Capaldi, after some 20 years.

The album and tour, celebrated on the recently released The Last Great Traffic Jam DVD (a treasure trove of candid backstage and concert footage), marked a return to form—at least in approach—for one of the most accomplished performers in the rock cannon. "It was great," Winwood says. "It was more getting back to what I had always done from the very start, which was being a musician, rather than any kind of showman. So it was a natural progression, I think, and I soon realized that I was much more comfortable in that role.

"After the Traffic thing, which was a great experience, the record company that I was with said, 'Well now we really want a Steve Winwood album,' and I think they were looking for something like I had done in the '80s. So obviously I felt somewhat obliged to comply in some kind of way, and I made a record [1997's Junction Seven] that was done with the sole idea to try and get into the hit parade. After that, I thought, 'That's it for me. I'm not going to try and make music that gets into the chart, and gets radio play. I'm going to continue to do what I have done at various times in my career, and make music that I like and just hope that people can identify with that. And if they can't, well, that's my hard luck."

As he distanced himself from the mainstream, his performances—now featuring reworked versions of songs like "Higher Love"—became more organic, and more about the actual playing of music, instead of the presentation of music, he says. "I went through a bit of renaissance, I think, some years ago, when I suddenly realized that there are only certain elements required to play live: One, that singing has to be in tune and slightly recognizable. Two, the grooves have to be good. And, three, the band—the people playing—have to enjoy what they are doing, and if you can have those three elements, that is all you need."

Since Junction Seven, Winwood has drifted back to the free-flowing, improv-friendly, organic sounds of his early years, while remaining curious about how to incorporate his interests in more exotic music, as he does on his 2003 critically acclaimed album About Time, now being re-released as a DualDisc by Epic.

Hailed rightly as a return to form, About Time finds the blue-eyed soul pioneer returning to the warm tones and unrestricted territories explored by Traffic. Built on a bedrock of Hammond B-3 grooves, it's a hypnotic album that delves into world music, fusing classic Southern R&B with Latin, Afro and Caribbean rhythms. For Traffic devotees, especially those put off by the slick Winwood chart-toppers of the 1980s and early '90s, About Time is like a long hug from an old friend.

The album started to take shape a couple of years ago when Winwood decided that he wanted to make an album without a bass player, thus filling the songs with organ bass. "It's a great sound," he says. "It's not that it replaces the bass, it forces the bassline to be more simple. And it has a peculiar effect on the groove." That decision alone, he says, dictated the sound and flavor of the record.

"And then I also wanted to combine this purely American style of organ bass playing with world music, with Brazilian and Cuban rhythms and also other Caribbean and Afro rhythms and combine all that with the jazz/folk/rock that Traffic had used. I was keen to take the style of those early organists like Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, and Groove Holmes, who were brilliant exponents of the style known as 'kicking the B,' and combine that with elements of world music and rock."

In the four decades since he co-founded the Spencer Davis Group, Winwood has witnessed myriad changes in the music business, from dramatic evolutions in recording technology to massive consolidation in the label realm. But from where he stands, one thing at the end day has remained virtually the same: the music. And so it is oddly perfect that for all the experimentation and fusion he captures on About Time, the album essentially finds him coming full circle, artistically. Winwood has returned home, musically. And he knows it. After 40 years, the exploration continues. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Wiki
Stephen Lawrence "Steve" Winwood (born May 12, 1948 in Handsworth, Birmingham, England) is an English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who, in addition to his solo career, was a member of the bands the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Go and Blind Faith.

While still a pupil at Great Barr School (where actor Martin Shaw was a classmate), Winwood was a part of the Birmingham rhythm and blues scene, playing the Hammond B-3 Organ and guitar, backing blues singers such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Eddie Boyd, Otis Spann, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley on their United Kingdom tours (the custom at that time being for US singers to travel solo and be backed by 'pick-up' bands).

At the age of 15 Winwood became a member of the Spencer Davis Group with his older brother 'Muff' (who later had much success as a record producer). Steve co-wrote and recorded "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm A Man" before leaving to form Traffic with Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason.

During the late-1960s, Winwood and Mason became close friends of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix first heard "All Along the Watchtower" at a party he was invited to by Mason, they recorded the Hendrix version later that night in a London recording studio. Winwood played often with Hendrix, featuring prominently on Electric Ladyland.

In 1969, Winwood once again gave a powerful organ performance on Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help from My Friends" and later played keyboards on albums as diverse as Toots & The Maytals' Reggae Got Soul and Howlin' Wolf's The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions.

He formed Blind Faith in 1969 with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech. The band was short-lived, due to Clapton's greater interest in Blind Faith's opening act Delaney & Bonnie & Friends: Clapton left the band after the tour had ended. However, Baker, Winwood and Grech stayed together to form Ginger Baker's Air Force. The lineup consisted of basically 3/4 of Blind Faith (sans Clapton, replaced by Denny Laine), 2/3 of Traffic (Winwood and Chris Wood, minus Jim Capaldi), plus musicians who interacted with Baker in his early days, including Phil Seamen, Harold McNair and Graham Bond. But this supergroup turned out to be just another short-lived project. Winwood soon went into the studio to begin work on a new solo album, tentatively titled Mad Shadows. However, Winwood ended up calling Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi in to help with session work, which instead prompted Traffic's comeback album John Barleycorn Must Die. Winwood has always said that the sound of John Barleycorn Must Die really reflects what Winwood intended Traffic to be.

In 1976, Winwood played guitar on the Fania All Stars’ “Delicate and Jumpy” record and performed as a guest with the band in their only UK appearance, with a memorable sell-out concert at London’s Lyceum Ballroom.

Constant artistic differences and personnel changes led to Traffic's final break-up and Winwood's release of his eponymous first solo album in 1977. This was followed by his 1980 hit Arc Of A Diver (lyrics by Vivian Stanshall), and Talking Back To The Night in 1982 (both albums recorded at his home in Gloucestershire with Winwood playing all instruments). He enlisted the help of a coterie of stars to record Back in the High Life (1986) in the US, and again he was rewarded with a hit album. All were released on Island Records. In 1986, he topped the Billboard Hot 100 with "Higher Love".

At the peak of his commercial success, Winwood moved to Virgin Records and released Roll With It and Refugees Of The Heart. The album Roll With It and the title track hit #1 on the album and singles charts in the summer of 1988. He recorded another album with Jim Capaldi released under the Traffic name, Far From Home, then resumed his solo career with his final Virgin album Junction Seven.

In 1994, Capaldi and Winwood reunited Traffic for a new album, "Far From Home", and one-off tour, including a performance at Woodstock II Festival. The same year, Winwood appears on "A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield" CD, recording Mayfield's "It's Allright".

In 1995 and 1996, Winwood released "Reach for the Light (Theme from Balto)".

In 1997, Winwood released a new album, "Junction Seven", toured the U.S.A. and sang with James Taylor at the VH-1 Honors.

In 1998, Winwood joined Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval, Ed Calle and other musicians to form the band Latin Crossings for an European tour, after which they split up without making any recording.

In 2003, Winwood released a new studio album, About Time co-produced by Johnson Somerset and engineered by George Shilling, on his new record label, Wincraft Music.

2004 saw his 1982 song "Valerie" used by DJ Eric Prydz, in a song called "Call On Me". It spent five weeks at number 1 on the UK singles chart. Winwood heard an early version of Prydz' remix and liked it so much, he not only gave permission to use the song, he re-recorded the samples for Prydz to use. In 2005, the Soundstage Performances DVD was released, featuring his recent work from the album About Time along with his classic hits including "Higher Love" and "Back in the High Life". Winwood also performs hits from his days with Traffic (inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004) as well as current recordings that represent a tapestry of tastes woven after 40 years in music. He is currently working on his new studio album slated for release in 2006, and is preparing a live album from his American 2005 tour. Steve also recently announced his 2006 tour. Additionally, Christina Aguilera features Winwood on one of her songs from her 2006 record Back to Basics, called "Makes Me Wanna Pray".

* In his hit song "While You See a Chance", in a stanza where he sings "And that old gray wind is blowing and there’s nothing left worth knowing," Winwood accidentally overdubs "nothing left..." with "no one left..." The entire track was thrown together in a relatively quick fashion, and at one point Winwood accidentally deleted the drum track introduction in preparation for vocals. (see Punching in) The keyboard introduction that he composed on the spot to replace it is now iconic.

* Prior to forming Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, the two collaborated on a record as "Powerhouse"

* Is a fan of Cheltenham Town F.C.

With Traffic
* Mr. Fantasy (1967) #88 US
* Traffic (1968) #17 US
* Last Exit (1969) #19 US
* John Barleycorn Must Die (1970) #5 US: Gold
* Welcome to the Canteen (1971) #26 US
* The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971) #7 US: Platinum
* Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory (1973) #6 US: Gold
* On the Road (1973) #29 US
* When the Eagle Flies (1974) #9 US: Gold
* Far from Home (1994) #33 US
* The Last Great Traffic Jam (2005)

With Blind Faith
* Blind Faith (1969) #1 US: Platinum

* Steve Winwood (1977) #22 US
* Arc of a Diver (1980) #3 US: Platinum
* Talking Back to the Night (1982) #28 US: Platinum
* Back in the High Life (1986) #7 US: 3x Platinum
* Roll with It (1988) #1 (1 week) US: 2x Platinum
* Refugees of the Heart (1990) #13 US: Gold
* Junction Seven (1997) #123 US
* About Time (2003) #126 US

* Go (1976) UK and US Island ILPS 9387
* They Call it an Accident (soundtrack) (1982)
* Chronicles (1987) #26 US US sales: Gold
* The Finer Things (box set) (1995)
* Keep on Running (1996)
* 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Steve Winwood (1999)
* Classic Steve Winwood (2001)
* Best of Steve Winwood (2002)
* Winwood (1972) UA Records, Inc. An excellent double LP compilation of his work to this time. Features work with SD Group, owerhouse, Traffic & Blind Faith.

Session work
* David Gilmour - About Face
* Marianne Faithfull - Dangerous Acquaintances
* Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring
* Lou Reed - Berlin
* Toots and the Maytals - "Reggae Got Soul" =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Steve Huey @ All Music
As a solo artist, Steve Winwood is primarily associated with the highly polished blue-eyed soul-pop that made him a star in the '80s. Yet his turn as a slick, upscale mainstay of adult contemporary radio was simply the latest phase of a long and varied career, one that's seen the former teenage R&B shouter move through jazz, psychedelia, blues-rock, and progressive rock. Possessed of a powerful, utterly distinctive voice, Winwood was also an excellent keyboardist who remained an in-demand session musician for most of his career, even while busy with high-profile projects. That background wasn't necessarily apparent on his solo records, which established a viable commercial formula that was tremendously effective as long as it was executed with commitment.

Stephen Lawrence Winwood was born May 12, 1948, in the Handsworth area of Birmingham, England. First interested in swing and Dixieland jazz, he began playing drums, guitar, and piano as a child, and first performed with his father and older brother Muff in the Ron Atkinson Band at the age of eight. During the early '60s, Muff led a locally popular group called the Muff Woody Jazz Band, and allowed young Steve to join; eventually they began to add R&B numbers to their repertoire, and in 1963 the brothers chose to pursue that music full-time, joining guitarist Spencer Davis to form the Spencer Davis Group. Although he was only 15, Steve's vocals were astoundingly soulful and mature, and his skills at the piano were also advanced beyond his years. Within a year, he'd played with numerous American blues legends both in concert and in the studio; in 1965, he also recorded the solo single "Incense" as the Anglos, crediting himself as Stevie Anglo. Meanwhile, the Spencer Davis Group released a handful of classic R&B-styled singles, including "Keep on Running," "I'm a Man," and the monumental "Gimme Some Lovin'," which stood with any of the gritty hardcore soul music coming out of the American South.

Winwood eventually tired of the tight pop-single format; by the mid-'60s, the cutting edge of rock & roll often involved stretching out instrumentally, and with his roots in jazz, Winwood wanted the same opportunity. Accordingly, he left the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 to form Traffic with guitarist Dave Mason, horn player Chris Wood, and drummer Jim Capaldi, all of whom had played on "Gimme Some Lovin'." The quartet retired to a small cottage in the Berkshire countryside, where they could work out their sound -- a unique blend of R&B, Beatlesque pop, psychedelia, jazz, and British folk -- and jam long into the night without angering neighbors. Traffic debuted in the U.K. with the single "Paper Sun" in May 1967, and soon issued their debut album Mr. Fantasy (retitled Heaven Is in Your Mind in the U.S.); it was followed by the jazzy psychedelic classic Traffic in 1968. However, conflicts had arisen between Winwood and Mason over the latter's tightly constructed folk-pop songs, which didn't fit into Winwood's expansive, jam-oriented conception of the band. Mason left, returned, and was fired again, and Winwood broke up the band at the beginning of 1969. Even so, by that time, he had become the unofficial in-house keyboardist for Traffic's label Island, playing at numerous recording sessions.

Winwood subsequently hooked up with old friend Eric Clapton, who'd recently parted ways with Cream. The two began jamming and found that they enjoyed working together, and rumors of their collaboration spread like wildfire; the enormous anticipation only grew when ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker signed on, despite Clapton's misgivings over the expectations that would create. Concert promoters rushed to book the band before any material had been completed (hence the band's eventual name, Blind Faith), and offered too much money for them to refuse, despite their lack of rehearsal time. Their self-titled debut, released in the summer of 1969, was a hit, but the extreme pressure on the group led to their breakup even before the end of the year. Winwood joined Baker in a large, eclectic new supergroup called Ginger Baker's Air Force, but Winwood still had contract obligations to Island, and he left not long after Air Force's debut performance at the Royal Albert Hall in early 1970.

Winwood began work on what was slated to be his first solo LP, but he gradually brought in more ex-Traffic members to help him out, to the point where the album simply became a band reunion. John Barleycorn Must Die was released later in 1970, showcasing the sort of jam-happy jazz-rock sound that Winwood had in mind for the group from the start. Several more albums in that vein followed, including 1971's The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, which brought Traffic to the peak of their commercial popularity in America. The run was briefly interrupted by Winwood's bout with peritonitis around 1972, but he'd recovered enough to play a major role in Eric Clapton's early-1973 comeback concerts at the Rainbow Theatre. Traffic broke up in 1974, but instead of going solo right away, an exhausted Winwood spent the next few years as a session musician, relaxing on his Gloucestershire farm during his spare time. He also featured prominently as a collaborator with Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamash'ta, appearing on his hit jazz fusion LP, Go, in 1976.

When Winwood finally returned with his self-titled solo debut in 1977, Britain was in the midst of the punk revolution, and the music itself was somewhat disappointing even to Winwood himself. Dismayed, he returned to Gloucestershire and all but disappeared from music. He returned in late 1980 with the little-heralded Arc of a Diver, a much stronger effort on which he played every instrument himself. Modernizing Winwood's sound with more synthesizers and electronic percussion, Arc of a Diver was a platinum-selling hit in the U.S., helped by the hit single "While You See a Chance"; it received highly positive reviews as well, most hailing the freshness of Winwood's newly contemporary sound. The extremely similar 1982 follow-up Talking Back to the Night sounded rushed to some reviewers, and it wasn't nearly as big a hit, with none of its singles reaching the Top 40. Unhappy with the record, Winwood even considered retiring to become a producer (though his brother talked him out of it).

Taking more time to craft his next album, Winwood didn't return until 1986, with an album of slickly crafted, sophisticated pop called Back in the High Life, which was his first '80s album to feature outside session musicians. It was a smash hit, selling over three-million copies and producing Winwood's first number one single in "Higher Love," which also won a Grammy for Record of the Year. In 1987, Virgin offered Winwood a substantial sum of money and successfully pried him away from Island; a remixed version of Talking Back to the Night's "Valerie," featured on the Island-greatest-hits compilation Chronicles, became a Top Ten hit later that year. Winwood's hot streak continued with his first album for Virgin, 1988's Roll With It. The title track became his second number one and his biggest hit ever, and the album topped the charts as well; plus, the smoky ballad "Don't You Know What the Night Can Do?" was featured in a prominent TV ad campaign. Winwood had by now established a large, mostly adult fan base, but that support began to slip with his next album, 1990's Refugees of the Heart. Refugees repeated the slick blue-eyed soul updates of its predecessor, but according to most reviewers it simply wasn't performed with the same passion, save for the lead single "One and Only Man," a collaboration with Traffic mate Jim Capaldi.

Afterward, Winwood continued his pattern of following disappointments with periods of inactivity; he next resurfaced in 1994 as part of a Traffic reunion with Capaldi. Together they released the new album, Far From Home, and toured the world. Winwood subsequently returned to his solo career and spent two years working on Junction Seven, which finally appeared in 1997 and was co-produced by Narada Michael Walden. However, his momentum had stalled, and the album -- which received mixed reviews -- failed to sell well. The following year, Winwood toured with his new project Latin Crossings, a jazz group that also featured Tito Puente and Arturo Sandoval (though they never recorded). He subsequently parted ways with Virgin. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Steve Winwood @ You Tube

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