Thursday, July 29, 2010
I'm several months late in catching Nine Lives, Steve Winwood's 2008 album, his first in several years. The album opens with a faint echo of Blind Faith, but that could just be a feeling I got because, frankly, that's the only album featuring Steve Winwood that I remember (this, needless to say, is quite unfair to the immensely talented musician). This collection of nine tracks is an overflowing pot of influences (funk, jazz, soul, R&B, Latin), but the track that prompted me to ignore (unfairly, again) the rest of the music was Dirty City. It's a long track and features a catchy groove and a nice riff on the electric guitar. The fun starts near the last minute when a guitar solo takes the fore, while Winwood continues to sing. The solo thus takes the place of a second voice and flourishes of emotionally engaging licks are traded with vocal lines. It took me back to a song several years ago that featured a similar solo, except that solo was a "solo" in the true sense, taking centre stage from an introspective lyric and melody and transporting a good song into a great one. Not surprisingly, it was the same guitarist on both these songs. Good old Slowhand, who had made While My Guitar Gently Weeps all those years ago, returns to produce in a precious few seconds what he hasn't done on his longer recent albums. The guitarist -- nay artist -- seemed to have ceded to the creative aspirations of the singer, collaborator, musical explorer and producer of harmless pop on Back Home or Road to Escondido. But this short burst on Winwood's song puts paid to any fear that Derek had lost it or given it up. That it makes you yearn for more is a testament to its effectiveness. The sting ain't gone.