Steve Winwood: Greatest Hits Live


Steve Winwood
Greatest Hits Live
(Wincraft Records)

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If there was a Mt. Rushmore for most versatile musicians, Steve Winwood’s face would be on it. Winwood has been making music since he was 14, starting as an R &B/pop singer with Spencer Davis, leading the legendary rock/psyche/jazz group, Traffic, then somehow surviving the super group Blind Faith, before attaining stardom as a solo artist. Winwood’s latest solo effort, the 23-track Greatest Hits Live, is a career-spanning compendium of classic tunes.

Winwood reached an apex in Traffic, working with drummer/lyricist Jim Capaldi, and flutist/sax player/keyboardist Chris Wood, but his current band has successfully modernized Traffic’s old English sound, infusing it with breezy Latin influences.

Winwood’s choirboy voice is still intact. He remains the master of Hammond Organ (playing the bass notes with his feet!) and is an underrated guitarist. His updated versions of Traffic’s bouncy, “Empty Pages” and Spencer Davis’ kinetic, “I’m a Man” rival the originals.

One surprise is his muscular rendering of Buddy Miles’ signature tune, “Them Changes.” Blind Faith’s immortal ballad, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” is still a placid, cathartic gem. While not on par with Traffic’s 1971 manic live version (driven by Jim Gordon’s herculean drumming) the new rendition of “Medicated Goo” still percolates with precision. Chris Wood’s haunting flute solos are missed, but Paul Booth’s prominent passages, and the band’s driving rhythm give the Traffic standards “Pearly Queen” and “40,000 Headmen” new life.

This well-produced superbly performed double CD proves that 50 years later, Steve Winwood is still a joy to listen to and a musical force to be reckoned with.

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