Tag Archives: Steve Winwood

Going shopping?

As Thanksgiving draws near, I’m thankful for the handful of record and marketing companies who’ve seen fit to share tunes with AM, Then FM over the course of this year.

Their generosity and their willingness to work with music blogs make the following recommendations possible. These are things I’ve heard and liked, and things you might like.

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AC/DC: “Black Ice,” the new record, and “No Bull: The Director’s Cut,” a live concert DVD.

Neither breaks any new ground, but if you like AC/DC, you’ll like these. I put “Black Ice” to the usual Car Test, spinning it several times as I was driving. None of the songs struck me as being great, and its 15 songs are at least five too many, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The following cut most of all, I think.

“Spoilin’ For A Fight,” AC/DC. from “Black Ice,” 2008.

It really made me want to see them again. AC/DC is best experienced live. “No Bull” gives that a go, with a July 1996 show set against the spectacular backdrop of the Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas in Madrid. This DVD will give you a taste of what an AC/DC show is like, but you really have to be there. The venue is the best thing about this DVD. The production and sound quality leave a bit to be desired.

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Sammy Hagar: “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” the new record.

As I wrote a year ago, Hagar is an acquired taste, but I’ve really come to dig his shows. After listening to this record, I’d really rather see him live. This records is like one of Hagar’s shows — not for everyone, but full of energy, full of attitude, with some new stuff, some old stuff and even a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right To Party.” Which, of course, is better heard live.

The following cut has a nice, laid-back vibe to it. The Wabos sing it as they warm up for shows. That’s his bassist, Mona, on the harmonies.

“When The Sun Don’t Shine,” Sammy Hagar, from “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” 2008.

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Lindsey Buckingham: “Gift of Screws,” his latest record.

As I wrote last month, I wasn’t all that familiar with Buckingham as a solo artist, but this one passed the Car Test with flying colors.

“Love Runs Deeper,” Lindsey Buckingham, from “Gift of Screws,” 2008. Worth another listen. Buckingham wrote it with his wife, Kristen.

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Steve Winwood: “Nine Lives,” his latest record.

I am a bit more familiar with Winwood as a solo artist. As I wrote earlier this year, this one also passed the Car Test with flying colors.

“We’re All Looking,” Steve Winwood, from “Nine Lives,” 2008. Lots of nice Hammond organ on this one.

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Alan Wilkis: “Babies Dream Big,” his debut record.

AM, Then FM is mostly about rediscovering veteran artists rather than discovering new indie artists. However, we were part of the first wave of good buzz about this Brooklyn artist when we interviewed him earlier this year. Wilkis takes all kinds of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s influences, throws them in the blender and creates something new, yet it still sounds familiar. He plays almost everything himself and does all the vocals.

“I Love The Way,” Alan Wilkis, from “Babies Dream Big,” 2008. A little blue-eyed soul, anyone?

We exchanged e-mails earlier today, and Alan says he’s “working a lot these days, pluggin’ away on a new EP. Hopefully going to be six songs, hopefully ready in the next two months.” Looking forward to it.

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The Boxing Lesson: “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” its first full-length record.

If you wondered whether anyone still makes music to get stoned to, the answer is yes. This Austin, Texas-based band does the job quite nicely. Heavy, moody, dreamy.

“Muerta,” The Boxing Lesson, from “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” 2008.

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Filed under November 2008, Sounds

The low spark of the high life

Today brought a rainy, foggy day to our corner of Wisconsin. I met a friend for lunch in Appleton, a half-hour south, and that trip provided a perfect opportunity to listen to Steve Winwood’s new album.

After being teased with a couple of cuts a couple of months ago, the CD finally arrived in the mail the other day. It certainly was worth the wait.

As I listened to the nine cuts on “Nine Lives,” I was struck by their timeless elegance. It’s classic Winwood. Its tunes could have been among his ’70s output with Traffic or his ’80s solo work.

This is not a guy trying to reinvent himself or trying to keep up with what the kids are listening to. This is a mature artist — Winwood turns 60 later this month — secure in himself and his work, taking the natural next step.

You’ll hear Winwood’s high tenor and Hammond B-3 organ on every cut, seemingly not aged a day. He sets the tone and Karl Vanden Bossche’s terrific world-beat percussion drives it along.

“Raging Sea” and “Secrets,” both from “Nine Lives,” Steve Winwood, 2008.

“Raging Sea” is a song of separation from a loved one and hopes for being reunited. “Secrets” is lighter, if you can say that about a song about a spy or a gun dealer.

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds

Nine lives, indeed

In the mail the other day was a note asking, essentially, “Will you help us spread the word about a new album by Steve Winwood?”

Sure, why not? I’ve long enjoyed Winwood’s work, especially with Traffic in the ’70s and then as a solo performer. It’s elegant, graceful, thoughtful and intelligent, then and now.

Winwood’s new album, due out April 29, is “Nine Lives.” The single they’ve released to promote it is “Dirty City,” on which old pal Eric Clapton joins Winwood.

That’s no coincidence, because Winwood and Clapton are playing three sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden next week. Almost 40 years ago, they played there with Blind Faith. It was opening night of the band’s one and only tour — July 12, 1969.

It’s difficult to assess an entire album on the basis of one cut, but “Dirty City” shows promise.

The sounds are familiar — Winwood’s voice soaring over his Hammond B-3 organ, plenty of laid-back percussion and, of course, Clapton’s guitar providing a sharp edge where needed. I’d have to agree with a comment posted on iTunes and say this cut sounds more like Traffic than Winwood’s solo work. Whether the other cuts do, I can’t say.

The other eight cuts on the album: “I’m Not Drowning,” “Fly,” “Raging Sea,” “We’re All Looking,” “Hungry Man,” “Secrets,” “At Times We Do Forget” and “Other Shore.”

Here’s how the publicists describe them:

“Each of the nine tracks on the aptly-titled ‘Nine Lives’ paints a musical portrait of spiritual transformation as Winwood continues the exploration of soul, rock, blues and world music.”

It’s been five years since Winwood last released an album. He’s touring to support “Nine Lives,” so you’ll have a chance to see him if you’re so inclined. Winwood is opening all summer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on a tour that begins May 31 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But enough talk. Listen and decide for yourself.

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“Dirty City,” Steve Winwood, from “Nine Lives,” 2008.

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Filed under February 2008, Sounds

On the verge of vacation

Just one more night of work and I’ll be on vacation for nine glorious days.

We’re not going anywhere, but I am looking forward to a decent week of workouts. Each September, I skate in the NorthShore Inline Marathon, 26.2 miles from Two Harbors, Minnesota, to Duluth, Minnesota, along the shore of Lake Superior. A nasty bout with gout has set back my training, so I have to get after it.

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On Sunday night, we’re heading out to the ballpark. Frank Howard, a slugger for the Washington Senators in the ’60s and one of my favorite baseball players, will be in town to sign autographs. He played here in the minors and lived here in the winter, even after he retired as a player.

Big Frank owned a bar here in the early ’80s. It was a little place, tucked away in the basement of a restaurant in a neighborhood shopping center that also had a grocery store, liquor store and drug store.

Only the restaurant is left now, but I vividly remember a few nights at Frank Howard’s Lounge. Once in a while, the big man — 6-foot-7, 250 pounds — would be there. Sportswriters of the time called him the Gentle Giant, and he was, a genuinely nice man.

I don’t associate any particular tunes with those nights at Frank Howard’s Lounge. If there was a jukebox, it probably had more Sinatra than singles. Just that kind of vibe to the place.

Here, however, is a tune from that time. Yeah, it was a hit, and you may have heard it enough, but I’ve always liked it.

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“While You See A Chance,” Steve Winwood, from “Arc Of A Diver,” 1981.

Five years later, Winwood came out with this tune. I like it, too, especially this cover.

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“Back In The High Life Again,” Warren Zevon, from “Life’ll Kill Ya,” 2000.

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Filed under June 2007, Sounds