Personnel: Steve Winwood (vocals, guitar, organ); Paul Booth (whistling, flute, saxophone); Eric Clapton, Jose Pires de Almeida Neto, Tim Cansfield (guitar); Richard Bailey (drums); Karl Van Den Bossche (percussion).
Audio Mixer: James Towler.
Recording information: Wincraft Studios, England.
Photographers: Sam Erickson; Juan Pont Lezica.
After more than 40 years of making music, and over 30 as a solo artist, former Spencer Davis Group/Traffic singer Steve Winwood truly seems to have 9 LIVES, sounding as vital as ever on his ninth solo outing. Picking up on the Latin inflections of the preceding ABOUT TIME, percolating congas weave their way through most of the album, adding an insistent pulse. Unsurprisingly, the atmospheric blues-rocker "Dirty City," featuring an Eric Clapton guest appearance, garnered the most attention, but there are plenty of other pleasures here.
The jazzy soprano sax that floats over the congas and acoustic guitar on "Fly," and the floating textures of "Raging Sea," are evocative of Winwood's days in Traffic, while the invigorating organ tabs of "We're All Looking" bear a link to his Spencer Davis Group work. Throughout the album, churning, tension-filled riffs and syncopated Afro-Cuban rhythms provide an urgent undercurrent, proving that this elder statesman is no mere bloated classic-rocker.
Uncut (p.90) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "NINE LIVES revisits the jam-based work of Traffic...and that's good news, because Winwood remains at his most compelling in immediate settings."
Q (Magazine) (p.148) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "True to form, his first album in five years is a very musicianly affair..."
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