A long time ago, Steve Winwood was high on my list of favorite artists, back in the days when he was milking that Yamaha DX7 sound for all it was worth – and I loved it, frankly. I was a bit let down when he followed up great albums like Arc Of A Diver and Talking Back To The Night with a long period of silence, and then the mellowed-out Back In The High Life, and then another long hiatus after which he took a head-first plunge into low-tech rock with Roll With It. About Time is a minor letdown to the 80s Winwood fan in me, in that it continues along that path. In retrospect, and having learned a lot more about Winwood’s background since my teenage years, I realize that low-tech rock is what the man’s all about, and perhaps what he’s best at. And on that level, I can enjoy About Time quite a lot.
This time around, instead of trying to recapture his electric-organ-virtuoso Spencer Davis Group days, Steve Winwood is leaning on a sparser, bluesier sound. Every song on About Time sounds like a tune that evolved organically from a loose jam session – and generally, if you’re listening to something with a blues-based sound, that can’t help but be a good thing. And while synthesizers have come and gone out of fashion with him, Winwood still has a full command of his most powerful voice – he still has one of the most distinctive, effortless-sounding voices in rock music. He never sounds like he’s straining to hit a note, and he shows no sign of having written his material around a limited range.
“Cigano” is easily one of the album’s standout tracks, but the show-stealers here are two slow-bake numbers, “Silvia” and most especially “Horizon”, which is one of the best songs Winwood has ever done, hands-down. Now, one byproduct of the easy, bluesy style of most of About Time‘s tracks is that it can fade into the background a bit – even, I’ve found, if you’re listening on headphones. But those standout tracks (and your mileage may vary one which songs are the best on the CD) make it worthwhile. You’ll know which ones you like when you like ’em.
It’s a good album, and it’s good to hear Steve Winwood getting back into the swing of things. I wouldn’t kick him in the shins for giving us a great pop song like he used to, but songs like “Horizon” are timeless and impossible to pigeonhole – and I’ll gladly take that too.
- Different Light (6:36)
- Cigano (For The Gypsies) (6:21)
- Final Hour (5:36)
- Why Can’t We Live Together? (6:39)
- Domingo Morning (5:07)
- Now That You’re Alive (5:29)
- Bully (5:40)
- Phoenix Rising (7:27)
- Horizon (4:31)
- Walking On (4:55)
- Silvia (Who Is She?) (11:28)
Released by: Wincraft Music
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 69:51