Steve Winwood - Nine Lives

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My kids will never know the satisfaction of
sliding a fingernail along the edge of an album cover, slitting the plastic, and soaking in the "new album" smell. For quite a while, I thought that as went the vinyl, so went that particular enjoyment.

Not so. The "aroma" is from the paperboard used in the album cover, and some artists use it today in their CD cases. Steve Winwood's latest, refreshingly, brings back that pleasant memory.

The first track has a repetitive acoustic blues guitar line, but it sounds...good. Good vocals, crystal clear audio. The second track, "Fly" does much better, with a good tune, strong voice, and music reminiscent of his days at Traffic, including organ and flute. We move quickly to the focal track, "Dirty City," which features Eric Clapton, who appears to do his best work (of late) on other people's songs. It's a mean guitar sound, and perfect for the song.

Eric and Steve played at last year's Crossroads Guitar Festival, covering some Blind Faith songs, and sounded really, really good. I hoped that, in some way, this release would be inspired by that. However, after "Dirty City," the tracks basically groove on a latin percussion section, which is well enough, but each song plays out without a memorable lyric or a hook... and possibly for too long.

It's a shame, really. I saw Winwood in concert in 1992(ish) - possibly the worst concert I've ever attended. The songs were played by the note to their recorded versions, and if you wanted him to say more than "Thank you," you were occasionally rewarded with "very much." Nine Lives does have some life to it, but I'm left feeling he still owes me one.

Rating: 3 Stars

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