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🌵 Desert Sessions 🌵 2.0: Cheap Used Records (AKA The Duplicates) – Steve Winwood

November 22, 2022
Phoenix Duplicates

As I mentioned in my last post, early this year my wife and I were snowbirds from Minnesota wintering in Phoenix January through May 2022. We started with an empty house – in fact our first night in Phoenix we slept on the floor. Over the five months we accumulated the basics (including a stereo).

For our second winter I grabbed my duplicate LPs from the Minneapolis mothership and took them south to help seed the Desert Sessions.

Minneapolis Mothership

I have more duplicates than a person should have. I had this idea that I would sell used records as a retirement hobby and over the last few years whenever I was at a record store or show I would pick up titles that appealed to me if they were cheap (like a dollar or two) and in decent shape. I ended up concluding that selling my collection was about as appealing as selling my body parts. Now I am glad I have all these duplicates as a nice little start to a record collection in Phoenix.

For this year’s season (Desert Sessions 2.0) I am going to review some of those duplicates.

First on deck is Steve Winwood. Between 1977 (Steve Winwood) and 1988 (Roll With It) Winwood released five LPs and they are all top notch. I have four of those five titles in the duplicates in Phoenix. I will do a brief review of each off them.

Winwood was a big enough star that there were a lot of used albums in circulation, but he doesn’t have the legacy cool factor – so his albums are easy to find cheap. The four covered here were each acquired for a buck or two.

Steve Winwood (1977)

I did not experience this album in real time. I came to it after the success of Back In The High Life (the tag on the cover this album suggests I picked it up in 1988). The album did not resonate with me back when I acquired it, but now it sounds fantastic. It sounds like a pop version of Traffic (Winwood’s previous band that had broken up three years earlier). Although it does not have any hits, it clearly foreshadows the mega success he would have a few years down the line.

The album is funky, has a singer songwriter vibe and at times is jazzy (improvisational in the way current day jam bands are). Winwood’s command of keyboards reminds me of Stevie Wonder – not that he sounds like Wonder – but that he coaxes a signature sound out of them that sounds natural, even on synths. It never sounds dated or gimmicky. There are synth sounds on this LP that Winwood was developing that he would later master to great pop effect.

Duplicate for the 🌵 Sessions
Arc Of A Diver (1980)

Arc Of A Diver is where Winwood strikes gold. He is able to perfect the experiments of the last album intro pop perfection. He has his first solo hit, “While You See a Chance” (number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100). The album got to number 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Arc Of A Diver established him as a commercially viable act. I bought this album after it became a hit, so I can’t claim to be an early adopter.

Duplicate for the 🌵 Sessions
Talking Back To The Night (1982)

After the commercial and critical success of Arc Of A Diver, Talking Back To The Night was a commercial flop. I am not sure why it flopped. To me it is nearly as good as Arc Of A Diver and has a legitimate single in “Valerie” which eventually became a top 10 hit on a greatest hits package after the success of Back In The High Life. Sometimes pop success is merely timing.

It should be noted that Arc Of A Diver and Talking Back To The Night are basically Winwood as a one man band. He plays all the instruments and manages the production. Most of the songs on both albums are co-written with Winwood by Will Jennings. This album is a bit harder to find and often over priced.

Duplicate for the 🌵 Sessions
Back In The High Life (1986)

It all came together in 1986 with Back In The High Life – Winwood had a mega hit album: triple platinum, three Grammys, five hit singles ( “Higher Love” a number one, “Freedom Overspill,” “Back in the High Life Again,” “The Finer Things,” and “Split Decision”). I bought this in real time (via the CD medium – the vinyl version is a recent purchase) and played it to death. It has never gotten old for me. It sounds as fresh to me now as it did nearly four decades ago. This is a solid album: five of eight tracks were hits and the other three are good too. If I had a top 100 album list it would be on it.

Everything that Winwood had been perfecting on the last three albums reached absolute pop perfection on Back In The High Life.

Duplicate for the 🌵 Sessions

I suspect I will be listening to these albums a lot this winter. Listening intensely to Winwood I have been thinking a lot about his voice. It has limited range, but it is expressive and soulful. It reminds me of a muted trumpet.


From → Music Reviews

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