Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Steve Winwood, recently named one of Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time," will ring in the New Year with a series of East Coast concert performances in January. Winwood's upcoming East Coast concert dates mark the first U.S. headline tour since 2007 for the legendary rock superstar, who last toured the states with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in the summer of 2008. Winwood is currently enjoying the success of his most recent album, Nine Lives, which entered the Billboard 200 at #12 last May, bringing the artist his highest chart debut, and best first week's sales, of the SoundScan era. Eric Clapton, Winwood's former bandmate in Blind Faith, rock's original supergroup," lent his signature guitar work to Dirty City, the album's first single, which held the #1 added single spot for three weeks in a row and peaked at the overall #2 spot on AAA Radio.
Nine Lives has also earned Winwood some of the most laudatory press of his stellar career:
The miracle of Steve Winwood's voice in the Sixties, on his churning R&B hits with the Spencer Davis Group and in the bucolic psychedelia of the first Traffic records, was that a white English teenager could sound so black and adult, wrote Rolling Stone's David Frick. The wonder of ... his new album, is that Winwood, almost 60, sings the fighting words with the ecstatic force of his youth. His voice is a deeper, huskier shade of British blues, but it's consistent in its strength and optimism all over Nine Lives."
Winwood's bluesy, soulful voice has lost none of its power," raved Paste magazine's Andy Whitman, praising Nine Lives as ...a warm, expansive slow burner of an album, and a welcome return to classic form."
Winwood's voice retains its choirboy resonance and spiraling wind power throughout the disk. His trademark Hammond B3 organ exudes tenderness and fire, observed Jim Farber in the New York Daily News noting that Nine Lives offered"... an amiable and engaging example of a master back in his element."
Released April 29, 2008, Nine Lives is the first full-length Steve Winwood studio album since the artist released About Time on his own independent label, Wincraft, in 2003.
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 which began in 1957, when, at the age of 9, he played guitar in his father's band in Birmingham, England.
Nine Lives arrived in the wake of a transcendent live collaboration between Winwood and Clapton at the Chicago Crossroads Guitar Festival in July 2007. The pair's staggering on-stage chemistry in Chicago led to three historic Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton concerts at New York's fabled Madison Square Garden in February 2008. All three of Winwood's MSG shows with Clapton sold-out within minutes.
Steve Winwood has had a most successful solo career for over a quarter century, beginning in 1981 with Arc of A Diver through 2003's About Time, wrote Doug Collette in Glide magazine (April 25, 2008). Yet no album has so accurately reflected his versatile talents or vividly echoed the pinnacles of his past as Nine Lives."
Winwood (who turned 60 on May 12, 2008) was perhaps the youngest member of the original British pop music invasion of the mid-1960s. A prodigious guitarist and keyboard player in the Birmingham R&B scene by his mid-teens, Winwood cut his musical chops as a back-up musician for an impressive array of American rock & roll and blues pioneers - including Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley - during their UK tours.
In 1962, Steve and his older brother, Muff Winwood, began playing with Spencer Davis and drummer Pete York in The Rhythm & Blues Quartet, an ensemble which would eventually morph into the Spencer Davis Group. An intensely powerful and emotional vocalist and formidable songwriter, Steve Winwood launched an enormously influential blue-eyed soul" movement with hits like Keep On Runnin', Somebody Help Me, and, especially, the massively successful pop-soul anthem, Gimme Some Lovin'." Originally released in 1966, Gimme Some Lovin'" entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996. Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 to form the groundbreaking jazz-rock ensemble Traffic.
In 1966, as Gimme Some Lovin'" transformed the pop landscape, the 18-year-old Steve Winwood entered into his first collaboration with Eric Clapton, recording three songs - Steppin' Out, Crossroads, and I Want To Know" - as the Powerhouse (a group which also included future Cream bassist Jack Bruce). Winwood and Clapton would join forces again in 1969 to create Blind Faith, one of pop music's first bona fide supergroups, with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Rick Grech.
Following the break-up of Traffic in 1974 (they would reform and successfully tour in the 1990s), Steve Winwood launched a successful solo career which reached an apogee in the mid-1980s with the release of four classic albums in a row: Arc of a Diver (1981, platinum); Talking Back To The Night (1982); Back In The High Life (1986, 3x platinum), which featured the #1 smash, Higher Love, which earned Winwood a trio of Grammys including Record of the Year"; and the #1 Billboard chart-topping Roll With It" (1988, 2x platinum).
Through his unparalleled five-plus decades career, Steve Winwood has remained an in-demand session player, contributing his signature sound to an amazing variety of projects for artists including Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland), Joe Cocker (With A Little Help From My Friends), Leon Russell (Leon Russell), Lou Reed (Berlin), George Harrison (Dark Horse, George Harrison), Toots & the Maytals (Reggae Got Soul), Marianne Faithfull (Dangerous Acquaintances), David Gilmour (About Face), Tina Turner (Break Every Rule), Billy Joel (The Bridge), James Brown (Gravity), Rosanne Cash (King's Record Shop), Jimmy Buffett (Hot Water), Phil Collins (But Seriously), Etta James (Right Time), Paul Weller (Stanley Road), and Christina Aguilera (Back To Basics), among many others.
The private Steve Winwood is an outdoorsman who loves hiking and walking, and a dedicated family man who spends his Sundays playing the organ and singing in his church choir.
With Nine Lives and his upcoming concert tour, Steve Winwood opens up his world and gives his fans, old and new, a cornucopia of reasons to celebrate the life and music of this ageless, and still prodigious, musical treasure.