Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Wincraft Music/Thirty Tigers WM002
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Steve Winwood’s tenth solo album is a two-CD collection of live performances by his current band that reaches back through a career that began in 1963, when he joined the Spencer Davis Group at age 15. Four years later he cofounded Traffic, and in 1977 went on to a highly successful solo career. Greatest Hits Live touches on all phases of his years in music, and brings new, fresh takes to his best-known songs.

Most of the players on these 23 tracks have been with Winwood since About Time (2003), his eighth solo album. About Time showed a distinct Latin jazz influence, and the group brings that sound to its arrangement of “I’m a Man,” which Winwood first recorded in 1966, with Spencer Davis. He plays a spirited Hammond B3 solo in the opening, with Edson “Cafe” Da Silva’s percussion driving the band and José Neto’s terrific rhythm guitar adding a funky undercurrent. Winwood’s voice strains just a little on some of the high notes, but it gives his performance more gravitas.

Greatest Hits Live

Two of Winwood’s most popular songs are from his time with the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith. Da Silva’s congas add rhythmic texture to “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and Winwood’s singing has a stronger rhythm-and-blues feel than in the original recording from 1969. Winwood picks up the guitar for “Had to Cry Today” and plays a fluid, bluesy solo. He and Neto play in tandem in the track’s closing minutes, weaving a complex fabric of notes that build in intensity.

Many of the tracks on Greatest Hits Live are long versions of Winwood songs, with lots of room for improvisation. “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” has always been a song to stretch out in, and in this version Neto and Da Silva establish a bossa nova groove that saxophonist Paul Booth and Neto open up with strong, engaging solos. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” is close to Traffic’s original, with a long and powerfully gritty guitar solo from Winwood. “Rainmaker,” “40,000 Headmen,” and other Traffic tunes don’t veer far from their familiar sound, but are successfully and excitingly expanded on.

Winwood generously shares the spotlight with the other musicians in his band, in arrangements that reinvigorate his songs. Neto gets ample solo space in “While You See a Chance” and “Freedom Overspill,” while Paul Booth is featured on sax and flute throughout. Lengthy versions of “Back in the High Life Again” and “Higher Love” don’t lag because these players bring to them so many good ideas. Winwood’s mandolin solo in “Back in the High Life Again” gives the performance a pastoral feel, and Neto’s fluid rhythm guitar in “Higher Love” brings to that song a more swinging rhythm than it had in the original recording.

Greatest Hits Live

Winwood is also adept at knitting together the various stages of his music in a way that shows the continuity of his musical vision. “Back in the High Life Again” sits comfortably next to “Empty Pages” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” “Gimme Some Lovin’” is enlivened by a Hammond B3 solo that underlines the song’s timelessness. Richard Bailey on drums joins Edson Da Silva in expanding the rhythmic palette of Winwood’s songs without altering them beyond recognition.

The recordings, from Winwood’s personal collection, could have done with a bit less compression and a better sense of the spaces where the music was performed. But Winwood is in good voice throughout, and the playing is consistently exciting. Whether or not there will be any new Winwood hits, Greatest Hits Live is the work of a vital musician still worth hearing.

. . . Joseph Taylor