Steve Winwood calls the tunes in a live spectacular

 Steve Winwood: Greatest Hits Live

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Whenever historians chronicle the evolution of British music, Steve Winwood’s name is routinely overlooked.

The unassuming Birmingham singer and keyboardist has often been overshadowed by bandmates such as Eric Clapton, but his long career is well worth celebrating in its own right.

From its roots in Sixties beat to the Stateside superstardom he enjoyed in the Eighties, Winwood’s tale mirrors that of British rock itself, even though he wisely avoided the excesses that took such a toll on many of his peers.

Likely lad: Steve Winwood in 1969 with Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton in the 'supergroup Blind Faith. The band's songs Can't Find My Way Home and Had To Cry Today appear on the live album

Likely lad: Steve Winwood in 1969 with Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton in the 'supergroup Blind Faith. The band's songs Can't Find My Way Home and Had To Cry Today appear on the live album

This impeccably played double live album, out today, is a timely reminder of both his songwriting talent and an enduring voice that has lost little of its sunny, soulful edge.

‘I’ve recorded every show for many years, so this evokes many memories,’ says the singer, 69, of his first live solo effort, out on CD (£13) and as a four-disc vinyl package (£30).

Presenting assured new arrangements of songs by the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith, plus solo hits, this offers a glimpse into a personal archive assembled from different concerts across the years.

Evoking memories: The live album is out on CD (£13) and as a four-disc vinyl package (£30)

Evoking memories: The live album is out on CD (£13) and as a four-disc vinyl package (£30)

It opens by acknowledging the Spencer Davis Group, the West Midlands rhythm and blues band that Winwood joined as a teenage prodigy of 15.

That band’s I’m A Man gets a loose, funky makeover on which his Hammond organ jostles with guitarist José Neto. Another single Gimme Some Lovin’ is also featured on the album. It was during 1967’s fabled summer of love that Winwood really made his mark, though.

Still only 18, he formed Traffic and embraced psychedelic pop before graduating to a sophisticated fusion of folk-rock, jazz, soul and Latin music — and he revisits all those styles here. In keeping with the era’s hippie ethos, Traffic were one of the first groups to flee city life and ‘get it together in the country’.

Their debut album, Mr Fantasy, was recorded in a candle-lit cottage without electricity in the Oxfordshire village of Aston Tirrold, and one of its key songs, Dear Mr Fantasy, ebbs and flows

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