Steve Winwood

About Time

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Steve Winwood took an extended break after the ignoble flop of 1997's Junction Seven, resurfacing on his own indie label Wincraft six years later with About Time. Where his last major-label effort fell prey to many of the trappings of a veteran artist gunning for the charts one last time -- an overly slick Narada Michael Walden production, cameos from Des'ree and Lenny Kravitz, songs that were too slick and unmemorable -- About Time finds Winwood scaling back things considerably, keeping himself to a trio featuring him on a Hammond organ, drummer Walfredo Reyes, Jr., and guitarist José Piresde Almeida Neto. Occasionally, congas and timbales and other percussion flesh out the rhythm, while Karl Denson plays flute or saxophone elsewhere, but these are subtle additions to a loose, laid-back, intimate album that harks back to Traffic, even if it is never as freewheeling or unpredictable as that band. Winwood's ambitions with About Time are pretty modest, actually -- to cut R&B-based tunes that bring in jazz and Latin influences and give everybody the chance to jam. Though they meander a bit too much at times, the jams are warm and appealing, and while the songs are a little indistinct, the feel of the music is good, which counts for a lot, since the last two slick solo albums felt distant (surely a byproduct of records that were designed to be Roll with It, Pt. 2). If Winwood's voice is now a little rough (which comes as a surprise), it nevertheless fits the scaled-down, relaxed atmosphere. And if individual songs aren't necessarily memorable, they don't necessarily need to be -- the feel is the thing here, and while it isn't first-rate Steve Winwood, it does feel like a welcome update from an old friend, which, after several years of waiting and several uneven records, is enough.

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