Category Archives: Steve Winwood

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Night Train” by Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood is someone whom I don’t believe has been covered anywhere on Andresmusictalk as of yet. His musical conception is interesting because of his talent across two spectrum’s.  Winwood is a multi instrumentalist across a broad variety of string and keyboard instruments-as well as drums. At the same end,he also parlayed his talents as a member of bands such as The Spencer Davis Group,Blind Faith and finally Traffic. By the time of Steve Winwood’s solo debut in 1977,the man was already a stand up band leader at least twice over-while still being able to do it all on his own.

The Birmingham,England native began his career playing in his father and brother’s jazz band. And became active on the areas blues scene-his vocals being compared to Ray Charles. So a strong sense of soul always defined his creativity. His second solo album was 1980’s Arc Of A Diver. Much as Stevie Wonder,Prince and Todd Rundgren had done he really exercised his multi instrumental talents here-playing and producing the entire album with only Will Jenning’s co-writing some songs. It re-invented him as a commercial viable artist. And the song that musically expresses this best for me is “Night Train”.

A revving guitar starts up this groove before the percussive synthesizer comes in. After that a bluesy amped up guitar solos directly into the bouncy dance beat of the drums and the very funky bass line that responds to the rhythm in kind. Before the next part of the song starts up,the synth solo that begins the song is accented with a a synthesized string ensemble. Winwood plays a straight blues guitar solo to his vocals along with the synth strings. On the choruses,the melody merely goes into the minor chord. After a rather Brazilian style drum break on the bridge,the song plays out it’s refrains until it fades out.

On a personal level,it still makes me crack up a little bit to remember the first time I ever heard this song. At the age of 11,my parents would set our VCR to record the original Star Trek series for me late at night-commercials and all. One which was constantly repeated was a PSA for the local ABC affiliate about how advertising on TV worked. I loved the funky jam playing in the back-round. Only a decade later when I purchased the Modile Fidelity edition of Arc Of A Diver did I realize the song from that commercial was “Night Train”. Really shows you how funky instrumental music is dismissed as muzak sometimes.

One thing I’ve noticed about the most successful of multi instrumentalists is the level they utilize their talents to express their full abilities. Of course one has to be instrumentally humble in the more democratic environment of bands. On this song,Winwood brings together all of his musical influences into the synth pop of the early 80’s. The song itself is structured closely to the 12 bar blues. Still the rhythmic synthesizer and general keyboard vibe is straight out of the disco/funk sound of the late 70’s. So the end result comes out as a rock musician making his own type of uptempo boogie funk record in the end.

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Filed under 1980's, Arc Of A Diver, blues funk, Boogie Funk, drums, Funk Bass, lead guitar, multi instrumentalists, Steve Winwood, synth funk, synthesizer, Will Jennings

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 11/1/2014: ‘Dirty Work’ by The Rolling Stones

Dirty Work

I’ve never heard a Rolling Stones album receive more overall flack than this album over the years. It always seemed that whenever they tried something that went beyond their “classic rock” style after the mid 1970’s the rock critics had their red pens at the ready to check mark any culturally disagreeable elements,by their standards anyway. And the mid 80’s was an enormous battlefield for that. The rawness of classic rock was being replaced by slicker production due mainly to technological progress and as with all things some didn’t get into that change. But for all the internal discord (including Keith Richards sporting “Who The $&#! Is Mick Jagger?” t-shirts in public) it’s a credit to this band that they were able to keep up with all the changes in the rock scene with a lot more dignity than one would give them credit for.
Luckily for any Stones fan whose eased past this with caution over the years this album contains primarily one type of music: ROCK,ROCK AND MORE ROCK! “One Hit”,”Fight”,”Hold Back”,the title track and “Had It With You” are all gritty,riff heavy rockers of a similar type that the Stones had started to run into the ground only a few years before but the hot production and yes a few of the loud mid 80’s drum effects give them a new flavor slightly different from the older Stones rockers. Many complain that Mick’s voice is nothing but abrasive on this album but it’s a style he often used so his constant growling of the vocals works here. A few additional highlights are the poppy shuffle of “Winning Ugly” and of course “Harlem Shuffle”,a retro Memphis/Wilson Picket Pickett type soul send up that comes off as a bit of a revved up version of Steve Winwood’s later Roll With It. There’s also “Back To Zero”,a NASTY funk jam with some heavy JB style rhythm guitar and sound pointed use of bass synth as accents.

The album includes another dub type tune in “Too Rude” and includes with the Keith’s heartland rock-style ballad “Sleep Tonight,which actually revvs it up quite a lot towards the middle and includes some wonderfully subtle moments. Believe it or not this album is actually comparatively light on mid 80’s production cliches such as gated drums and excessively loud guitars and synthesizers. It is a cconsistentlymore modern style in terms of the overall production of sound than earlier albums that had a garagier flavor on that end of things. All the same it was something you could here coming (in certain places) on their previous album Undercover. But it certainly isn’t as aggressively contemporary as Mick Jagger’s (in my opinion) equally underrated solo debut She’s the Boss and when it rocks it rocks hard and when it’s funky it’s some of the tightest,nastiest grooves they ever put on record!

Originally posted on April 30th,2011

Link to original review here*




Filed under 1980's, Funk, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, rock 'n' roll, Rolling Stones, Soul, Steve Winwood