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Album: Steve Winwood

About Time, Sanctuary

His first album in six years finds Steve Winwood striking out in the direction of Latin America, using a core unit of jazz guitarist Jose Pires de Almeida Neto and the former Santana drummer Walfredo Reyes Jnr alongside his own Hammond organ to create a series of infectious Latin-flavoured grooves. It's the first time in 27 years that he's recorded without the usual loops and click-tracks, preferring instead to capture the energy of three musicians live in the studio, sparking off each other. And for the most part, the strategy works well: the buoyancy of Neto's lovely, light rhythm guitar complements Winwood's surging R&B organ beautifully, adding a touch of Brazilian Tropicalismo to tracks like "Domingo Morning" and "Different Light". And when called upon to solo, Neto proves equally adept at both the Santana-esque flurries of "Cigano" and the more relaxed, elegant stylings employed on "Why Can't We Live Together?", the Timmy Thomas song here treated to a loping Latin makeover. As always, Winwood's in fine voice, applying himself here to songs which seek to discard the problems and presumptions of the past. Some appear to be rehab hymns, the singer pleading for a beloved friend to kick his habit in "Now that You're Alive", and musing in "Walking On" about the prospect of "A day in a life with another chance/ To see what yet has to be seen/ Placing one foot in front of the other". The best track is the opener, "Different Light", a reflection upon the way attitudes change over time. Sadly, it's counterbalanced at the end of the album by the worst track, a leaden ode to "Silvia" that drags on for more than 11 minutes, if you let it.