Nine Lives continues in the vein of 2003's About Time, with Steve Winwood still mining a catalogue of bland homilies regarding such things as hope, faith and persistence for songs such as "I'm Not Drowning", "Fly" and "We're All Looking".
More happily, the album also extends his association with the jazz guitarist José Pires de Almeida Neto, whose neat, interior-sprung figures furnish the hooks to many of these songs, lending a cyclical, desert-blues feel to "I'm Not Drowning", a Pablo-style soukous tinge to "Hungry Man", and a samba-pop flavour to "Secrets" and "At Times We Do Forget". Lyrically, Winwood is more effective on the dystopian social unease in pieces such as "Hungry Man" and "Dirty City", but the album's too awash in new-age blather: the effect is to skew the arrangements too much towards dinner-party blue-eyed soul, somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, particularly when the flimsy, fusion-lite sax appears. He can still deliver even the limpest of lines with compelling conviction, for all that.
Pick of the album:'I'm Not Drowning', 'Hungry Man', 'Secrets'