Album: Steve Winwood, Nine Lives (Sony BMG)

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The Independent Culture

No one epitomises the enmansioned vocational rock muso of long, worthy standing more thoroughly than Winwood: he has been squelching up the path to his private studio of a morning for more years than seem plausible.

Funny to think he was once a kid. Like its 2003 predecessor, 'Nine Lives' is built around simple, evocative borrowings from the structures of blues, soul and Latin music: gently rocking stuff you can sit on. There are plenty of things to be irritated by, from soupy soprano sax fills to Winwood's waffly-epic lyric style, but an equal number of ways to be rocked gently to your soul.

Pick of the Album: 'Fly', for a slice of sunshiney bongo soul

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