Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Phil Collins

The A-Z of progressive rock

It was meant to have ended with punk. But the much-maligned musical genre, with its protracted guitar solos and pretentious album titles, is back. So do you know your Atomic Rooster from Van Der Graaf Generator? Let Jonathan Brown be your guide

Album: Steve Winwood, Nine Lives (Columbia)

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.

Cultural Life: Marcelo Alvarez, opera singer


I am studying my contractual rights as an opera singer, so I am reading a lot of legal books, covering all of Europe. I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I've always been interested in philosophical and religious themes in books, and I studied these subjects at university. I enjoyed the way the author put Mary Magdalene back in the spotlight because the importance of the role of women in the Church is often ignored.