Picks and Pans Review: Back in the High Life

updated 09/08/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/08/1986 01:00AM

Steve Winwood

Like his countryman and former bandmate Eric Clapton, Winwood is a master of a peculiarly entrancing combination of American blues and English rock. It's an earthy sound that shows signs of more than a minimal intelligence, yet never seems pretentious. Winwood is less of a gloomy cuss than Clapton (a tune called My Love's Leavin' notwithstanding). The title cut of this nicely varied, gritty LP incorporates some of the hypnotic abandon of West African highlife music (though Winwood says that similarity is coincidental). James Taylor's distinctive harmony vocal on that song provides an effectively dry balance to Winwood's effusive lead. Joe Walsh co-wrote the clever Split Decision with Winwood: "Half of me is certain, the other isn't sure/ One half has the symptom, the other has the cure." Make that slightly less of a gloomy cuss. (Island)

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