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Eight Gigs A Week: The Steve Winwood Years - Spencer Davis Group

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  • One of the most eclectic bands of their era
  • Packed selection from the band's back catalogue
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      13.08.2014 13:26
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      • "One of the most eclectic bands of their era"
      • "Packed selection from the band's back catalogue"

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      • None

      Classic soul, blues and pop from one of Birmingham's finest groups

      There are several Spencer Davis Group compilations available, but they were at their artistic as well as commercial peak while they were The Steve Winwood Band in all but name. This 51-track double-CD looks as if it contains the entire output (three albums, various singles and EPs) of what they recorded together up to 1967, and it’s astonishing to think that the multi-talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist was still only 18 when he left them to form his own band Traffic.

      Obviously the highlights here are the five top 20 hits, two of which reached No. 1 and a third No. 2. Any connoisseur of 60s music will recall the classics ‘Keep On Running’ with that sharp fuzz-tone guitar, ‘Somebody Help Me’, and the organ riff-driven ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ and ‘I’m A Man’. The rest of it is divided between blue-eyed soul, and blues, some instrumental and some vocal, a kind of cross between Booker T & the MGs and B.B. King, some skiffle, and even a nod to more commercial pop. These guys were nothing if not eclectic, but like most of their contemporaries, they were reliant mainly on covering songs by others, usually from the American market, although Stevie’s presence on some of the songwriting credits gave an indication of things to come.

      In a short review it’s impossible to give a complete overview of this basket of goodies. All I can do is single out some of the other highlights. ‘Waltz For Lumumba’ is certainly not a waltz, but a four-minute jam built mainly around a bass and organ riff; this, ‘Stevie’s Groove’ and ‘Trampoline’, instrumentals which follows a similar pattern, sound like they were conceived and taped straightaway in the studios, as their attempts to play something in the vein of ‘Green Onions’. The soulful ‘Every Little it Hurts’, ‘I’ll Drown In My Own Tears’, and the evergreen ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ are marvellous ballads, with Stevie’s vocal offset so well by that shimmering organ. ‘Goodbye Stevie’ is a rousing piece of piano boogie, reminiscent of 1920s ragtime numbers like ‘Honky Tonk Train Blues’. There are a few nods to Leadbelly’s skiffle repertoire in ‘This Hammer’ and ‘Midnight Special’, pure blues in Mean Woman Blues’ and ‘Dust My Blues’, as well as their interpretation of Albert King’s ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ (not to be confused with the Roy Orbison favourite), and the more poppy but still likeable ‘Back Into My Life Again’, a song from their final sessions which they did not release at the time because they felt it was too commercial.

      Like Manfred Mann they were one of those bands who revelled in blues, soul and jazz while forced to make some compromises to the pop market in order to sell singles and keep the record company happy. But they made the best of the compromise, and nearly fifty years on most of this stuff sounds pretty timeless.

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Dimples
      2 I Can't Stand It
      3 Jump Back
      4 Here Right Now
      5 Searchin'
      6 Midnight Train
      7 It's Gonna Work Out Fine
      8 My Babe
      9 Kansas City
      10 Every Little Bit Hurts
      11 Sittin' And Thinkin'
      12 I'm Blu