After a 20 year career with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and as a solo artist, Steve Winwood finally hit big with this album of consistent quality from start to finish. Throughout, Winwood's high, soulful voice is on good form, and the songs are his most consistently commercial to date - every one being memorable. The Grammy-winning 'Higher love' opens the album, and from then on it's the same excellent standard, with potential hit after hit until the gentle closing ballad 'My love is leaving', with lyrics by former Bonzo Dog Band front-man and occasional Winwood collaborator Viv Stanshall.
The album's sound and style is very different from that of his earlier solo efforts, thanks to factors such as the large session band, the heavy use of percussion, synthesizers and horns, and the powerful overall sound of the recording contributed by the mixing style of Tom Lord-Alge. There are also notable contributions from a number of well-known artists, such as Chaka Khan, Dan Hartman, James Ingram and James Taylor (vocals), John Robinson and Steve Ferrone (drums) and Nile Rodgers and Joe Walsh (guitar). Although synthesizers and drum machines are quite prominent in the recording, they are tempered by Winwood's stylish vocals and Hammond organ playing, and the album certainly does not have a machine-like, soulless sound, but rolls along effortlessly assisted by the complex percussion arrangements. Guitars appear on most tracks, although the use of a synth bass rather than bass guitar does mean that the tracks do not 'flow' quite as naturally as they might have done.
Whilst not wanting to downplay Winwood's other albums (the subsequent 'Roll with it' is also excellent) this record is so consistent that it must be regarded as probably his best so far. Very highly recommended.