Sunday, February 10, 2008

Steve Winwood: Dear Mr Fantasy

The other day I wrote that I am coming round to the idea that Steve Winwood is the greatest genius British pop has produced.

A strong claim, but is there anyone left from the British Invasion generation of the 1960s - albeit that Winwood was its youngest member - who can still produce music like this? There is even an element of self-parody about the Rolling Stones these days.

The video is taken from the concert put on by Eric Clapton last year to raise funds for his Crossroads charity. As one review of the day put it:

Then, oceans parted and bad politicians resigned from office worldwide: Steve Winwood, formerly of the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith (the last with Eric Clapton), took to the Hammond organ, its rich tones filling Toyota Park.

This was the real Stevie Winwood, not the source of lustrous yuppie pop like "Higher Love" but the musician's musician. With Clapton's band, Winwood sang Blind Faith songs "Had To Cry Today" (thunderous) and "Presence of the Lord", but the highlight, perhaps of the whole day, was "Dear Mr. Fantasy," with Winwood switching to guitar.

That song reminded all those in attendance what many in The World of Music seem to have forgotten: what a fine guitarist he is. A lengthy bliss-out on "Fantasy", a song I've never been all that crazy about before tonight, wiped the place out. We went to Rock Music Heaven and came back.

You can find all Winwood's numbers with Clapton on Youtube. For some reason I have always been rather resisant to the Clapton mystique, but they all sound good here. Try Had to Cry Today, Can't Find My Way Home and Presence of the Lord. All are songs they sang together in 1969 as part of Blind Faith, the short-lived and original super group.

Incidentally, this was not the first time Clapton and Winwood had appeared together for 25 years as was widely reported. They had played together at an event organised by the Countryside Alliance a few weeks before. Very rock n' roll.

Finally, and inevitably, a glimpse of Winwood 42 years ago - Keep on Running by the Spencer Davis Group.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

I really like his guitar solos there, and the bass line really drives it along.

Sounds a bit like Richard Thompson in that respect (and I note their guitars seem to be the same).

I've never got the Clapton thing either. Cream were fantastic (but they were really a jazz group, they just never told Clapton that...) but after that I've never quite got him.