Volume 156, sent June 13, 1999:
1. Re: Career ebb?
2. Re: "low ebb"
3. SW's Career
4. Re: Career ebb?
5. Some comments,, observations
6. Re: Re-masters
7. Live trax on Traffic CD singles / "Don't Be Sad"
8. Re: career ebb
9. Winwood interview in "Guitar World"
10. Jazz fusion group?
11. Last Exit & Jimmy Miller
12. Tour date cancelled

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From: BobbieG
Subject: Re: Career ebb?
Date sent: Sat, 22 May 1999 07:27:47 -0700

Mulling over Les' post brought 3 things to mind, which I have occasion to know as mailing-list administrator and web-master.

One is that I have been getting a lot more action on SP in terms of new Subscribers. For some reason, after months of inactivity, we're growing very steadily again. People aren't necessarily posting more, but they're joining SP and not leaving. (During the J7 tour, we peaked at around 360, dropped back down as expected to around 300 last autumn when the Latin Crossings tour ended, and we're back up to around 330 now, and this is with no new album in view, and only a very abbreviated tour.)

The same thing has been happening in the Thursday-evening AOL chatroom. Newbies have been dropping by just to chat or ask questions at the rate of 1-3/week, after literally months of having no new people join us.

And the web-site, which for a year and a half got 50 hits/day, jumped to an average of 70/day in January and has been inching up from there, to 75-80.

There appears to be some sort of popular ground-swell going on which I can't account for. It certainly may reflect the growing usage of the Internet among the general population, but I think it's more than that.

Bobbie


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Date sent: Sat, 29 May 1999 14:50:44 -0500
From: Steven Robert Seim
Subject: Re: "low ebb"

I think Les hit the nail on the head with his post regarding the rather sorry state of Steve's career at present. Hopefully this lull will not last as long as the span between the height of Traffic's popularity (1970?) and his comeback in the late '80s. Unfortunately, though, I fear that this decline in popularity and respect within the music world may be inevitable at this point. Very few artists last 30 years. Most acts from the 60's/70's that are still touring/recording are relegated to the "oldies circuit" and virtually ignored. And even the few that have escaped this fate (Steve, Eric Clapton, the Stones, John Fogarty, Van Morrison, John Mellencamp) haven't enjoyed the same sales and respect that newer artists have. Critics seem to start with the assumption that a "classic rock" artist's recent output won't be as good as their early work--if it's similar to past work, they're "coasting"; if it's different, it's just a desperate attempt to re-invent themselves. Steve's popularity in the late '80s--although well-deserved--was probably remarkable even then.

At this point in a career, I think there are two general directions an artist can go. 1. He can embrace the artistic freedom obscurity has finally allowed him, and make music to please himself rather than music marketers. I think we can see this with artists like Mellencamp and perhaps the Stones. OR 2. He can compromise his musical integrity even more than a normal artist has to in order to try to jump-start his popularity again. I think we've seen Clapton doing this lately, and--though I hate to admit it--I think it's fair to label Junction Seven this way as well.

I've given it some thought, and here are a few possible options which might allow Steve to create another "comeback" but, most importantly, would allow him to continue his worthy musical legacy:

1. A live album. If done right (Clapton's "Unplugged," Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance," etc.) they can be magic. Even if not done right, it would at least make US happy.

2. A whole album of Latin-influenced music. This seems to be a direction he's interested in exploring right now, and was one of the very few high points of Junction Seven. It would need to be done well, however--a "Graceland," not a Ricky Martin soundalike.

3. A TRUE R&B album. Something like Clapton's "From the Cradle," but not taking itself quite so seriously. The old SDG records can still get me tapping my feet, and we KNOW Steve can still do this. The blues don't require innovation or poetic lyrics, just soul and musical ability, of which Steve has plenty. Furthermore, blues artists--unlike "classic rock" artists--seem to get more respect as they get older: B.B. King and John Lee Hooker ought to be in nursing homes by now, but they're still selling records, and they're still "cool."

4. Christian music. Hear me out. Steve's almost there already, as lyrics on "Refugees" and "Far From Home" (some of his strongest recent work) demonstrate. I'm not talking Michael W. Smith, here. Christian music has a certain intrinsic honesty and strength--it doesn't need to be written by a Jewel or a Kurt Cobain to be considered profound. Admittedly, such a move would not get Steve back to superstar status, but it could bring in a new fan base, and would allow him to make some honest, worthwhile, and perhaps even innovative music.

5. Re-form Traffic for real. This is probably the surest bet of the bunch. "Far From Home" was Steve's biggest commercial and critical success since "Roll With It." It also had some of the most interesting and innovative lyrics he's recorded in his career. To do it right, though, Steve and Jim ought to recruit a few talented musicians to be full members of the group, not just a backing band for the tour. Steve and Jim should still do the writing, of course, but Steve plays best on record when he's not trying to be a one-man-band. Perhaps--to avoid the critics' potential disdain--the group shouldn't even be called "Traffic" anymore--that would show a real commitment to doing something fresh and new.

Steve Seim


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From: "Nicholas Aleshin"
Subject: SW's Career
Date sent: Sat, 29 May 1999 16:36:51 -0400

Les, in Smiling Phases #155 you wrote,

"As someone who has loved Steve Winwood's music for 30 years, I am somewhat chagrined and even saddened at the low public esteem that Steve is held in these days. ... To what do we owe this deplorable state of affairs? Is it even important, as long as he remains active? Is he finished creatively, relegated to performing Gimme Some Lovin and Roll With It into his grave? And if we were his manager, what would we recommend Steve do to re-energize his career?"

Steve Winwood has one of the most recognizable voices of '60s and '70s music era. "Gimme Some Lovin'" was an extremely popular song played everywhere constantly in 1966 (UK) and 1967 (US, and the rest of the world). Later, while in Traffic, they packed 'em in all over the world again. Steve was know as an especially expressive singer and played keyboards as well as any other musician. And his guitar playing wasn't bad either.

He can still sing and play his instruments with great expression and fervor. So what's wrong today? Why don't his recordings sell in great numbers? Why is he without a label? It's his material. I believe that Winwood suffers from the same disease that affects many performers who have been around for a while: their music either doesn't evolve at all, or it evolves too much and is no longer interesting. A musician certainly needs to evolve, progress, and change. He cannot get stuck in a rut. However, he also must acknowledge the musical roots that started him on his way. He's got to do a careful balancing act that exhibits the new while accentuating the old. This both broadens him as a musician, and it keeps old and new crowds interested.

Eric Clapton, another musician from the same era--and a friend and past musical collaborator of Steve's--does not have this problem. Clapton's music is current, and it is drenched in the past. And Clapton is one of the most honored and popular of musicians in the world today. And what did Clapton do just five years ago? He released a 100% blues album of covers. He didn't write one song on the album. They were all written and recorded by past blues artists. They were songs that were especially important in Clapton's formative music years.

And this 100% blues album, called "From The Cradle," sold millions and brought back millions of older fans. Why? because what Eric Clapton does best is play the blues, the same music with which he began his musical career. And as we all know, Clapton's late hits have not been blues at all, but new material. He does it all, he plays it all.

So, why can Clapton do it and Winwood can't? Well, I believe that he can do it, it's just that he doesn't. Winwood is a musician of extraordinary talent. But for the past 20 or 25 years, he has expressed only the "new" side of that talent. Sure, he plays "Gimme Some Lovin'" at each performance, but that's NOT what I mean. He needs seriously to record old music as well as new.

Winwood has continued to evolve, but his material has evolved so much, it's gone right past the consciousness of the public, both young and old, and that's too bad. Nobody's interested any more (just a few of us here on the SP mail list). People want to hear a wide variety of stuff, including NEW material from the old days (blues tunes going back to the '20 and '30s as well as from all successive decades), old materials from the old days ("Gimme Some Lovin'," "Dear Mr. Fantasy," etc.), old stuff from the '90s, and new stuff from the '90s. What do I mean by old '90s stuff? Think about it.

How about albums that are not just modern R&B? How about some good old blues tunes, as he sang and played during his Spencer Davis Group days? They don't have to be the same tunes, but I can think of tens of blues numbers that I'd just love to hear Winwood sing and play. He doesn't do it. How about a Winwood blues band? How about some new '50s, '60s, and '70s type tunes in addition to his current repertoire? How about re-recording "Georgia On My Mind," a tune he did with the Spencer Davis Group that always brought the house down.

I find his late albums boring in comparison to his early stuff. He needs to vary his styles of music much more. Yes, he plays old '60s tunes. But I don't want to hear him do just this early stuff either. He needs to play and record NEW '50s, '60s, and '70s type and new stuff from 1999, and this is exactly what he does not do, unfortunately.

Winwood is one of my favorite vocalists and musicians. But I'll admit that most (but not all) of his material of the last 25 years, more or less, bores me. He's an wonderfully talented musician and he has a signature and uniquely expressive voice. He's got so much to offer and must do much more than he's done in the last 25 years. He's gone pretty much into a niche. Instead, he's truly got to broaden his repertoire and include many more styles. Finally, he's got to acknowledge--seriously--his musical roots that put him on record and in the minds of the public in the first place.

DeltaNick


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From: TGH2Moose@aol.com
Date sent: Sat, 29 May 1999 23:49:15 EDT
Subject: Re: Career ebb?

As far as Steve's career being at an ebb goes.... Basically that's the way it goes. I used to think that there are certain artists who will always be relevant and always release good music, but I no longer think that. Take Pete Townshend and Paul Simon for example. Can't say that about them anymore! And I'm afraid the same has happened to Steve. (Though I think with the Roll With It album, his best solo work was definitely behind him.) Success in the record biz is meteoric, and he's been at his peak. However, the good thing is that he's had his success and there is no longer the pressure to churn out "product," and hopefully he can take his time and do whatever he wants. And release quality stuff.

New Release Info - Coming June 22nd on Receiver Records (catalog # 270) will be a live album from Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi from their recent tour. It's titled 'Live' The 40,000 Headmen Tour. The blurb on it is as follows: "Includes brilliant live versions of classic Traffic tracks and a cracking cover of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," plus "Pearly Queen," "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," "We Just Disagree," Only You Know and I Know," "Feelin' Alright," and many more." This probably won't be that easy to find in local record stores, but it's distributed by a DNA, one of the best independent distributorships, so it's definitely easily special ordered.

I picked up a Cleopatra re-release of a Capaldi album I didn't previously have, Let the Thunder Cry. It's got Winwood on one track. And it has the slide guitar version of "Low Spark" which was on the cassette version of Fierce Heart. (Remember before the days of CD's when they put extra tracks on cassettes? Alright, so it wasn't that successful a marketing campaign.) Thought that was kinda cool.

And I saw an album from someone recently (can't remember who - argh) that had Rosko Gee on bass.

GH

[Other sources say the Mason and Capaldi album is being released on Raven Records, not Receiver. Anyone know for sure? --BG]


5*5*5*5*5*5*5*5*5*5
Date sent: Mon, 31 May 1999 12:34:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: Berkin Altinok
Subject: Some comments,, observations.

Please be patient.

First, I saw Spencer Davis on TV, couple of weeks ago, not on VH-1, but on the show, "Love & Married", alongside Richie Havens, they were playing a bunch of 'has beens',,

some session, news,, I noticed on the covers page, there is Joe Cocker doing CFMYH, however, he did it on a later album as well, this time with a long Hammond solo, Bobbie, i will let you know about the title of the album, can not remember now,,we should make a note of that.

Also, I liked the Eddie Harris, album on CD, guess who Steve is playing with, Albert Lee, Jeff Beck, and Ian Paice (How about that name for a collaboration)

And of course , as usual, at the time i bought the CD, i looked at some other Eddie HArris material, and came up with,, guess what people, In his "THe Last Concert" album, MR. Harris,, did a 12 minute cover of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Some Lovin. (S. Smith, thanx for the advice on the CD.)

Now, Les, for the low profile thing, i would like to say a couple of words,, Steve likes it that way, he does not like to be on the covers everywhere, maybe that's what we dream about, but that's how he is. Yes, the radio's are not playing him, a shame, a sinful shame, It is Virgin's fault as well, How could they loose interest on such a heroic figure in Rock, and not promote his album. Steve can never be finished creatively, because his name is Steve Winwood, period. I always thought that the music business can not comprehend the Winwood situation. Their money oriented mentality can not envisage a guy, (who happens to be "The" rock legend) who can compose, produce, arrange, as good as he does, plays the guitar as excellent as Alvin Lee, or Paul Kossoff, or Joe Walsh, is a master of the keyboard in Rock, plays Percussion, vibes, bass guitar, (like eating ice cream) and has unquestionably "the" greatest rock vocal among male Rockers. They just do not know what to do with this, how to deal with it. Every body knows it, but prefer not accepting it.

Steve is the greatest unsung hero of rock, there are others, yes, there are others but ,, yes there is always a but...

Dawn, Is there any dispute that on "Don't be sad" , The vocal is someone else, please people, please, IMHO, that part on that song, may actually be his strongest vocal effort ever, can you imagine Steve singing half a dozen new songs with that tone (that he also has on Stone Free, and Withering Tree) alongside 2 minute guitar solos by him, that is just too much, I can fall from a cliff and be happy.

Ricky Martin is a bubble gum whose flavor will erode in a couple of months, He is a easy consumption commodity for those business people. Please we are in a different league, OK, dance to Ricky, it is good, but please we are in a different league, even our Latin is in a different league.. Thank you.

For the CD single, i believe it is a simple mathematical calculation. The "Here comes a Man" single was released around May 94, before the release of the album. So, essentially, the live Version of "Glad" was from the Refugees tour with Luis Conte. It sounds like a solo band as well.

For, Marc, Did Walfredo tell you what he was recording at Steve's house, and Did you ask him about Steve being in the studio recording?

Dawn, where did you get the lyrics for "If that gun's for real", crying out loud, you are a genius, are you, are you?? Does anybody have that song on tape..? Please..

Lindsay, close your eyes, and buy "Eight gigs a week", close your eyes,, do not let that pass you by..

Hey, some body just saw me print some winwood material, the kid was 18 and said he first saw Traffic in The Woodstock video,,so i gave him my E mail, another one for the good,underrated, unappreciated guys,

Finally, sorry i am taking your time, Look at the official web site crying out loud once more, look at the requested songs, there is no difference, no variety, the same songs again, why? Now steve will tour, he will look at that song list, now, Other songs should have topped the list not Higher Love, please I am begging people, this can be a crucial chance, let's make this a little more academic..

Berkin..


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From: MHargre586@aol.com
Date sent: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 08:02:26 EDT
Subject: Re: Re-masters

Well, June 1st is here - and no Traffic Re-masters from Island ! The latest story (by phone via Island's Press Office) is that the 3 CDs now DO NOT HAVE a release date ! The reason for the delay was not known, they will appear - but don't expect them until September/October.

MikeH.


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Date sent: Tue, 01 Jun 1999 08:15:13 -0400
From: Trafficologist (Ted G.) ftg3plus4@cs.com
Subject: Live trax on Traffic CD singles / "Don't Be Sad"

(1) In response to my post about the live versions of Glad, 40,000 & Low Spark on the '94 Traffic CD singles, I received the following very informed input from Andrew (Reasdale@aol.com):

<< I bought both CD singles the day they came out which was before Traffic had played a single gig of the 1994 US tour. I think it was the same week as their public return on the BBC TV programme "Later", which makes it about 5/14/94 or the week after. My thoughts are that these must be from the Winwood 1991 tour of Japan where he not only played those songs but Luis Conte was in the band. ( SW, LC, Russ Kunkel on drums, Larry Byrom on whatever SW wasn't playing at the time, Michael Rhodes on bass and Randall Bramblett on sax.) I hope that that helps. >>

So apparently Virgin records passed off as "live Traffic" 3 trax that really weren't! I guess that doesn't lessen their enjoyability, but it's still rather deceptive, don't you think? B.G. -- You may want to make a note about this somewhere (discography? song encyclopedia? compendium?). Thanx.

(2) "Don't Be Sad"
Dawn (koki9@bellatlantic.net) writes:

<< Quick comment to Ted, our intrepid trafficologist - On "Don't Be Sad", I have always strongly believed that the two parts of the song that start with "There is only one..." And "Mother, father..." respectively, are Steve singing. That just has to be Steve, I can't imagine that is Dave! Anybody else think so too? >>

Well, I guess without inside info from somewhere we can't really be sure. I'd have to say that the "style" is Steve's but the voice isn't -- it sounds to me like Dave is delivering something here that he holds back the rest of the time. Keep in mind what an artistic "fence" there was between Steve and Dave at the time -- for one to sing lead on the other's song was the kind of thing that just didn't happen (at least not beyond the level of Steve's brief "duet" with Dave on Crying To Be Heard).

Ted G.


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From: "Timothy Arthur"
Subject: Re: career ebb
Date sent: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 21:25:58 -0700

Regarding the comments made in the last SP 155 by Les about Steve's career; maybe the problem is with Steve. Let's face it, he has the luxury of spending time with the wife and 4 kids without the money problems we may have. 4 children take a lot of time...I know, I've got 5 and my husband regrets missing out on all those special times. Teenagers are another story!

Anyway, after reading some interviews in "Rolling Stone", it seems to me Steve never really liked playing to large stadiums, it did not make a difference how you played every time, you got the same reaction . The real fans will come to see him, no matter where he plays and after all he has been in music a long time and has proved himself before... so what does he care what critics say about ONE new CD!

But I do agree, he does not get the respect he deserves, for example VH-1 voting Traffic # 98 on their top 100 list! Who did do the voting for that anyway!

Then again maybe his wife wants to keep him close to home, when the local classic rock radio station here was announcing a Traffic concert in 1998 (Ft. Lauderdale) they said Steve would not be with them...his wife did not want him to tour again..... this was after the J7 tour. I can't blame her if she feels that way....then again he is going on tour this summer and that does make his real fans very very happy!

*Lani* winwoodfan@hotmail.com

[Mason and Capaldi toured as "co-founders of Traffic". Steve did not join the tour because he was not invited, although he joined them for one concert in NYC in February of 1998 with his wife. You can see photos of this on the Fan's web-site. --BG]


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From: "Timothy Arthur"
Subject: Winwood interview in "Guitar World"
Date sent: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 21:50:54 -0700

My 17 yr. old guitar playing son, Joey showed me an article in his 'Guitar World' mag. you might be interested in: In the June 1999 issue of "Guitar World"- "1969 The Greatest Year In Rock" is an article by John McDermott. It is titled "Feb. 1, 1969 Birth of Blind Faith Cream and Traffic join forces" The article tells how Clapton who had just left Cream joined up with Steve, who had invited Ginger Baker to join the project. How recording began in Feb. 1969 in London, and since they had no name they booked studio time under the name Baker-Clapton-Winwood. " After a handful of sessions, everyone stepped back and evaluated their progress. It was decided that a bassist should be added ...and Rick Grech ...was selected". "With me on the organ, handling the bass parts as well as the keyboards was a difficult situation, explains Winwood. It wasn't impossible, as I had done it before, but I wanted to free my feet up." The article tells how by May, Stigwood and Blackwell were becoming exasperated because the group had only 2 incomplete songs and they had a huge publicity campaign to promote the album as well as a U.S. tour planned. To which Steve says, "It had become obvious during that era that artists could be considered hot property." The article ends with the successful summer tour and a quote from Steve about the breakup, "Eric and I were searching, to a degree, and Blind Faith had been a vehicle in which we could create something that had its own identity explains Winwood. I'm not quite sure it was the same for Rick and Ginger. I think they , and perhaps Ginger more so, saw the band as a continuation of Cream. It became very difficult when we went out on the road. As soon as we got started, we realized that this really wasn't happening. We just fulfilled our commitments and decided to have a rethink. Still, I enjoy that album and look back at that experience with fond memories". The article calls "Sea of Joy" " an inspired Winwood composition", and his vocals on "Can't Find My Way Home" delicate and Bakers percussion, exquisite " the results were spectacular" A photo of the group from their Hyde Park debut is across the top of the article. I like the quote from Steve, "free my feet up", as anyone who has ever seen him in concert, I can't see how he can jump, move, sing and PLAY the keyboard all at the same time...I swore he'd fall off the seat.

*Lani* winwoodfan@hotmail.com

[Apparently the article also has some inaccuracies, such as repeating the unfounded rumor that the girl on the cover was the daughter of a member of the band, and that the "spaceship" was built by Ric Grech. -- BG]


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From: DocMajic@aol.com
Date sent: Sat, 5 Jun 1999 02:52:47 EDT
Subject: Jazz fusion group?

Could you find out who the South African "jazz fusion" group was that Steve toured with in early 90's, maybe 1990? How can I find their music (album name, etc.). They were a great compliment to Steve and played some political music also.

Someone should know--I was at the concert, and it was SO AWESOME. Steve and Yanni are two of my favorites, to say the least, being a keyboard player.

Thanks,
Larry


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Date sent: Wed, 09 Jun 1999 08:21:05 -0400
From: Trafficologist (Ted G.) ftg3plus4@cs.com
Subject: Last Exit & Jimmy Miller

Thoughts on an item in the SP Traffic compendium:

"Some of the writing credits on the album appear to be unusual. Jimmy Miller is credited with three songs, perhaps because he added some touches to these songs and took some credit in the aftermath of Traffic's first breakup. "

The three songs, of course, are "Shanghai Noodle Factory", "Something's Got A Hold Of My Toe", and "Medicated Goo". On "Medicated" (Winwood/Miller), Jimmy is clearly the lyricist. He and Steve must have wanted to write a song together like they had done before (e.g. "I'm A Man"). He may have had a lyrical role on "Shanghai" (Winwood/Capaldi/Wood/Miller/Fallon) as well -- to me, the words really don't sound like pure Capaldi. "Something's", being instrumental, is more problematic. Jimmy may have simply come up with the title, or (less likely) it could be that the tune was written around some words of his but no vocal got recorded. Either scenario would justify a co-credit (at least by some of your less strict "crediting" rules).

Ted G.


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From: "Burrows, Phil"
Subject: Tour date cancelled
Date sent: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 11:18:36 -0500

I was checking on the concert dates for SW and noticed the concert in Branson on Sept 8 has dropped off the schedule. Has his concert tour been cancelled or just certain dates??? Just wondering.

Phil

[The only cancelled date is the 9/8 Branson date, yeah. The others are still scheduled. --BG]


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End of Smiling Phases, volume 156