Steve Winwood: Refugees of the Heart (1990)

Just what I needed: ten framed photos of Steve Winwood. It’s as close as Refugees of the Heart comes to being a work of art. Despite criticism to the contrary, I don’t hear where this is any better or any worse than Roll With It. I’d tell you that Winwood sounds here like he’s on auto cruise, but he always sounds like he’s on auto cruise. You have the pristine arrangements, the warm and emotive mumbling, the sense that you’re hearing a hybrid of Peter Gabriel and Daryl Hall after too many wine coolers. The hit is “One And Only Man,” cowritten with Jim Capaldi and featuring an instrumental workout for Steve. It’s no more and no less ferocious than Eric Clapton’s crossover love songs, which is something of an achievement for Winwood. The remaining songs are ballads (“I Will Be Here”), adult pop songs (“You’ll Keep On Searching”) and slightly funky entries (“Another Deal Goes Down”). The closing “In The Light of Day,” featuring the sort of intoxicating keyboard pattern last seen in “San Jacinto,” brings home the vision of Winwood as a sort of Peter Gabriel lite. Since Winwood arrived in the same place musically as Gabriel at the same time (Back In The High Life and So were both released in 1986), it’s not a question of Winwood following anyone. This is what he does: write love songs that make good use of synthesizers and employ a minimal groove from time to time. Maybe the formula was growing tired. After a string of platinum and multiplatinum albums, Refugees merely went gold. For this reason, Refugees often gets lumped in with the inferior Talking Back To The Night despite being a better record. It’ll find a home with Winwood fans, hits or no hits, simply because soulful adult pop songs like these are at the heart of Winwood’s appeal.

Original LP Version
A1. You’ll Keep On Searching (6:19)
A2. Every Day (Oh Lord) (5:49)
A3. One And Only Man (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (5:00)
A4. I Will Be Here (5:58)
B1. Another Deal Goes Down (4:57)
B2. Running On (4:18)
B3. Come Out And Dance (5:33)
B4. In The Light of Day (9:44)

All songs written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings unless noted.

The Players
Steve Winwood (vocals, keyboards, Hammond organ, mini moog solo, keyboard bass, guitar, additional percussion), Larry Byrom (guitar, slide guitar, vibes solo, additional drums, all keyboard & drum programming), Bashiri Johnson (percussion), Michael Rhodes (bass) with Eddie Bayers (drums), Randall Bramblett (saxophone), Jim Capaldi (drums, percussion), Anthony Crawford (guitar), Michael Haynes (trumpet), Jim Horn (alto, baritone & tenor saxophone), Russ Kunkel (drums), Mike Lawler (additional keyboards), Harvey Thomson (additional saxophone). Produced by Steve Winwood; engineered & mixed by Tom Lord Alge; additional engineering by Mick Dolan; executive producer: John Clarke.

The Pictures
Photography by Douglas Brothers. Design by Mike Funk/x height. Art direction by Jeff Ayeroff, Melanie Nissen.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in November 1990 in the UK (Virgin, V/CDV 2560), the US (Virgin, 91405), Germany (Virgin, 86189), Japan (Virgin, VJCP-2803) and Mexico (EMI/Virgin, 4271181) with lyric innersleeve; reached #26 on the UK charts and #27 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

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