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4.8 out of 5 stars27
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 8 June 2003
This album was recommended to me by my geography teacher as at the time "Valerie" was one of my favourite songs.
"Back In The Highlife" has proved to be one of the best additions I ever made to my LP collection and was one of the first CDs I bought when I made the switch from vinyl.
If you don't have any Steve Winwood in your collection, make this album the first one you buy.
The production is so smooth and the melodies so absorbing that this album has no tracks you'll need to skip past when playing.
It has only 8 songs, but they are all top quality.
A truly wonderful album. You will love it!
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Steve Winwood was indeed enjoying the high life after the release of this album in 1986. Back in the High Life is one of the best albums of that musically rich decade, providing Winwood with four huge hit singles. Winwood almost became too popular as a result of these songs; the radio played Higher Love, The Finer Things, Freedom Overspill, and Back in the High Life Again so often that even I eventually began to grow tired of them. As a result, I can say that I enjoy this album even more today than I did at the time of its initial release. Winwood's distinctive, laid-back music never goes out of style, and it soothes the soul while touching the heart with some quite emotional, really meaningful lyrics. I'm afraid I can't really describe the music; all I can say is that it combines drums, guitars, and horns in a way that is all its own.
While the album is remembered primarily for commercial successes such as Higher Love (featuring memorable backup vocals by Chaka Kahn) and Back in the High Life Again (featuring harmony vocals by James Taylor), it features eight songs of incredible quality. I might note that each track exceeds five minutes in length, so this album is not as short as it may appear. Take It As It Comes had real hit potential in my opinion. Wake Me Up on Judgment Day doesn't seem that memorable yet plays itself over and over in your mind after you hear it. Split Decision features some great guitar riffs, proving that Winwood can get down and rock a little when he wants to. The final track, My Love's Leavin', may well be the best song on the album, communicating both loss and hope in a way few artists can equal. You would be hard pressed to find a more impressive album from top to bottom than Steve Winwood's Back in the High Life.
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on 13 December 2000
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 Bonzos 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.
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on 9 April 2006
Whilst his other solo recordings are never less than excellent, this is probably the best of the lot. His distinctive vocals perfectly complement each track - and there 'aint a dud track here.
For anyone wanting to start a Winwood collection, this is the one to start with.
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on 18 July 2003
When I was 18, myself and two friends (Hi Duv, Hi Dog), departed from Portsmouth to drive down to Southern Spain in Dog's Renault 11. He had a tape player in the car, and the only album we could all agree to listen to was this one.
So we listened to it. And listened to it. And kept listening to it. We must have played it about 50 times end to end, without fast forwarding through any tracks; and I can honestly say that none of us ever got bored of it. In fact, it was only when we gave into Dog's insistence that we listen to a new album from someone called Terence Trent D'Arby that we found something else we could agree on.....
It is just simply that there is not a weak song on the album; and the wonderfully slick production never takes away the soul. Winwood's voice, his supremely tight backing group, coupled with some amazing "cameos" from some really big names, all combine to make this one of the greatest albums of the 80s.
If "The Finer Things" doesn't make you feel good to be alive, then you're probably dead; and if "My Love's Leavin'" doesn't bring a lump to your throat, you've either never been dumped or, again, you're dead. A superb album.
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on 23 March 2011
Great music is timeless; Steve Winwood's Back In The High Life is a prime illustration of this.

This is Steve Winwood's strongest collection of songs. Each track is a sophisticated slice of musicality but it is when viewed as a whole that this album's accomplishments become clear. The songs seem to seamlessly blend into one another, with their sequencing meaning that they fit together perfectly. Winwood certainly pushed his creative boat out in the making of this record given the cast of gifted musicians he has onside here. Small creative brush strokes like James Taylor's backing vocals on 'Back In The High Life Again' leave an indelible impression upon repeated listening. Unlike most other Steve Winwood albums there is no filler here and this is the sound of a man at the peak of his creative powers. Winwood's voice is of course a thing of wonder throughout.

It would be nice to think that if this album were to be released today it would get the plaudits it deserved. Somehow however I suspect it wouldn't be on the NME's playlist. Despite this is doesn't sound dated in any way. Rather like a great film that you need to keep watching repeatedly and notice something new each time, this album gets better and better with age.

Recommended, particularly if like myself you appreciated the album in 1986 and decide to get in on CD...
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on 9 November 2010
Really happy to get hold od a copy of this my old cassette chewed up years ago.

My car share passengers are now being introduced to Mr Winwood and loving it
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on 30 August 2010
I had this years ago on cassette and lost it. I bought this as I knew it was a good album and I wasn't disappointed. All the grest songs plus some lesser known but lovely catchy melodies. If you like a good tune leaving you with a positive feeling, this is the album for you.
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on 25 September 2013
Have followed Steve Winwood's career over the years and this CD is one of his best. After moving away from the music scene for a few years Steve came back with this CD and the title track 'I'll Be Back in the High Life Again'. Eight great tracks with Joe Walsh, Nile Rogers and Paul Peso making guest appearances on guitar. A song for every mood, 'Higher Love', 'Back in the High Life', 'Wake me up on Judgement Day' are the star tracks, but my favourite is 'My Love's Leaving'. Welcome back Stevie.
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on 6 December 2012
Steve winwood is one of a very highly respected artist and his music is up there with the very best of them. Higher love was a brilliant tune when it first came out and i can remember dirty dancing was just about to hit the cinema when this was in the charts. I was in junior high school then and it brings back memories of that special time in my life. Superb
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