1986 Steve Winwood – Back In The High Life

Back In The High Life is the fourth solo album by English singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood, released on 30 June 1986. The album proved to be Winwood’s biggest success to that date, certified Gold in the UK and 3× Platinum in the US, and it reached the top twenty in most Western countries. It collected three Grammy Awards and generated five hit singles, starting with “Higher Love” which became Winwood’s first Billboard Hot 100 number-one chart topper, coming 20 years after he first entered that chart with “Keep on Running” by the Spencer Davis Group. Other global hit singles from the album were “Freedom Overspill”, “Back in the High Life Again” and “The Finer Things”. The single “Split Decision”, with ex-Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, was a US hit.

Musically, the album was polished and sophisticated, representative of pop production in the 1980s, featuring Winwood’s style of layered synthesizers and electronic drums that he had established with Arc of a Diver (1980). Unlike his prior two albums, on which he played every instrument himself, Winwood made extensive use of session musicians for this album, including Joe Walsh and Nile Rogers on guitars and JR Robinson on drums. Winwood himself also performed on a large number of instruments, combining live-played instruments with synthesizers and programming. Prominent backing vocals were provided by established stars, including Chaka Khan on “Higher Love”, James Ingram on “Finer Things”, and James Taylor on the title track. The album showcased Winwood’s lifelong fascination with the fusion of styles, bringing folk, gospel and Caribbean sounds into a rock, pop and R&B milieu. As with his previous albums, Back in the High Life served as an uplifting alternative to the angry or political punk that was sweeping the rock world.

The album was recorded and released during a time of significant change in Winwood’s personal life. After touring North America to promote the album during August–November 1986, Winwood divorced in England and then married in New York City. He bought a second home in Nashville where he organized his next project, Chronicles, a retrospective album of earlier songs including some remixes engineered by Tom Lord-Alge, whom Winwood had befriended in the making of Back in the High Life.

Tracks

Higher Love (Steve Winwood; Will Jennings) 04:13
2  Take It As It Comes (Steve Winwood; Will Jennings) 05:24
3  Freedom Overspill (Steve Winwood; George Fleming; James Hooker) 02:56
Back In The High Life Again (Steve Winwood; Will Jennings) 04:21
The Finer Things (Steve Winwood; Will Jennings) 05:49
6  Wake Me Up On Judgment Day (Steve Winwood; Will Jennings) 05:52
7  Split Decision (Steve Winwood; Joe Walsh) 06:00
8  My Love’s Leavin’ (Steve Winwood; Vivian Stanshall) 05:21

Musicians

1 Higher Love

Bass (synthesizer)Philippe Saisse
DrumsJR Robinson
Drums (programming)Jimmy Bralower
GuitarEddie Martinez
GuitarNile Rodgers
SynthesizerSteve Winwood
SynthesizerDavid Frank
ProgrammingAndrew Thomas
ProgrammingSteve Winwood
PercussionCarol Steele
Background VocalsChaka Khan
VocalsSteve Winwood


2 Take It As It Comes

DrumsMickey Curry
GuitarSteve Winwood
KeyboardsSteve Winwood
ProgrammingSteve Winwood
SaxGeorge Young
SaxLew Del Gatto
SaxBob Mintzer
TromboneTom Malone
TrumpetRandy Brecker
TambourineCarol Steele
VocalsSteve Winwood


3 Freedom Overspill

Bass (synthesizer)Steve Winwood
DrumsSteve Ferrone
Drums (programming)Jimmy Bralower
Drums (programming)Steve Winwood
GuitarEddie Martinez
Slide GuitarJoe Walsh
OrganSteve Winwood
ProgrammingSteve Winwood
SaxGeorge Young
SaxLew Del Gatto
SaxBob Mintzer
TromboneTom Malone
TrumpetRandy Brecker
PercussionCarol Steele
VocalsSteve Winwood


4 Back In The High Life Again

Bass (synthesizer)Steve Winwood
DrumsJR Robinson
Drums (programming)Steve Winwood
MandolinSteve Winwood
PianoSteve Winwood
SynthesizerRob Mounsey
SynthesizerSteve Winwood
Background VocalsJames Taylor
VocalsSteve Winwood


5 The Finer Things

DrumsJR Robinson
Drums (programming)Jimmy Bralower
Drums (programming)Steve Winwood
GuitarPaul Pesco
KeyboardsRob Mounsey
KeyboardsRobbie Kilgore
KeyboardsSteve Winwood
SynthesizerSteve Winwood
ProgrammingSteve Winwood
ProgrammingAndrew Thomas
Background VocalsDan Hartman
Background VocalsJames Ingram
PianoSteve Winwood


6 Wake Me Up On Judgment Day

DrumsJR Robinson
Drums (programming)Jimmy Bralower
Drums (programming)Steve Winwood
GuitarIra Siegel
GuitarNile Rodgers
SynthesizerSteve Winwood
SynthesizerRobbie Kilgore
SynthesizerDavid Frank
ProgrammingAndrew Thomas
ProgrammingSteve Winwood
PercussionCarol Steele
Background VocalsConnie Harvey
Background VocalsJocelyn Brown
Background VocalsMark Stevens
VocalsSteve Winwood


7 Split Decision

Bass (synthesizer)Steve Winwood
DrumsJR Robinson
Drums (programming)Steve Winwood
GuitarJoe Walsh
Hammond OrganSteve Winwood
SynthesizerSteve Winwood
TambourineCarol Steele
Background VocalsConnie Harvey
Background VocalsJocelyn Brown
Background VocalsMark Stevens
VocalsSteve Winwood


8 My Love’s Leavin’

Bass (synthesizer)Steve Winwood
Drums (programming)Steve Winwood
GuitarSteve Winwood
SynthesizerSteve Winwood
SynthesizerRobbie Kilgore
Strings (Synthesizer)Rob Mounsey
PercussionCarol Steele
VocalsSteve Winwood

Liner Notes

Producer – Russ Titelman, Steve Winwood
Arranged By (Synthesizer Horns) – David Frank (Track 1)
Arranged By (Synthesizer Strings) – Arif Mardin (Track 8)
Arranged By (Horns) – David Frank (Tracks 2, 3, 6)
Engineer – Jason Corsaro, Tom Lord-Alge
Mastered By – Ted Jensen
Mixed By – Tom Lord-Alge

Design – Jeri McManus
Photography – Arthur Elgort

Mastered At – The Sound Clinic
Recorded At Unique Recording
Recorded At Right Track Recording
Recorded At Power Station
Recorded At Giant Sound
Recorded At Netherturkdonic Studios
Phonographic Copyright (p) Island Records Ltd