"Road, TV Key in Virgin Plan for Winwood's 7": Billboard, May 10, 1997
"Road, TV Key in Virgin Plan for Winwood's 7":
Billboard, May 10, 1997
By Melinda Newman
New York- Steve Winwood will be creating a lot of traffic on the road in coming months to support Junction 7, his first solo release since 1990's Refugees of the Heart. The album will be released June 2 by Virgin Records worldwide, except for the U.S., where it will come out June 3.
"In terms of our strategy, it's just a matter of getting people out to see him, because he's an amazing live performer," says Nancy Berry, executive VP of Virgin Music Group Worldwide. "With all the shows he's doing, whether they be clubs or festivals, what we really wanted to put together on a worldwide basis was a plan for people to see Steve live."
And in cases where peole can't get out to see Winwood, Virgin hopes to bring him to them via a slew of TV appearances.
"We feel like we really kicked off the album campaign, perfomance-wise, with his appearance on 'VH1 Honors' in April," says Berry. He's also scheduled to appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" June 3 and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" June 6.
Winwood, who recorded the album over a 5 ½ month period in his home studio, deliberately set out to make a positive record, in part as an antidote to the negativity in much of today's media. "There's a lot of dark things around us, and this was an effort to make something to lift people's souls a bit - [to] try and give them something spiritual," he says.
The result is an uplifting collection of songs, many of which address different kinds of love: familial, spiritual, and erotic. "People can get whatever they want from it," he says. "If you're a Christian, there's certainly material there for that, but you don't have to be one to enjoy this record."
Musically, the album relies less on Winwood's trademark organ sound and more on beats and rhythms.
The first single, "Spy In The House Of Love," is a sprightly, danceable, upbeat tune that is instantly identifiable Winwood, if not as gritty as some of his past hits.
Other highlights include a spirited remake of Sly & the Family Stone's "Family Affair" as well as the sleek, stylish "Plenty Lovin'," a duet with Des'ree. Other guests on the album are Lenny Kravitz and Nile Rodgers.
Even the album's name is meant to evoke a pleasant feeling. "Junction 7 is the exit where I get off to go to my father's home where I was born," says Winwood, with a smile. "It's also my seventh solo album."
After producing the last few solo albums himself, Winwood felt the need to work with a producer again, "to enable me to concentrate on the music," he says. He enlisted Narada Michael Walden to co-produce the project with him after the two hit it off at the Grammy Awards a few years ago. "I played with Narada at the tribute, which to me was an important part of his being the producer. I wanted a producer who was a musician. And he covers a spectrum of styles within whose limits I fall."
He also collaborated with a new songwriter, his wife, Eugenia. She co-wrote four tracks on the album, "Real Love," "Fill Me Up," "Gotta Get Back To My Baby," and "Someone Like You."
Winwood - who notes that in writing with your spouse, "you do have to draw the lines of when you work and when you don't" - loved his wife's uncomplicated approach to the medium. "On 'Gotta Get Back To My Baby,' it was the first time she'd been away from our new baby, and she said to me, 'I have this great idea for a song, and it goes like this,' and she started to sing it. As a longtime songwriter and musician, you get all hung up on modulation and that kind of thing, and Genia's quite free of that."
"Spy In The House Of Love" went to pop radio in the U.K. the last week in April and will go to top 40, triple-A, and album rock stations in the U.S. on May 14.
The clip for "Spy In The House Of Love" will go to video outlets Tuesday (6). In addition to servicing the clip, Virgin is working with VH1 to have Winwood appear on the channel's "Hard Rock Live" show, as well as featuring him in a segment of "Legends," which salutes musical innovators.
Virgin is tying a number of club dates around the release of the single. Wiwood did a few shows in London the last week of April as the single went to radio. In the U.S., he'll do three nights at New York's Irving Plaza, June 4-6, and three nights at the Roxy in Los Angeles, June 9-11.
"He's put together a nine-piece band that's really great," says Berry. "He's doing the club dates in the U.K. and Germany as a launching ground, then he'll do the U.S. shows." The concerts showcase the new material but also take a comprehensive look at Winwood's solo career and his stints in Traffic, Blind Faith and the Spencer Davis Group.
Continuing with the live theme, Winwood and his band will perform at a June 8 in-store at the Los Angeles Virgin megastore that will be fed by satellite to all other Virgin Megastores in North America.
Winwood will also do an in-store at the Virgin Megastore in London that will be beamed throughout the U.K., as well as one in Paris that will go to Virgin megastores throughout France.
Winwood will play a number of European festivals in June and July before returning for a full-scale U.S. Tour that will go from mid-September through December.
"Steve's real joy is performing. That's where he's most comfortable," Berry says. "He would much prefer to be playing than to be on a talk show."
While it's been quite a while since Winwood toured on his own, he took part in a Traffic reunion album and tour three years ago.
After that experience, which Winwood loved, he felt his musical worlds needed some distance.
"My solo records have been sounding more like Traffic albums, and the Traffic album sounded more like a Winwood album," he says. "So I made a conscious effort to take my record in a different direction. There should be these long, drawn-out stoned grooves and weird lyrics on Traffic records, and let's make the Steve Winwood albums more concise. Now we've taken the solo album in a direction I'm very comfortable with."
While there are no immediate plans for another Traffic album, Winwood does not rule out future collaborations. In fact he used that as a consideration when making "Junction 7." "Let's say I never make another Traffic album - then maybe I wouldn't have taken this album so far in the other direction. But I've taken it so far in the security that if I want to sing some weird lyrics, Traffic is the perfect vehicle for that."
Given his long absence as a solo artist, Winwood may have something to prove to his audience, but retailers still expect good things from the set.
"People will probably want to wait until a second single before they buy the record, because he has been gone for a period of time," speculates Chris Peluso, president of the 167-store, Philadelphia-based chain the Wall. "The first song will reintroduce him and show that his sound is still fresh. I like the first single; it sounds like a solid adult contemporary hit to me."
Eric Keil, buyer for the New Jersey-based Compact Disc World chain, says, "He's right in the middle of our stores' demos: older male, straight down the middle rock with a contemporary edge. With Narada Michael Walden producing, it might have sort of a funky vibe. I'm optimistic about the record. I think it's really going to do well."
-- Melinda Newman