1. Although it has been nearly 20 years since he had his first hits, ''Gimme Some Lovin' '' and ''I'm a Man,'' with the Spencer Davis Group, Steve Winwood doesn't wear the predictable aura of a weather-beaten rock veteran. Indeed, the English pop-blues singer and multi-instrumentalist, who is a very young-looking 38 years old, is more popular today than in the late 1960's and early 70's, when he led the English folk-jazz-blues band Traffic. The spare textures and loosely blocked arrangements of his music today make only minor concessions to contemporary pop sounds as he continues to evoke an earlier, more romantic period in rock history.

  2. After 22 years in the rock 'n' roll business, Steve Winwood still isn't a showman. He's a musician.

  3. "With 'Back In The High Life,' Steve Winwood has created the first undeniably superb record of an almost decade-long solo career, and the news of its arrival is as momentous as its protracted deferment was disturbing. Indeed, the passion long smoldering in his finest work explodes in the album-opening duet with Chaka Khan, "Higher Love," as Winwood cuts through their lustrous harmony to intone, "I could light the night up with my soul on fire/I could make the sun shine from pure desire!" This kinetic anthem to the sensuality of faith makes good on every one of Winwood's soul-stirring boasts as it rises, breaks and then surges again to a still-loftier crest."

  4. For ''Back in the High Life,'' Mr. Winwood shifted his modus operandi. He made his other 1980's albums as solo projects, layering on instruments and voices at a studio on his farm in Gloucester, England. But about a year ago he moved to New York City and started recording with other musicians and a co-producer, Russ Titleman. ''I found that with the advance of technology in music,'' Mr. Winwood said, ''I was spending my whole time sitting in front of computer terminals rather than writing, singing and playing. I thought I should work with people who specialize in programming and computer engineering. ''Also, I wanted to get out of the country situation of working alone,'' he said. ''I wanted to get in the city and get the juices flowing. When I'm in England, I miss America.'' Where ''Arc of a Diver'' (1980) and ''Talking Back to the Night'' (1982) both have a dreamy, floating quality, ''Back in the High Life'' digs into down-to-earth dance grooves, laced with 1960's soul horns and 1980's Latin touches. ''Basically, the music doesn't change,'' Mr. Winwood said. ''The presentation of it changes, the way it's marketed changes, and it's probably a little better technically done, but it always returns to what it basically is - simple rock-and-roll or R-and-B. It's like the internal combustion engine, which is still the same as it was in 1905 - it's just refined and it goes a lot better.''