Great Rock Albums of 1982: Steve Winwood- Talking Back to the Night


 Most of us in our lifetimes have been influenced to watch a film or buy an album because someone or some entity we trust had constantly sung its praises. I know it has happened to me. In early September of 1982, I was given 24 hours bed rest after having two of my wisdom teeth removed. The Navy doctor who performed the task said it was the toughest extraction he ever had to do, those teeth were really in there. Moving on, during that 24 hour period and drifting in and out of bouts of sleep, I had the radio as a companion. The local station outside the base, WXQR in Jacksonville, North Carolina, kept plugging the new Steve Winwood album, “Talking Back to the Night.” The one deejay did this so much that I felt compelled to listen to the album and even give it its place in history on here.

To this day, I don’t think if I would have listened to album if it hadn’t been so heavily plugged on the radio. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent album and Steve Winwood is a very talented musician. Like Todd Rundgren, he plays all the instruments himself except that he does use drum machines unlike Todd who actually plays the drums. Also there is the fact that there are no guitar solos on the album and Todd can also shred. But this isn’t about Todd and I shouldn’t contrast the two really. It’s just that “Talking Back to the Night” wouldn’t have been an album I normally would have listened to, it’s not hard rock enough for me. If anything, I appreciate slightly more now that I am mellowing a bit with old age. I stress a little, I have the Sepultura “Greatest Hits” CD waiting for me in the car.

Following the 1982 tradition, “Talking Back to the Night” opens with the hit single “Valerie.” It is an okay song and I remember it being played on the radio back then. It sets the stage for the rest of the album. The synthesizers dominate the entire album and while I get a little disappointed at the lack of a power chord from a guitar, the synthesizers are expertly done. You can’t take anything away from Steve in that regard. Apart from “Valerie,” the two tracks that stood out for me on the album were “Help Me Angel” and the title track. I have long ago come to the conclusion that while it’s not a rock album in the traditional sense, it’s not a total synth pop album either. I think it’s one of those albums you can play at a party where there is a wide range of musical tastes among the attendees and no one would complain.

Track Listing:

1. Valerie

2. Big Girls Walk Away

3. And I Go

4. While There’s a Candle Burning

5. Still in the Game

6. It Was Happiness

7. Help Me Angel

8. Talking Back to the Night

9. There’s a River

Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood- synthesizers, lead and backing vocals, drum machines, guitar, keyboards

Like A Flock of Seagulls, it could be said that Steve Winwood help set the stage to the descent of music into synth pop. I don’t think this was Steve’s intention here. He may have been going along with the popular music of the time but he is too talented of a musician to have played that cheaply. This album is living proof of that.

Next post: Fleetwood Mac- Mirage

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8 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1982: Steve Winwood- Talking Back to the Night”

  1. Sorry to hear that it took a dental issue to get you to hear this album. I know a lot of people who consider listening to Steve Winwood worse than having teeth pulled, but I’m not one of them. However, I agree with you that this is only a decent album. Following up the incredible Arc Of A Diver, which had a similar sound but much more consistent songwriting, was a difficult task and he did the best he could. Recently I’ve heard a modern dance song at the gym which samples his line “Call on meeeee” from “Valerie.” It’s actually pretty tedious but it’s had me wanting to revisit this album. Between that and your post, I’ll bring the disc to work soon. I’ll be curious to see if my opinion has changed over time.


    • I regret having missed “Arc of a Diver” as I have heard many good things about it. Maybe Steve Winwood tried to copy that album too much on “Talking Back to the Night.” We’ll never know. There are a lot of other people who qualify more than Steve where listening to their music is worse than having your teeth pulled. As for the dance version of Valerie, I have never liked any dance version of any song.


      • Just to clarify, it’s not a dance version of “Valerie.” It’s a dance song that samples Winwood singing “Call on meeee” over & over, and it’s the main melodic hook. Much worse than simply a dance remix of his song, if that’s actually possible.


      • I hate how modern day artists take parts of classic old songs and use them in dance or rap songs. I will never forgive Eminem for his use of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” in one of his songs.


  2. I have only ever heard Arc of a Diver. It was given to me by a friend … dare say I would never have hard any Winwood if that wasn’t the case (never really been drawn to any of his stuff). It’s a decent enough record though. Like you say – he’s a talented chap.


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