This was the 1987 Grammy winner for best engineered non-classical recording.
Personnel: Steve Winwood (vocals, guitar, mandolin, piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizer, bass synthesizer, drum programming); Chaka Khan (vocals, background vocals); James Taylor (vocals); Joe Walsh (guitar, slide guitar, steel guitar); Eddie Martinez, Ira Siegel, Nile Rodgers, Paul Pesco (guitar); Lew Del Gatto (saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); George Young (alto saxophone); Bob Mintzer (tenor saxophone); Randy Brecker (trumpet); Tom "Bones" Malone (trombone); Rob Mounsey (keyboards, synthesizer, string synthesizer); Robbie Kilgore (keyboards, synthesizer); Andrew Thomas (synthesizer, programming); David Frank, Arif Mardin (synthesizer); Philippe Saisse (bass synthesizer); Jimmy Bralower (drums, programming, drum programming); John "J.R." Robinson , Mickey Curry, Steve Ferrone (drums); Carol Steele (congas, tambourine, percussion); Carole Steele (percussion); Connie Harvey, Dan Hartman, Mark Stevens, James Ingram , Jocelyn Brown (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Tom Lord-Alge.
Recording information: Giant Sound, New York, NY; Nethert; Power Station, New York, NY; Right Track Recording, New York, NY; Right Track Recording, NY; Unique Recording Studio, New Yo; Unique Recording Studio, New York, NY.
Photographer: Arthur Elgort.
Arranger: David Frank.
More meticulously crafted than its predecessor ARC OF A DIVER, and more musically adventurous than its follow-up ROLL WITH IT, BACK IN THE HIGH LIFE represents the pinnacle of Steve Winwood's '80s pop output. High production values, interlocking percussion lines, R&B backing vocals, horns, synthesizers and ideas borrowed from various world musics enhance and update Winwood's proclivity for blues, R&B, and rock. His distinctive, blue-eyed soul vocals are, naturally, at the front of the mix as well.
The runaway Number One single, "Higher Love," with its syncopated groove, pan-African percussion, and slick Top-40 production, kicks off this accessible set. Elsewhere, the dance-gospel of "Wake Me Up on Judgment Day," the semi-acoustic title track, and the funk-touched "Split Decision" (which proves Winwood's R&B roots are still strong) keep the stylistic wheel turning. The record's success, sonically and commercially, should come as no surprise. Since his days in Traffic, Winwood has been a masterful stylistic synthesist, melding a range of aesthetics in ways that invariably connect with listeners. BACK IN THE HIGH LIFE is further proof of his remarkable abilities.