"Steve Winwood had a period of 3 years from 1986 to 1988 where he was on top of the world. He had three very commercially successful albums in "Back in the High Life", "Chronicles", and "Roll With It". As with most artists who cross-over into pop, its often very difficult to have 3 to 4 successful albums commercially. Thus when Refugees of the Heart (ROTH) came out, it hit the wall in terms of commercial sales.When you listen to this album, there are three noticable differences with this album:1. This is not the up-tempo Stevie Winwood we heard during the three year period I mentioned. It's a more mellow collection of songs. If you've heard "Don't You Know What the Night Can Do?" from "Roll With It" (and the beer commercials), that's the trend of the sound this album takes.
2. [...] there is an infusion of progressive rock and jazz on this album. Almost more of "Back to the Future" Traffic days.
3. Steve Winwood shows us a lot of his spirtual side. While I don't think this is a "Christian Rock" album, Winwood emphasises a lot of spirtuality that he had previously not seen. I'm surprised that more was not made to this. When Creed put out their albums, they made a big deal about it.The result is a masterpiece. When ROTH came out, I thought for sure it was a Sure Winner for the Grammy. I was shocked to see it didn't even garner any attention. The disappointing commercial sales didn't surprise me. This was not a POP album and I didn't not expect it to be on the Top 40 stations all that much.As for the Songs - I feel they are all incredible. A quick synopsis:
1.You'll Keep on Searching: Immediately on this opening track, I heard the differences above. The music reminds you of "Don't You Know What the Night Can Do?" even though this is not a sequel.
2.Every Day (Oh Lord): This is the second song on the album and the first where we hear Winwood express references to his faith in the song. It is one of the faster tempo songs on the album and is very catchy.
3.One and Only Man: This was the only song from ROTH to make the Top 40. In this song, Steve explores a relationship - a lot of trademark Winwood vocals in here.
4.I Will Be Here: A very powerful ballad. This song grips at you emotionally as you play the track.
5.Another Deal Goes Down: This song is loaded with symbolism. Listen to it and check out the words. Spirtuality is a big theme in this song as he discusses the temptation of the Devil.
6.Running On: This song is another classic. More of a higher tempo than most ROTH songs. He makes the reference to Memphis, which is his new home.
7.Come Out and Dance: This might not be the most catchy song on the album, but there are some great lyrics to the song. I particularly like the lines "Now baby, don't read the papers, 'cause they always make you sad And honey, don't watch the TV 'cause the news is always bad" and "If we got everyone dancing, wouldn't be no time for war". Clearly Winwood tells us his feelings on this topic.
8.In the Light of Day: This is the signature song of the album. Nearly 9 minutes of great lyrics and great instrumentation. It is the deepest song of the album. Winwood has the strongest references to his spirtuality on the album. The song builds to a crescendo both lyrically and musically. It is my favorite Winwood song of all time. This is an album I highly recommend if you are a Winwood fan looking to hear a new direction - or someone who hasn't heard Steve Winwood and is looking for something different."
An Underappreciated Gem
Steven R. Seim | Beaver Dam, WI United States | 07/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On "Roll With It," Steve Winwood added touches of his '60s R&B influences to the catchy '80s pop-rock of "Back in the High Life." With "Refugees of the Heart," he added one more ingredient: the progressive-rock and jazz experimentation of his days with Traffic. "You'll Keep on Searching" suggests latter-day Pink Floyd, then builds to a soulful climax (which is reprised on the beautiful "I Will Be Here"). "One and Only Man" proves again that Winwood has the most hard-edged keyboard technique in rock. He could be mistaken for Stevie Ray on the searing slide-guitar blues "Another Deal Goes Down." And he makes his recording debut on vibes (!) for the lyrically and musically transcendent closer, "In the Light of Day." Top 40 radio (and its listeners) had probably grown bored with Winwood after two recent multi-platinum smashes, but "Refugees of the Heart" deserves just as broad of an audience as its classic predecessors. What a shame that it's collecting dust in bargain bins!"
Alan Caylow | USA | 06/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1990's "Refugees Of The Heart" was the album that made me a Steve Winwood fan. I'd heard some of Steve's hit songs from "Arc Of A Diver," "Back In The High Life" & "Roll With It," and I liked them, but "Refugees Of The Heart" completely blew me away. That this wonderful album was NOT a hit and is now out-of-print is a very sad thing, for this is Steve's best solo album by far. I enjoy all of Steve's albums, of course, but "Refugees" has a very special maturity & musical richness to it, and Steve generously adds a taste of good ol' progressive rock to some of the album's pop proceedings, which, for any fan who knows the man's work with Traffic, is greatly appreciated. Most of the songs are at least five minutes in length, allowing Winwood to really stretch out. Not a bad song among the bunch, with highlights such as the spiritual "You'll Keep On Searching," the rockin' "One And Only Man," the lovely "I Will Be Here," the bluesy "Another Deal Goes Down," the fun of "Come Out And Dance," and, what is quite possibly Steve's greatest solo composition EVER, the hypnotic 9 1/2 minute "In The Light Of Day," a dreamy, breathtaking masterwork. Steve's soulful voice, songwriting & playing are magnificent, and the album *sounds* terrific, being digitally recorded, mixed & and mastered.It's so very disappointing that the music-buying public missed the boat on "Refugees Of The Heart." As another reviewer pointed out, perhaps they had gotten a bit tired of Winwood by this time, after he had back-to-back hit albums and was such a big presence on the radio in the late 80's. But make no mistake, "Refugees Of The Heart" is undoubtedly Steve Winwood's greatest solo album to date. It is an astonishing disc from beginning to end, and should not be ignored. Pick it up!"
Two stars, two good songs, that's all, folks
Bertrand Stclair | new york, new york United States | 09/28/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I come to this album almost ten years after it was issued, which means that practically no one will read this review, but it also means that I have a good vantage point, looking back at the nineties as a whole, in terms of musical genres and Winwood's progress within it. Much was made of Winwood's return to form after a series of overly pop-commercial albums, which made him millions but took him off the pedestal of the renegade musician who never "sold out." Consequently, the album failed commercially but received all the praise in the world from papers such as the Rolling Stone (who called it "sophisticated") and from old fans of his career as epitomized by his Traffic days - you can find their opinions here. I tend to be leery of press reviewers, who often just write down their knee-jerk reactions (i.e., if the music is commercial, the artist has lost his integrity, if not commercial, it must be sophisticated). In my view, this is a dud. Winwood's integrity is not in question, and he has certainly ensured his place in the pantheon of musicianship and creativity, but this is boring stuff. Sophisticated - hardly. The songs are relatively simple, none going into funky key changes (as Traffic used to), sticking to a few basic chords with linearly-developed melodies but without any punch (the way old Spencer Davis Group used to play). The instrumentation is Winwood's staple: organ and wind instruments, with a few rather awful, very nineties, effects thrown in here and there. Someone spoke of jazz fusion, but I get a very different sense: a bit too much of clarinet, singing prettily but mindlessly behind the organ; add a slow tempo that wouldn't wake up grandma from her afternoon nap, and you have - dare I say it! - horrible visions of Kenny G. I must add quickly that each of these songs has merit on its own: "Another Deal Goes Down," for instance, snakes around nicely as a dark, bluesy thing, and "I Will Be Here" is a sincere, although not particularly moving, ballad. Together as an album, however, the songs don't work. With the exception of "One and Only Man" (I believe this was a minor hit at the time), they all proceed at just about the same pace and drown in each other. The nearly ten-minute "In the Light of Day" also stands out if you don't listen to the rest of the album first; the song, instead of meandering through the aabbccaa chordal system, fully delves into its drone-like structure and produces a winner, somewhat reminiscent of Laurie Anderson of that era. So, essentially, is you can purchase just "One and Only Man" and "In the Light of Day", you can happily add that to your personal "best of Steve." Chalk up the rest to the experimentation of a great musician always looking for his path. "