On this day in music history: December 31, 198…

On this day in music history: December 31, 1980 – “Arc Of A Diver”, the second solo album by Steve Winwood is released. Produced by Steve Winwood, it is recorded at Netherturkdonic Studios in Cotswold, Gloucestershire, UK from Mid 1978 – Late 1980. After a seven year stint in the band Traffic, Steve Winwood steps out on his own with his solo debut in 1977. It is viewed as disappointing in the wake of Traffic’s string of hit albums. Taking time to regroup, he marries Nicole Weir in 1978 shortly before working on his second solo album. Living in a 11th century farmhouse in the British Midlands, the musician sinks much of his personal fortune into building a home recording studio. Now having the freedom to work without running up huge studio bills, he gets down to work. The project also marks the beginning of a long collaboration with lyricist Will Jennings. He also co-writes with Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band vocalist Viv Stanshall and George Fleming, who contribute lyrics. Winwood works almost entirely on his own, playing all of the instruments and doing most of the engineering himself. In working this way, the recording process is slow, understanding that not delivering a commercial record could signal the end of his career and financial security. He spends the better part of two years working on what becomes “Arc Of A Diver”. Any concern of another commercial slump is quickly washed away with the release of the first single “While You See A Chance” (#7 Pop, #2 Mainstream Rock, #45 UK) in January of 1981. Though it isn’t a major hit in his home country, the song it is immediately embraced by American radio, and wins the veteran musician a new generation of fans. The sleek and infectious sound of the album, which sees Steve Winwood incorporating synthesizers and programmed drums into his sound, sets the template for the albums that follow, and the even greater success he will enjoy during the 80’s. It spins off two further singles including “Night Train” (#104 Pop) and the title track (#48 Pop, #11 Mainstream Rock). Originally released on CD in 1986 and regarded as a favorite among audiophiles, it is remastered and reissued as a 24K gold CD by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 1993. Also scheduled for release at the time as a half-speed mastered vinyl LP, only test pressings of the album exist, and the MoFi vinyl edition is never commercially released. Existing copies of the test pressings have changed hands for several hundred dollars each on the secondary collector’s market. It is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2009 and on CD in 2012, with the CD edition including a bonus disc with three additional tracks and a nearly hour long interview on the making of the album. It is also issued as an SACD and SHM-CD by Universal Music Japan in 2014. “Arc Of A Diver” peaks at number thirteen on the UK album chart, number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.