These fellows changed lineups a good bit, we are going to focus on the roughly 1967-73 era, from which most of their classic material eminates....I'm sure they continued on afterwards, but I'm unfamilar with anything they would have done, and, anyway, with all the shifting/lineup changing, I doubt the were quite the "same" band. See what ya think if you are a newb, share a bootleg (I have a couple) if you are a vet, but Traffic were very, very accomplished musically, as we shall explore.....never really met anyone who TRULY diliked them.
Traffic was headed up by wonderkind Steve Winwood, who had fronted the Spencer Davis Group at age 15....Winwood handle vocals, keyboards, and occasional guitar work, and was joined by drummer/vocalist/lyricist Jim Capaldi, guitarist Dave Mason (who is appearing in my hometown with a new band very soon......don't think I'll show up, but good to see he's still hitting it hard), and woodwind player Chris Wood.
When "Mr. Fantasy" was released in 1967, it was at the very least DIFFERENT. it is dreamy and paychedelic, and Winwood's bluesey vocals are amazing......I think it's a four star album that has held up VERY well, check the wonderful title track, "Couloured Rain", "Berkshire Poppies".... wonderful document of a time and place, and still most enjoyable today. There were several versions of this album, with various extra tracks.....I think mine (a vinyl rip) is pretty much the original as it doesn't contain "Paper Sun" and a couple others, but it is still quite charming and comes hihly recommended.
1968 saw the release of "Traffic", a fine balance between Winwoods haunting musical experiments ("Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring"), and Mason's straight ahead folk-rock tunes ("Fellin' Alright", notably.....I find it essential, as well, just a tick beneath "Mr. Fantasy". Again this has been reissued a couple times, this is the original vinyl rip without the bonus tracks, sorry.
Traffic brokeup for the first time in 1969, which caused their lable to release a collection of odds and ends they had laying around as "Last Exit".....Mason does not appear on several of the tracks, when he does, it's like a solom effort, as as the rest of the band "back him up" ("Just For You")....the amazing balance between the band members so wonderful on the first two tracks was pretty much destroyed.....there are a couple live tracks here, on which Mason is nowhere to be heard. Noc\ffic fan I know of considers it a "classic", not that it doesn't have a momnt or two.
So, Winwood joined Blind Faith, which didn't exactly work out, and Cappaldi and Wood joined Ginger Baker's Airforce, also maybe not the greatest move. Winwood, attempting to make a solo album, called his old mates Capalldi and Wood, they teamed up again as Traffic......the sound was different, no question, but the resultant album "John Barleycorn Must Die", is perhaps my favorite Traffic album (blaspehemey, I'm certain, among "older-timers"......I jsut really love this album, praticularly it's magnificent title track. The jazz/blues influences ramain, but the electric folk of the title trck, with it's brilliant lyrics and laid-back vocal, have always made it a favorite of mine. There are other goodies here, "Freedom Rider" and "Every Mother's Son", I think that even among Traffic fans it is somewhat underappreciated.
They released a decent live disc, "Welcome to the Canteen", which I think I have around here somewhere and if I do I will add here, not the greatest, it does feature a good version of "Gimme some Lovin", with Winwood on vocals, harkening back to his Spencer Davis Group Days. I'll see if I have it, if I don't, no big deal though.
Some more blalsphemey I suppose......next up (1971) the released "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys". Many dislike this album, I happen to really enjoy it, in particlar it's rambling title track, was a significant AOR FM hit and remains one today.....MUCH more prog/jazz flavored than it's predecessor, with several guest artists to flesh out the sound (notably Rick Grech).
"And the sound that you're hearing is only the sound of the low spark of high-heeled boys".....to this day I have no clue as to the meaning of that lyric, and it gives me a chill each time regardless.
While there was a lot of change/growth between most of their other discs, they stayed pretty much in the same jazzy/proggy mode for "Shootout at the Fantasy Factory"......5 long tracks, none, I don't think, of which are the quality of even the lesser stuff of "Low Spark", but it's here, you guys do the math.
I have two good boots here, on from 1970 at the Fillmore, it contains a good version of "John barleycorn"a very good set stopper in "Mr Fantasy"....the other set is from 1972 Santa Monica, leading off with "Low Spark" and ending with "Mr Fantasy", I'd have like to have been there, myself, sounded like a good show.
So we're gonna leave Traffic here, in the early 70's where they belong.....I know they tredged on a bit, I don't have and am not familiar with any of their latter work......But, the stuff I have here, I REALLY like, diverse, innovative, most enjoyable. Please tell me your thoughts on Traffic, they were truly a band ahead of their time, wouldn't you agree?
MR FANTASY-01 Heaven Is In Your Mind/02 Berkshire Poppies/03 House For Everyone/04 No Face, No Name, No Number/05 Dear Mr Fantasy/06 Dealer/07 Utterly Simple/08 Couloured Rain/09 Hope I Never Find Me There/10 Giving To You
TRAFFIC-01 You Can All Join In/2 Pearly Queen/03 Don't Be Sad/04 Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring/05 Feelin Alright/06 Vagabond Virgin/07 Forty Thousand Headsmen/08 Cryin To Heard/09 No Time To Live/10 Means to An End
LAST EXIT-01 Just For You/02 Shanghai Noodle Factory/03 Something's Got a hold of My Toe/04 Withering Tree/06 Medicated Goo/07 Feelin Good/07 Blind Man
JOHN BARLEYCORN MUST DIE-01 Glad/02 Freedom Rider/03 Empty Pages/04 Stranger to Himself/05 John Barleycorn/06 Every Mother's Son
THE LOW SPARK OF HIGH HEELED BOYS-01 Hidden Treasure/02 The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys/03 Light Up Or Leave Me Alone/04 Rock N Roll Stew/05 Many a Mile to Freedom/06 Rainmaker
WELCOME TO THE CANTEEN-01 Medcated Goo/02 Sad And Deep As You/03 40000 Headmen/04 Should Have Took More Than You Gave/05 Dear Mr Fantasy/06 Gimme Some Lovin
SHOOTOUT AT THE FANTASY FACTORY-01 Shootout at the Fantasy Factory/02 Roll Right Stones/03 Evening BLues/04 Tragic Magic/05 (Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired
FILLMORE EAST 1970-01 Intro/02 Medicated Goo/03 Pearly Queen/04 Empty Pages/05 Heaven Is In Your Mind/06 Forty Thousand Headmen/07 John Barleycorn Must Die/08 Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring/09 Every Mother's Son/10 Glad/Freedom Rider/11 Means to an End/12 Dear Mr Fantasy
SANTA MONICA CA 1972-01 Low spark of High Heeled Boys/02 Light Up Or Leave Me Alone/03 John barleycorn Must Die/04 Rainmaker/05 Glad/Freedom Rider/06 Forty Thousand Headmen/07 Dear Mr Fantasy.
Well, I like Traffic and I hope I done them proud wth this post......lemme know, I'm always listening!