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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 21 July 2017
Traffic's second album is highly regarded. It is also overrated. In hindsight, it is something of a junction in the road ahead, the band having left their psychedelic leanings of 1967 behind but yet to establish a clear style going forward. The problem is that there's a fairly clear divide between the Winwood-Capaldi-Wood axis, whose contribution is to establish something of a template for their developing soul-folk-prog fusion, and the songs that Dave Mason contributes to, which apart from 'Cryin to be heard' are of a more conservative nature. Indeed, the first problem with the record is that you have to get beyond the truly wretched 'You can all join in' (which makes its near-contemporary 'All together now' by the Beatles sound like a masterpiece) before the more sublime Winwood-inspired music lifts off with 'Pearly queen'. Then we come to 'Feelin' alright', the most famous song on the album, but little more than dad-rock doggerel, before the lamentable 'Vagabond virgin' whose lyrics might in 1968 have amounted to a case of 'what a lad', but nearly half a century later are most uncomfortable, coming across as those of a lecherous geezer effectively advocating paedophilia (not cool). Fortunately we have far more substantial fare in the likes of 'No time to live', and musically at least, in the groove of '40000 headmen'. The bonus tracks almost deserve to add a star to my rating, not least in that the closing 'Medicated goo' and 'Shanghai noodle factory', a brilliant single pairing, are the best music here, pointing towards the classic triumvirate of 'Barleycorn', 'Low spark' and 'Fantasy factory'. However even this is a fudge, as the two from 1967 clearly belong with the 'Mr Fantasy' stuff, chronologically and sonically. Never mind, at least that dullard Mason would soon be off.
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on 8 September 2014
With Dave Mason restored to the line-up after a brief period away, Traffic entered their most energized phase of creativity before Mason departed for a second time. 'Traffic' (1968) is a glorious collection of songs; Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood's R&B-tinged rock workouts sit happily alongside Mason's classy folk/rock material and, for me, there is barely a weak moment here. The majestic 'Pearly Queen' and the subtle 'No Time To Live' are Winwood/Capaldi classics whilst Mason supplies a clutch of lovely tracks including 'Feelin' Alright' and 'Crying To Be Heard'. The bonus tracks are pretty decent too, with 'Medicated Goo' and 'Shanghai Noodle Factory' (from the 'Last Exit' LP) standing out. Although the first 3 studio albums [ 'Mr. Fantasy', 'Traffic' and 'John Barleycorn Must Die'] are all superb releases, on balance, 'Traffic' is the album I would buy first - it really is excellent, both musically and lyrically. Highly recommended.
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on 27 March 2017
Thank you for the pointers about the versions to get - very informative. That said, I remember this album from the time of its release and it never "floated my boat". The wait for it was very long after Mr Fantasy and they seemed to be a band with troubles of some kind but I went to Hyde Park to see them play a promotional concert for this. For what it's worth, I had a fine afternoon and enjoyed all the acts, including Traffic, but I couldn't help but notice that they looked like they'd been sleeping in hedges. Strange, really, these were big-time pop stars.
After the brilliant Mr Fantasy, this disappointed me a lot. A girl I knew bought it, I heard it. Despite what is said here, too many of the songs appear to be hurried and unpolished, especially the lyrics of the Capaldi/Winwood offerings. To me, these are the noodlings of children - ("40,000 headmen" is ridiculous) and tracks such as "Shangai Noodle Factory" from Last Exit give the game away - this band don't seem to
think lyrics matter. It sounds like a theme plucked from a stoned imagination, no reality, written on scraps in moments and read from the
top of a piano - (Vagabond Virgin) etc, and horrific liberties taken to make these "fit" not-especially strong melodies, no polish at all. Mystifying! I think also that nobody knows how good a guitar player Dave Mason is because he was obliterated by Winwood spreading himself too thin - Winwood doesn't need to go anywhere near a guitar with Dave Mason in the band but on this album in particular, one would never know this. Well, he was only there for five minutes anyway, he kept leaving and it shows. Problems, the band not working to their
strengths at all, I felt. Disappointing, Dave Mason's playing is worth hearing, he's a fine guitarist. My friend (the girl) liked it, so that's all right
but the "clean" recording (Chris Blackwell, I think) sounded like a hurried "workaround because of lateness" after the creative studio work of Mr Fantasy and the release of "Are you feeling all right?" (Mason) as a single smacked of desperation to me - there is no obvious single in this collection and Traffic really ceased to register as a chart band at that time. For me, Traffic continued to not live up to the expectations, I didn't buy this and the next I heard was "On the road" and "Low Spark", none of it necessary to my life. To my ear, Traffic (and Winwood)
was a band that had too many problems to fulfil their obvious potential. Shame. But if you like it, get the US version, I have Mr Fantasy
and it's a good recording of a decent album.

It's hard to say - everybody "here" loves it and that's great. The thing is, I heard about the Spencer Davis Group early, I know albums such
as "Autumn '66" with Winwood singing stuff like "Nobody knows you when you're down and out", "When a man loves a woman" and "Till the
end of time" and he delivers, in full, on a phenomenal voice. Earlier, he'd been setting studios on fire with renditions of "Dimples", "I can't
stand it" and mucking in perfectly with a band that obviously had a very strong work ethic and we all know about the massive "Gimme some lovin'" and "I'm a Man" - incendiary singing! Traffic's early showing was "Paper Sun" and "Hole in my Shoe", well crafted pop that deservedly charted and all seemed set fair. What happened? I don't know but something certainly did. They were quiet for almost a year. Nothing. Zilch. I don't think they were off to America to promote stuff, after a long break "No Face, No Name, No number" (The "Mr Fantasy" album was
history by now) was released but the band didn't tour. Something went wrong. Winwood didn't appear to recover his early professionalism
until the 80s with stuff like "Valerie" and "Higher Love". I've got ears - I don't think that Steve Winwood was ever the same after that break in normal service.
Well, there were rumours of course about these personnel difficulties, fights about what to release etc and maybe some substance issues - I've seen them live about the time of "Eagle Flies" and Chris Wood was carried off mid-set, completely unconscious after staggering about
and being generally in the way (true) but the show went on, so we know it wasn't illness. The group saw no reason to explain to the audience, no bulletin, no face-saver, no reassurance, they just went on like "this happens" - that group were very big on drugs, that's certain. It was part of their life, they didn't realise that an audience might see that differently or not even undersrtand it. Wood was totally off his cake, that's what. I can't say. My feeling is that I'll leave cocaine alone, that's all, really, and I might think twice before I join a band with a man that has known nothing but the success of a child prodigy whilst I have nothing, and then agreeing to share a commune with (basically) a kid.That was never going to be easy, was it? That's the 60s for you, a young person perhaps "cutting loose" with ambitions, ideals and appetites but having lost
the steadiness of being in a band (Spencer Davis) that had never been any less than model professionals, excellent musicians with a
repertoire that spanned far more than Traffic's ever did. On what I might try to describe as the more "mature" elements of that, I'd say that
Winwood benefited from some good coaching, both for his vocals and his piano playing. He never got anywhere near that again, seems like he didn't take it with him. I wouldn't know about drug damage but I feel that the young Stevie Winwood was probably too young to manage being the biggest egg in the basket. Never mind, he's done all right, hasn't he?
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on 30 September 2014
I'm intrigued as to why people would want to read my review of a 60s classic some 48 years after it first appeared. Anyway, whether you have just happened upon Traffic for the first time, or are a "completist" or simply nostalgic... It is a wonderful album. But Wayne Klein makes a vital point in his review: there are TWO versions of this remastered album and the Bill Levenson one - i.e. the US import - is the one to get. By comparison this version is like listening with cotton wool in your ears. My 5 stars are for the import version. I have no idea which version has been compressed into the entirely inadequate MP3 format. Traffic were a fabulous band, both live and in the studio and the over-sanitised Sonic Solutions version does them a disservice. Content-wise? Well it is what it is. Dave Mason, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood at their best. I slightly prefer Mr Fantasy, but maybe that's me being nostalgic. Buy them both! As a footnote, it is interesting to see that Traffic have promoted more members than most to the Great Rock & Roll band in the Sky with Capaldi, Wood, Rick Grech and Rebop all now accompanying the Celestial Choir.
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on 13 February 2013
I am alvays finding myself tapping zer feet and humming loudly to zis vairy interesting band von der Englisher Midlandz.
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on 16 June 2008
Whatever the benefits of the USA mastered version (I'll now have to secure a copy!), this is probably my favourite Traffic album. Energy, creativity and musicianship abound despite the artistic tensions within the band (Mason vs the rest?)which resulted in some tracks being recorded as a trio without any overall detriment (e.g. the dark saga of 40,000 Headmen). Classic and contrasting songs abound from Mason's "You can all join in" hoe down and "Feelin' alright", to the later Traffic staples of "Who knows what tomorrow may bring" (gentle funk), "Pearly Queen" and the aforementioned "40,000 Headmen". Traffic's music entered new haunting and passionate realms with the segued "Cryin' to be heard" and "Cryin' to be heard" - a far cry from some of the psychedaelic whimsy of their first album. Winwood and Mason's vocal contributions are outstanding. Capaldi's drumming is absolutely rock solid and Chris Wood's sax and flute playing were never more coherent and convincing. To top it all is that amazing Hammond organ playing of a still young Steve Winwood, supported by excellent piano and guitar interludes. The bonus tracks represent different lines ups, with and without Dave Mason. The coming of age film "Mulberry Bush" actually featured the Spencer Davis Group (without SW of course), and Medicated Goo and Shanghai Noodle Factory were two sides of the final Traffic single of this period which sadly made no real impression on the charts. Outstanding music which stills sounds good to me even in this release.
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on 10 May 2017
Always think of Mr.Fantasy and forget what a good album this is.Listen to it again and appreciate how good this line up was
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VINE VOICEon 27 June 2007
I'm reviewing the album rather than the sound, something which I can't say spoiled this reissue for me anyway. With four great musicians and two great songwriters at the height of their power, Traffic could hardly go wrong. Dave Mason continued to provide the more commercial material, such as the maypole folk of 'You Can All Join In' while Steve Winwood, in tandem with Jim Capaldi, was reputedly the more progressive partner. In truth, all of the songs are quite accessible. Winwood's songs tend to have more character, especially the quizzical 'Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring?' and the impassioned 'Cryin' To Be Heard'. Chris Wood's playing on 'No Time To Live' also makes for a wonderfully spooky recording. The album would be worth buying without the bonus material, though this is quite generous. The soundtrack hit, 'Mulberry Bush' is one of those instant songs that drives you round the bend when you've heard it a few times, but you can always skip that.
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on 27 August 2009
Good variety of musical styles here and bonus tracks to boot (including the excellent "Medicated Goo"). If like me you love Blues, Soul of the Atlantic and Stax varieties, Hendrix and mid to late period Beatles, you aren't going to go wrong here, those are the kind of feels that you get for your money. Sound quality is fantastic on this reissue and the liner notes are really informative on the history of the band. As good as anything ever released by Cream or Clapton and much better than the Blind Faith album.
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on 31 July 2002
After the 'acid' whimsey of Traffic's debut album, Mr Fantasy, Traffic, the second offering, begins to offer insight into the dysfunctional artistic powerhouse that was Traffic. The young Winwood, playing guitar, piano and Hammond, plus providing the principal vocals, rails and rallies against the entire dark ages of music. Mason, Wood, Windwood, plus Capaldi define the role of the late 60s 'musician as artistic 'avatar'. Listen to Cryin' to be Heard and No Time to Live, plus 40,000 Headmen. Musical peaks, generated by sublime egos that can only degenerate into fracture and bitterness. Buy it.
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