7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I'm feelin' alright,
This review is from: Smiling Phases (Audio CD)
Traffic were always an unusual band. Steve Winwood, the much acclaimed white soul shouter - he may or may not have been the best, but he was certainly the youngest - had made a sideways move to psychedelia from rhythm & blues, and had formed Traffic with three mates from Midlands based bands. Their first single, "Paper Sun" bore out the psychedelic label with prominent sitar in the backing but the follow-up, "Hole in my shoe" was something else entirely. More like a kiddie song than heavy psych (or at least the sort of music we were hearing from bands on the US West Coast), it actually did very well and continues to pop up on oldies programmes. Both written and sung by band member Dave Mason, this single was actually not atypical for Traffic in their early days. Mason's penchant for whimsy was but one of the factors that went into the complex mix that was Traffic.
I've always considered the second and third studio albums as their best and would also put both in the category of rock classics. The second, "Traffic" was the last one with Mason on board and is possibly their best set of songs. The third, "John Barleycorn must die" was the first with "long" numbers. It had only six tracks (that is, the UK version) but four of them were over six minutes in length. The album also had an odd history in that the band had effectively disbanded after "Traffic" and Winwood started this one as a solo album and then the band (minus Mason) reformed around him. Subsequent albums were disrupted by the on-off status of "Traffic" and another Winwood sidestep to Blind Faith, but their content largely followed the direction of "John Barleycorn" with even more emphasis on extended jamming, sometimes with added African percussion.
Disc 1 of this set gives us the initial singles, four tracks from "Dear Mr Fantasy", the first album, five from "Traffic" and three from the (part) live album, "Last Exit". On Disc 2 we get a generous four out of the six tracks including the title track, then it's three from "Low spark of the high-heeled boys", the title track only from "Shoot out at the Fantasy Factory", finishing with two tracks from "When the Eagle flies".
Any set which has "No face, no name, no number", "Dear Mr Fantasy", "Feelin' Alright" (fantastic), "Pearly Queen" (R&B chops on East End fantasy), "(Roamin' thro' the gloamin' with) 40,000 Headmen" (beat that for a title!), "Vagabond Virgin", "Glad", "Freedom Rider", "John Barleycorn must die" (totally different from all the other tracks on the album it came from) and "The low spark of the high-heeled boys" has got to be pretty good hasn't it? I would have liked "Crying to be heard" with that marvellous Chris Wood sound and maybe one or two others, but this`ll do very nicely so I'm feelin' alright indeed!