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TRAFFIC

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Traffic biography
TRAFFIC were formed in Birmingham, UK in 1967 by Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason. Winwood had previously found fame in the SPENCER DAVIS GROUP whose biggest hit single was "Keep on running". While Traffic's sound then was very much of its time, the emphasis on Winwood's keyboards and Wood's wind instruments set them apart from their guitar driven peers.

The band's first single "Paper Sun", gave them instant chart success, reaching No. 5 in the UK. The follow up, Mason's "Hole In My Shoe", is probably their best know single, being a mildly amusing piece of psychedelia. Winwood was reportedly unimpressed with the song's success though, feeling it misrepresented his vision for the band.

The first album, "Mr Fantasy" followed the same year, but before it had even been released, Mason had left. Winwood's position as the dominant member of the band was already well established, his (and also Wood and Capaldi's) jazz orientation appearing at odds with Mason's lighter melodic style. Mason quickly returned however for the recording of the band's second album "Traffic" in 1968, writing or co-writing many of the tracks including his often covered "Feelin' Alright". It appears the band realised at that time that without Mason they would struggle to write sufficient material to meet their contractual obligations.

Mason was subsequently ejected from the band in 1969, Winwood later announcing that the band had run its course. Island records released what appeared to be a posthumous album of b-sides, singles, studio outtakes and live recordings in the form of the appropriately named "Last Exit". Winwood though was still contracted to Island for 2 more albums, so the following year he started work on a solo album, calling in Wood and Capaldi to assist. The TRAFFIC name was quickly resurrected, and the album, "John Barleycorn Must Die", was released. For many, this is Traffic's best album. While the title is taken from a traditional folk song, the music is a wonderful blend of prog, jazz, rock, and folk.

Following that album's release, Rick Grech (ex-FAMILY) joined, to ease the pressure on the multi-instrumental Winwood. Various subsequent line up additions and changes took place, including another return by Mason. The live album "Welcome To The Canteen" (strangely not credited to TRAFFIC, but to the band members individually) offers a good summary of their work during this period.

Despite further line up changes...
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TRAFFIC shows & tickets


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TRAFFIC discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

TRAFFIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.67 | 108 ratings
Mr. Fantasy
1967
3.38 | 32 ratings
Heaven Is in Your Mind
1968
3.37 | 83 ratings
Traffic
1968
2.55 | 55 ratings
Last Exit
1969
3.87 | 220 ratings
John Barleycorn Must Die
1970
4.01 | 197 ratings
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
1971
3.78 | 110 ratings
Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory
1973
3.27 | 70 ratings
When The Eagle Flies
1974
3.06 | 38 ratings
Far From Home
1994

TRAFFIC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.35 | 44 ratings
Welcome to the Canteen
1971
4.03 | 52 ratings
On The Road
1973

TRAFFIC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.76 | 9 ratings
Live at Santa Monica
1991
3.76 | 7 ratings
The Last Great Traffic Jam
2003

TRAFFIC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.74 | 13 ratings
The Best Of Traffic
1969
3.00 | 1 ratings
Heavy Traffic
1975
2.82 | 2 ratings
More Heavy Traffic
1975
4.04 | 7 ratings
Smiling Phases
1991
3.91 | 3 ratings
Heaven Is In Your Mind. An Introduction To Traffic
1998
4.00 | 1 ratings
Feelin' Alright: The Very Best of Traffic
2000
3.38 | 4 ratings
The Collection
2002
2.09 | 2 ratings
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Traffic
2003
3.86 | 14 ratings
Traffic Gold
2005

TRAFFIC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

TRAFFIC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 John Barleycorn Must Die by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.87 | 220 ratings

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John Barleycorn Must Die
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by Memo_anathemo

4 stars Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood and Chris Wood created with 'John Barleycorn Must Die' a jewel in the crown of music. An album full of excellent songs full of progressive folk rock, and jazz passages. 'Glad' seems to me a bit full of jazz and soul, with good use of saxophone. 'Freedom rider' is a different song with more folk and proto progressive elements. "I Just Want You To Know" is a short piece included in the remastered version, acceptable. 'Stranger to Himself' is a rock piece combined with a bit of rhythm and blues. The title track 'John Barleycorn' is a folk piece full of acoustic guitars and a blend of high pitch voice with a low pitch voice. The last song 'Every Mother's Son' also contains good rock and jazzy sound. To summarize, a very good album.

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 The Last Great Traffic Jam by TRAFFIC album cover DVD/Video, 2003
3.76 | 7 ratings

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The Last Great Traffic Jam
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by BORA

3 stars Jam of sorts.

I am relieved that this performance is very different to the album "Far From Home" both recorded in 1994. The latter being more of a Winwood solo effort where he was practically replicating Phil Collin's Pop-Disco diva approach.

Here, the band sounds more like Traffic, although with a bit of a twist. A staple diet of the usual tunes performed live is not surprising and rather typical of the band. It works quite well too, considering that there are only two founding members left.

Sadly, former sax player, Chris Wood is long gone and his exceptionally deep approach to his instruments - something that made the band really special - is sorely missed. Wood's replacement, Randall Bramblett does a credible job here without attempting to step into "Wood's place as a frontman.

Well, it's jamming, but of a different kind. In place of extended instrumental stretching out, it's more like a repetitive, rhythmic workout that goes on and on. Quite enjoyable, no doubt, but much closer to Santana-sty'e grooves than typical Traffic. To the point where one could be excused for mistaking it for a Santana band "filling time" approach. So, it's not really the form(less) jamming I'd prefer, but more of a loosely structured work with some solos thrown in. Still good.

The actual production as opposed to the music is disappointing, though. The nervous camera work that keeps jumping from one person to the other is absolutely annoying. Ditto for the interruptions between numbers that repeatedly interfere the flow of "traffic", but perhaps appropriate to the title "Traffic Jam"?

This is a performance I'd rather listen to than watch as it's presented on DVD. On any account, the 1972 "Santa Mobica" performance is more preferred.

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 The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 197 ratings

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The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Another heterogeneous grab-bag along the lines of John Barleycorn, the appeal of Traffic's The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys. Once again apparently unable to choose between folk-rock, proto-prog, psyche and straight ahead rock, and responding to this indecision by dithering around between the various genres they'd flirted with rather than coming up with a really interesting fusion with them. The stylistic gear change between the folky opener Hidden Treasure and the jazzy, mellow title track could give listeners whiplash. On top of that, given that it takes up 12 minutes of the album, the title track could really do with a bit of polishing - as it stands, it's a plodding, repetitive mess, with instrumental breaks which don't quite justify the tedium.

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 On The Road by TRAFFIC album cover Live, 1973
4.03 | 52 ratings

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On The Road
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by the philosopher

4 stars Traffic is the one band I should name if men asked me which progressive (related) band sounded better on a live recording then on their studio records. The main reason is that these guys really knew how to jam. Don't expect Jimi Hendrix alike freak outs, but subtle tunes which were creatively build to enhance the atmosphere and theme to suck you into it. Steve Winwood shows his very disciplined wah-wah guitar skills very often and Chris Wood on the saxes shows he can hold up the high level of discipline. The addition of an Afro American percussionist is another great find to enhance the jams.The keyboard player Barry Backet does not often take the lead, but is an excellent co-worker. There are no long drum or bass solo's, but I think that is fine, because those often become boring if listened for several times. This double live record gets its material from the previous three studio albums (John Barleycorn - Shoot out the Fantasy Factory) and has no overlap with the "Welcome to the Canteen" live recording.

Traffic on the Road starts with the excellent Glad and Freedom Rider to fill the first side. Although I get the idea that the sax theme sounds better on the John Barleycorn record and the vocals on Freedom Rider were also better on studio the overall feel is great and better then ever before. The long jams doesn't bore me for a minute; this is just what the band does best. While I'm not so fond of the "Low sparks of high heeled boys" record I must admit that on this live recording also this starts to live for me.

This record shows Traffic at its best. This is an excellent addition to a rock collection and a good place to start with Traffic's discography.

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 The Best Of Traffic by TRAFFIC album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1969
2.74 | 13 ratings

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The Best Of Traffic
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by Dougless

4 stars To understand this album, you have to understand how expensive records were in the UK in the late 1960's. Traffic had disbanded, produced two great albums and a third made up from bits and pieces. It made sense to produce a Best of which made some of their better known and more accessible stuff available to the public. This is a great compilation when viewed through the lens of a late 60's early 70's record buyer. If I was buying a compilation now, I would probably buy Smiling Phases but that is a CD! If you want a real record buy this, it's great.

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 The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 197 ratings

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The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by RustedAxle

5 stars This is an album that resonated with me as a kid growing up in the 70s. The title track is obviously the focal point of the album here, but there are gems found on the rest of the album as well. At the time I was listening to this album in my youth, I wasn't really aware of "progressive rock" - I only knew this was an album that I loved and couldn't get enough of. In fact when I listen to it now I still have trouble hearing it as a 'prog' album, I just consider it a great ROCK album. Along with John Barleycorn, this is the must-have Traffic record.

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 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Traffic by TRAFFIC album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
2.09 | 2 ratings

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20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Traffic
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by mohaveman

2 stars A fair collection of Yraffic pieces, even though much good work is missing. But with only a 51 minute cd to work with, it's hard to choose all the gems from Traffic's extensive history. "Roll Right Stones" is missing but "Low Spark of Highheel Boys" is here as is is"Paper Sun" and "Dear Mr Fantasy". Where is anything from John Barleycorn? Oh, well. This is meant as a simple intro to the band for a budget price. You get what you pay for. Not the best way to discover this band, too many missing pieces. For first time newbies on a budget only. 2 stars.

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 John Barleycorn Must Die by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.87 | 220 ratings

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John Barleycorn Must Die
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

2 stars This album is comprised of some rock, some jazz, some folk, some soul and some prog all tied up in a bundle. This album is basically "stuff".

It's always driven me nuts every time I've played this work, hoping for a spark, something to perk my ears and take notice. It's never happened. By the time I get to the best track, the full on folk title song, I'm crawling around on the floor battling ennui and holding on to a coffee table like a life preserver lest I pass out. This album has that effect on me.

The musicianship is fine. "Glad" will attest to that. There's nothing exciting, yet these guys can certainly play. "Freedom Rider" even has smidgeons of their earlier style to keep things vaguely entertaining. The next two tracks are soul-sucking whirlpools of banality. They aren't terrible songs boasting poor musicianship and embarrassing lyrics. At least that would be fun. These songs, and, in retrospect, the album as a whole, are huge bowls of pasta with no sauce, dressings or garnish. Plain spaghetti. Prince spaghetti from a box boiled for eleven minutes and dumped into a large white bowl.

The title track is an old folksy song that I actually wouldn't skip on a shuffle whatsoever. It's pretty good, and saves this album from being a complete life-crushing experience. "Every Mothers Son" has a bit more guitar to it, which is fine, but even Bread had to show the world they could "rock out" once in a while. This isn't soft rock at all, but there's no fire either.

I enjoy a lot of Traffic's albums, and Steve has an amazing voice. The fact that this is considered one of their highpoints and a financially successful one at that without even a hit single always baffled me to some extent. It lacks the psychedelic charms of their earlier material, and the cool funk of their following couple of albums. It has a little bit of both sides of their spectrum, but nothing worth grabbing. There's definitely merit in creating a work that is musically difficult to categorize, such as this release, so I'll give it that. It's just that despite being a rather unusual recording, it all sounds relatively tame. It sounds like "stuff".

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 John Barleycorn Must Die by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.87 | 220 ratings

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John Barleycorn Must Die
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by mohaveman

4 stars Along with LOW SPARK OF HIGHHEELED BOYS and SHOOTOUT AT THE FANTASY FACTORY, JOHN BARLEYCORN MUST DIE is one of the essential 3 albums by Traffic. Folk, jazz, rock, and prog can all be found on this disc from 1970. There are no weak songs out of the 6 here. (I have the older non-bonus material compact disc). Classic Traffic tracks such as the title number, "Glad", and "Freedom Rider" are to be found on JOHN BARLEYCORN. I do not listen to this as much as SHOOTOUT or LOW SPARK, but it is still nice to throw it on every once in awhile. Hard to believe this album came out 41 years ago! It's not a perfect 5 star progressive album but it easily deserves 4 stars.

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 The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 197 ratings

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The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by mohaveman

4 stars A great rock album as well as a great Prog album (Eclectic? Crossover? Prog Related?) released in 1971 by Traffic. Folk, jazz, blues, funk, rock,...it's all here. Once again Traffic delivers. While everyone knows the wonderful title track (which deserves it's reputation as one of the top rock songs of all time), there are also some other fine songs here, with "Many a Mile to Freedom", "Light up and Leave me Alone", and "Rainmaker" being my personal favorites. The other tracks are also good. While I can't give this a true 5 star rating as a true prog album, it deserves 4 stars at least. (Really 4 1/2). I am still unsure about whether this is Eclectic Prog or not. Maybe Prog Related? Proto-Prog? Whatever, it's a fine album in the history of rock and roll.

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