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Traffic - Welcome to the Canteen CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.40 | 59 ratings

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2 stars It's no pleasure to be a dissenting voice here among my esteemed fellow reviewers about this live album yet I find it hard to accept this as an "official" Traffic recording. It obviously includes members past, present and future but, since only half the songs presented are actually by the group, I think the name of the band being a list of the musicians involved in the concert is quite fitting and realistic.

One of my favorite tunes by Traffic starts things rolling as the band dives into the soulful funk that is "Medicated Goo." It's played a little bit fast but that can occur on stage and the intimate sound of the room is warm and cozy. Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi turn in a spirited duet performance on the choruses. Dave Mason probably agreed to appear on the condition that he could do songs from his solo debut and it's to the listener's benefit that he does. His beautiful "Sad And Deep As You" is an excellent ballad and Chris Wood's mournful flute wafting in the background adds a nice touch along with "Reebop" Kwaku Baah's simple percussion. I've always loved "40,000 Headmen" and they deliver a decent rendition here. Winwood's vocal is as strong as ever but Chris' flute (that provided such a crucial element on the studio version) is too far down in the mix to be effective. The rhythm section of Jim Gordon on drums and Rick Grech on bass lays down a hypnotic groove, though, and Reebop injects some startling dynamics on congas. The extended jam at the end is suitably dream-like. Dave steps to the front once again to sing "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave," another gem from his "Alone Together" LP. His voice is confident and clear and his guitar lead is better than average as Steve's Hammond organ fills up the room around him. I would have liked for them to have offered more from the band's second album but instead they give you two very long cuts that pretty much destroy the pensive ambience that the four previous tracks established. I have to admit that when it comes to "Dear Mr. Fantasy" I am negatively biased because it's my least liked song from the entire Traffic catalogue. Perhaps it stems from some suppressed teenage trauma residing in my dank subconscious but it just grates on my nerves something fierce. Mason adds some passable guitar on it but when Winwood takes a turn and jabs/stabs on his six-string it sounds like amateur hour. Not only that but the engineer must have gone out for a smoke because the audio quality takes a nosedive and it begins to sound like a bootleg. Clocking in at 10:32 this ordeal becomes ridiculously indulgent and monotonous. If that wasn't bad enough they next plod through almost nine minutes of the old Spencer Davis Group hit "Gimme Some Lovin'." It starts out okay with Jim Gordon and Mason tricking it up with a rolling rhythm much like the one employed on Dave's "Only You Know And I Know" and you're thinking this might get good. Alas, lightning never strikes and the clueless saxophone ride by Chris Wood is awful. I suspect he may have been BUI (blowing under the influence) and that sometimes happens but no one else picks up the ball to run with it in his absence. To my ears it just goes on and on ad nauseum with Steve singing the same verse over and over to fill up the space. The crowd goes crazy at the end so I guess you just had to be there to get the full effect. Or something.

My opinion is that this was never a case of Mason and the original group getting back together to make new music at all. They had an opportunity to perform on the same stage again for the 1971 Oz Benefit in London and they threw in a few more performances because they felt like it. It also provided a way to get United Artists off their backs by letting them release it as the required LP to fulfill their contract. Whatever the reasons may be, this lineup didn't last beyond the short tour and everyone moved forward to take care of their own business. It's a half good/half mess of an album that is more of a snapshot in time rather than being a true indication of just how fantastic Traffic could be. 2.4 stars.

Chicapah | 2/5 |


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