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Traffic - Welcome to the Canteen CD (album) cover

WELCOME TO THE CANTEEN

Traffic

 

Eclectic Prog

3.40 | 59 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The artists formerly known as "Traffic"

Although now routinely credited to Traffic, the original release of "Welcome to the canteen" simply showed the names of the seven performers, with no reference to a combined name at all. There is no doubt though that this release is significant in the history of Traffic.

After "John Barleycorn must die" had secured its position as Traffic's most successful and critically acclaimed to date (and in retrospect it has retained those plaudits), Traffic decided they should tour to promote the album further. This presented something of a quandary for the trio, as it was far more difficult to replicate Steve Winwood's multi-instrumental plus vocal talents in a live environment than it was when utilising the multi-track capabilities of a studio. Winwood's former companion in Blind Faith, Rick Grech, was therefore brought in as a permanent bassist. Live recordings were made in New York for an album which was never released. Two of these tracks are however now available on the expanded version of the "John Barleycorn.." album.

Before the next tour in 1971, the line up was augmented further by drummer Jim Gordon and percussionist Reebop Kwaku. These two additions afforded Jim Capaldi greater opportunities to step up to the mike and share vocal duties with Winwood. The most surprising addition though was the return of original band member singer/guitarist Dave Mason, who had already left the band at least twice previously.

The opening leg of the tour at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon (in south London) was recorded for this album, with some further recordings from another gig in London also being used.

There are just six track here. The first song "Medicated goo", which reflects the band's lighter pop side, was originally a non-album single. It is followed by a solo acoustic performance by Mason, "Sad and deep as you" being a soft reflective number. The fine "40,000 headmen" is given a slightly extended treatment, but retains its folk character and charm.

Mason contributes a second song from his own catalogue with "Shouldn't have took more than you gave", a song which sounds very like his "Feelin' alright", recorded by Traffic. Up to this point in the album, the songs have been tight and relatively brief, with little indication of the jazz orientated route the band would soon adopt. The final two tracks though, which occupy half of the album, to some extent redress the balance. The first of these, "Dear Mr. Fantasy", is an 11 minute reworking of the title track from Traffic's first album. The extension of the song is of course through soloing by Mason and Winwood, the centre section of the piece sounding heavily improvised.

The final track is a nine minute run through of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme some lovin", a song written by Winwood with his brother Muff and Spencer Davis. This rendition is little more than an excuse for the band to let their collective hair down. There is a disorganised, almost shambolic feel to the jam, which desperately cries out for someone to take control. It was probably great fun for those who were there, but does not translate well to an audio only environment.

The sound quality of the recordings is rather poor, having the echoed and muffled characteristics of a bootleg. Digital remastering has cleaned things up slightly, but the quality does remain an issue. With even the remastered version running to less than 40 minutes, one wonders whether this was a ridiculously brief gig, or if there remain unreleased recordings in the vaults.

This line up of the band played just six gigs with this line up before Winwood decided that he preferred to concentrate on studio recording. Despite his enthusiasm for the reunion, Mason then returned to the US where he had taken up residence.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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