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Traffic - Traffic CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.43 | 131 ratings

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3 stars Buoyed by the success of 'Mr. Fantasy' Traffic set to work on a follow-up in the summer of 1968, minus Dave Mason who had departed before the first album even hit the record store shelves. The band hadn't done much in the studio for over a year, although Island Records had managed to keep their name alive with a patched-together single and touring schedule.

As with most things Traffic, there is some confusion (or perhaps revisionist history) surrounding this album. Steve Winwood remembers it being recorded at Island's studios in London, while Mason claims to have happened upon the band while they were struggling to piece together enough material to finish their sessions at the Record Plant in New York City. Mason is known to have spent time that spring in Hedra Greece (where he wrote "Feelin' Alright") before returning to America so either scenario is plausible. In any case the band seems to have welcomed him back, for his contribution of half the songs on the album if for no other reason. But as with the band's debut he would be gone just as the album was released and the band toured the U.S. without him save for a single performance in New York just as the record went to press.

The songs on this album have the same sort of bipolar feel as the first one, most likely thanks to Mason's penchant for simple chord progressions and catchy hooks while the others preferred more complex arrangements. Relatively-speaking of course, since really most of the music Traffic released prior to 1970 wasn't tremendously complex and tended to lean on the light psych nuances of pop and rock music of that era. There is also a fair amount of blues influence in the guitar work on tracks like "Pearly Queen", the opening "You Can All Join In" (a Mason tune) and my personal favorite "Don't Be Sad" which was a single waiting to happen and also a Mason tune that included some ambitious harmonica from Mason aligning quite well with Chris Woods' saxophone work and a comfortable Mason/ Winwood guitar pairing.

As is the case with much of the band's discography there are a handful of mellow folksy touches on some of the slower, piano and organ-driven tracks here, such as "No Time to Live", "Forty Thousand Headmen" and the twangy boogie closing track "Means to an End". Gone are many of the more exotic instruments Mason provided on the debut though, which for me are an unfortunate omission.

This is probably the least impactful record the band would release during their tumultuous career, which of itself is an interesting statement since it still manages to outshine much of the work of their contemporaries at the time. The individual players were all top-notch musicians, a fact that makes one wonder what would have been possible had they been able to stifle both personality conflicts and competing artistic interests. In the end this is a very decent record, and one that certainly any fan of the band will have in their collection and will likely have found memories of. But considered in the overall context of music of that era and more importantly, when considered against what the band was capable of, I'd have to say it merits a rating of no more than three out of five stars and a modest recommendation. What was to come would be far more interesting and worthy of attention.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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