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Traffic - Traffic CD (album) cover

TRAFFIC

Traffic

 

Eclectic Prog

3.43 | 131 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Make your own words up if you want to, any old words that you think will do"

Less than a year after the release of their debut album "Mr. Fantasy", Traffic return with this fine self titled release. Dave Mason (who left the band after the debut had been recorded but before its release) was already back in the fold, restoring the band to a quartet.

Mason's influence on this album is strong, with him writing (co-writing one) no less than 5 of the 10 tracks. As could reasonably be expected, his songs are generally lighter and more pop orientated than the Winwood/Capaldi material, although for this release it is interesting to note that some of the latter pair's compositions here were potential hit singles.

It is Mason's irresistible sing-a-long "You can all join in", a sort of precursor for T-Rex's "Ride a white swan", which occupies the all important opening slot. The song, whose title would be used for an early Island Records sampler on which it appeared, is a quirky folk tinged affair, which was released as a single in Europe and briefly in the UK. The song is a strange choice for such a prominent position on the album, as it implies that the band were looking to revert to a lighter, chart seeking orientation.

The following track "Pearly queen" also appeared on the "You can all join in" sampler, but in the form of a cover version by Art. Here, it represents Steve Winwood's first vocal contribution to the album, the song being a pretty basic Hendrix like pop rock number.

Mason is afforded a notable amount of time centre stage, perhaps a precondition of his return to the band. On his reflective "Don't be sad", he and Winwood alternative on lead vocal, a policy which could have been exploited further had Mason chosen to stay.

The direction the band would pursue on later albums is pointed towards on "Who knows what tomorrow may bring". This rather funky song was written by Winwood, Capaldi and Wood, but Wood and Mason are credited as playing "nothing" on the track, Winwood providing all the vocals and instruments with the exception of Capaldi's drumming. Mason's "Feelin' alright" actually has the feel of a Winwood composition, the song being successfully covered by Grand Funk Railroad and Joe Cocker among others. Mason though reverts to type with the whispy 60's pop of "Vagabond Virgin". Even here though the piano and flute interludes are forward looking.

The band's prog folk side, which can be difficult to pin down at times, comes to the fore on "40000 headmen" (full title "Roamin' thro' the gloamin' with 40,000 headmen"). Mason's final composition, "Cryin' to be heard", is straightforward pop ballad with soft harpsichord backed verses and louder organ backed choruses.

"No time to live" is more indicative of the band's future direction, the reflective vocal performance of Winwood combining well with the soprano sax of Chris Wood. Interestingly, it is Dave Mason who actually provides the Winwood like organ backing. Only Winwood and Wood actually play on the final track "Means to an end", with Wood taking on the drumming! The song has the sound of something from Winwood's later solo albums, with a distinctly funky rhythm.

The Island CD remaster has five bonus tracks. The first two of these are taken from a film soundtrack for "Here we go round the mulberry bush", the title track providing Traffic with a hit single. These two tracks are actually much older than the album itself, being the first songs Traffic recorded together. "Withering tree" is a non-album b-side, while "Medicated goo" and "Shanghai noodle factory" formed the A and B sides of what was at the time thought to be a posthumous Traffic single.

In all, a fine second album by Traffic. It may not contain the initial excitement or inspiration of "Mr. Fantasy", but we must still bear in mind that this album dates from 1968.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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