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Traffic - Traffic CD (album) cover

TRAFFIC

Traffic

 

Eclectic Prog

3.43 | 131 ratings

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Moogtron III
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This album is a masterpiece. So why do I give it four stars instead of five? Simply because it is a masterpiece of pop / rock, but not of progressive music: this is probably Traffic's most traditional sounding album.

But a wonderful album it is! Both Steve Winwood and Dave Mason write 5 songs for the album, and they're all good. You wouldn't expect this album to be essential when you listen to the opening song of the album, Mason's 'You Can All Join In', starting with the words: 'Here's a little song you can all join in with; it's very simple and I hope it's new. Make your own words up if you want to; any old words that you think will do.' That doesn't sound like the opening track of an ambitious album. Sure, the song has a hook, and it is a feel good song, but it sounds a bit throw-away. But you might be surprised by the album, like I was!

Both Winwood and Mason are in peak form as songwriters on the album. As I said in other words, the album is the least progressive of all of the Traffic albums. What we see on the album instead is the art of writing a good pop song, the art of good tunesmiths. For that it gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Is that all there is to it? Is that enough to give the album even four stars instead of three: ten solid songs? No, because Traffic gives you more than you expect at first hearing.

First of all: the album might be the most traditional sounding album of Traffic, but the band still is more creative than your average pop band: one of the secret ingredients is Chris Wood. His sax and flute playing is still imaginative, as on the first album, and even though he proves himself to be a skilled traditional player as well: on this album it is often because of Chris' almost fuzzy way of playing that the album starts getting adventurous. This is a pop /rock album, yes, but with strong hints of jazz and folk and psychedelic music and Chris Wood is for a big part responsible for that.

Second: drummer Jim Capaldi may not be a drummer which gets mentioned often in polls, but he is an excellent and very original lyricist. His lyrics for this album are almost sensational, for a part bohemian (about vagabond virgins and a pearly queen with gypsy blood in her veins), for a part surrealistic (about 40 000 headmen and three small ships that were sailing and you name it), but always adventurous. Jim Capaldi is one of the best lyric writers of the hippie age, and even beyond that. Dave Mason, who was more at home in writing about personal relationships, proves himself on this album that he can also write lyrics in Capaldi's style. The lyrics on the album are really the cream on the cake!

The third and most important reason: there's a climax to be heard in the album. After six good songs we hear three excellent songs. Dave Mason's 'Crying To Be Heard' is breathtakingly good! The melody line, the organ playing, the very open, spacious sound, the tempo changes, the dynamics (soft / loud), the energetic instrumental outburst at the end, the exciting fantasy lyrics about rain being the tears of someone who desperately wants to be heard... The song has proto-progressive elements, and what's more: this is Mason's masterpiece for the band, and one of the best sixties pop songs ever written, rivaling songs like 'Expecting To Fly' from Buffalo Springfield. Maybe it's even the best song ever written by Dave Mason.

Two Winwood songs in special stand out as well: 40 000 Headmen and No Time To Live. The piano / organ intro of the latter, simple as it is, might very well please a lot of prog fans. Without being a virtuoso, Winwood was a master on the keys. Both of the Winwood songs are much more complex than a simple pop song, especially when it comes to the melody lines.

Traffic's more or less progressive phase would start at their next studio album, John Barleycorn Must Die, but Traffic's eponymous album should be heard as well, and will remain interesting after many listening sessions. It's one of the best albums they made, and for me, personally, it's even my favourite Traffic album.

Moogtron III | 4/5 |

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