[Review] Best of Traffic (1969)

A good compilation of songs from the band’s first smiling phase featuring Dave Mason, including some nonalbum singles.

Kronomyth 3.5: Greatest hits of acid.

Released a few months after the odds-and-ends Last Exit, Best of Traffic collects the band’s singles up to and including “Medicated Goo” b/w “Shanghai Noodle Factory.” It’s an excellent summary of the band’s first two years, split neatly into two parts: the psychedelic pop songs (side one) and the prog/folk/rock songs (side two).

Although Traffic abandoned the psychedelic format quickly, the songs they left behind (“You Can All Join In,” “Hole In My Shoe”) had an influence on a lot of artists, from David Bowie to XTC (in their Dukes of Stratosphear phase). Stereo still being a relatively new technology, the stereo mixes presented here might seem clumsy to modern ears, and they do tend to go heavy on the sitars; personally, I prefer the mono mixes of their early songs. On side two, you can hear the Traffic of John Barleycorn and after, with earthier arrangements that allowed Steve Winwood and Chris Wood to stretch out and play their instruments.

In its first incarnation, Traffic produced some of the best psychedelic and early progressive music of the era, but ask someone today to name the great psychedelic bands of the 60s and you’re likely to hear The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Cream and even The Rolling Stones before you get to Traffic. Best of Traffic sets the record straight, although these days you’ll find it only as an expensive import or in a bin of used elpees. You’ll also find most of these songs on the compilation, Heavy Traffic, released by United Artists in 1975.

Original LP Version

A1. Paper Sun (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (3:23)
A2. Heaven Is In Your Mind (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi/Chris Wood) (4:02)
A3. No Face, No Name, No Number (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (3:30)
A4. Coloured Rain (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi/Chris Wood) (2:44)
A5. *You Can All Join In (Dave Mason) (3:12)
A6. Hole In My Shoe (Dave Mason) (2:48)
B1. Medicated Goo (Steve Winwood/Jimmy Miller) (3:36)
B2. Forty Thousand Headmen (Jim Capaldi/Steve Winwood) (3:15)
B3. Feelin’ Alright (Dave Mason) (4:10)
B4. Shanghai Noodle Factory (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi/Larry Fallon/Jimmy Miller/Dave Mason) (5:04)
B5. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Jim Capaldi/Steve Winwood/Chris Wood) (5:33)

* UK version replaces this with “Smiling Phases.”

The Players

Traffic had officially disbanded at this point. Jimmy Miller is still listed as producer, although everything here had been previously released.

The Pictures

Art direction and design by Woody Woodward and Ron Wolin.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in September 1969 in the UK (Island, ILPS/Y81-9112), in December 1969* in the US (United Artists, UAS-5500) [orange/pink label] and in 1969 in Australia (Festival, SFL 933613), Japan (Island, 20S-95) and New Zealand (Island, L-33613); reached #48 on the US charts. US version features different cover. (*First appeared in 12/13/69 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1970 in Spain (Philips, 63 43001).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1971 in Japan (Island, AML1-1004).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Island, ILS-80309).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the Netherlands (Island, 88 175XAT).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in the US (United Artists, UAS-5500) [tan label].
  6. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in Germany (Island, 88 066 ET) and Yugoslavia (Jugoton, LSI-70816).
  7. Re-issued on elpee in 1979 in Italy (Island, ILPS 19112).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc in the UK (Island, IMCD-169).
  9. Re-issued on compact disc in 1998 in France (Island, 846 153).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Island, UICY-2163).

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