[Review] Traffic (1968)

Mason rejoins the band just in time to kick in half an album’s worth of great songs before leaving again.

Kronomyth 2.0: T’riffic.

Dave Mason briefly left the band after Mr. Fantasy, rejoined them several months later and the reconstituted quartet released their second and final album together. This time around, the songwriting is nearly split evenly between Mason and the Winwood/Capaldi/Wood contingent. The effect of two very different songwriters (Mason and Steve Winwood) is more apparent on this record. “Feelin’ Alright” and “Cryin’ To Be Heard” are excellent songs, but they’re not necessarily excellent Traffic songs. It was in the sere, earthy arrangements of “No Time To Live” and “Forty Thousand Headmen” where Traffic’s future lie.

There are also throwbacks to the first album’s playful feel on “You Can All Join In” and “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring,” one of my favorite Traffic songs, period. The rest of the album is very well done, although Jimmy Miller seems to intentionally bury a lot of good music; you can hear some of it on “Virgin Vagabond” and the brilliant closer, “Means To An End.” Throw in the powerful “Pearly Queen” and Mason’s Dylandulgence, “Don’t Be Sad,” and you’ve got a formidable bookend to the band’s breathtaking debut.

Unfortunately, Mason left again after this album, and Traffic went on hiatus for several years, with Winwood re-appearing in the short-lived supergroup, Blind Faith. Their eponymous second album isn’t as startling as their debut, nor is it as silly. In fact, this is a very serious album much of the time, particularly when you pay attention to Jim Capaldi’s lyrics. But a heavier traffic isn’t a bad thing at all, as listeners would discover when John Barleycorn rolled into town.

Original LP Version

A1. You Can All Join In (Dave Mason) (3:34)
A2. Pearly Queen (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (4:20)
A3. Don’t Be Sad (Dave Mason) (3:24)
A4. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi/Chris Wood) (3:11)
A5. Feelin’ Alright (Dave Mason) (4:16)
B1. Vagabond Virgin (Dave Mason/Jim Capaldi) (5:21)
B2. Forty Thousand Headmen (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (3:15)
B3. Cryin’ To Be Heard (Dave Mason) (5:14)
B4. No Time To Live (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (5:10)
B5. Means To An End (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (2:39)

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. You Can All Join In (mono single mix) (Dave Mason) (3:43)
12. Feelin’ Alright? (mono single mix) (Dave Mason) (4:01)
13. Withering Tree (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (2:53)

CD reissue bonus tracks (Island Remaster Series)
11. Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush
12. Am I What I Was Or Am I What I Am
13. Withering Tree
14. Medicated Goo
15. Shanghai Noodle Factory

The Players

Jim Capaldi (drums, percussion, lead vocal, vocals), Dave Mason (lead vocal, acoustic guitar, guitar, harmonica, bass guitar, organ), Steve Winwood (lead vocal, organ, lead guitar, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, piano, harpsichord), Chris Wood (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, Coke tin, sleigh bells, bass guitar, percussion, vocals). Produced by Jimmy Miller; engineered by Glyn Johns, Eddie Kramer, Brian Humphries, Terry Brown.

The Pictures

Photography by Richard Polak, Gered Mankowitz.

The Plastic

Released on mono and stereo elpee in October 1968 in the UK (Island, ILP/ILPS-981), the US (United Artists, UAS 6676) [red-black label], Germany (Island, 88064-ET) and Sweden (Island, ILPS-0981) with gatefold cover and lyrics booklet.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in April 1969 in South Africa (Fontana, STL 231).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US (United Artists, UAS 6676) [pink-orange label] with gatefold cover and lyrics booklet.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in the US (United Artists, UAS 6676) [off-white label] with gatefold cover and lyrics booklet.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the US (United Artists, UAS 6676) [cloud label] with gatefold cover and lyrics booklet.
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1972 in Japan (Island, ICL 27) with gatefold cover.
  6. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in Italy (Island, ORL 8496) with cover variation.
  7. Re-packaged as Feelin’ Alright on elpee in France (Fontana, 885 543 MY).
  8. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Island, 20S-93).
  9. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in the UK (Island, ILPS 9081) and Japan (Island, ILS-80278) with gatefold cover.
  10. Re-issued on elpee in 1983 in the US (Island, 90059-1) [purple label] with gatefold cover.
  11. Re-issued on cassette in Saudi Arabia (Pyramid, P-2639).
  12. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and compact disc in the US (Island, 90059-1/4/2) [black label].
  13. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1999 in Europe (Island, 546 498-2) with 5 bonus tracks.
  14. Re-issued on elpee on May 15, 2012 (Friday Music).

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