[Review] Traffic, etc.: Welcome to the Canteen (1971)

Dave Mason rejoins the band for a brief college tour, proving only that you canteen go home.

Kronomyth 7.0: Medicated group.

Welcome to Canteenaville: population You and 40,000 Headmen and a version of Gimme Some Lovin’ that if five seconds longer would qualify as assisted suicide. This is the last of the contractual obligation albums, a selection of six live tracks from the band’s 1971 summer tour of college campuses, which featured a briefly returning Dave Mason and a completely invisible John Barleycorn.

The idea of adding Mason to the expanded Low Spark lineup of Traffic is an intriguing one, but someone forgot to bring the sparks. What you get on Welcome to the Canteen are listless versions of three Traffic songs, two Dave Mason tracks and one Spencer Davis oldie. Although some critics have been kind to this album, I would put Canteen near the bottom of the live albums I own. A seven-piece band should have generated far more energy and ideas, rather than these by-the-numbers arrangements.

Of course, what Traffic could have used at this stage wasn’t more passengers but a few designated drivers. It’s a near certainty that half of the band (Dave Mason, Jim Gordon, Rick Grech and Chris Wood) was high as a kite on any given night. More to the point, Canteen was walking in the wrong direction. The breakthrough John Barleycorn Must Die had just been released, and what Traffic fans thirsted for were live versions of those songs, not nine stultifying minutes of Dave Mason singing solo material accompanied by flute and bongos.

I’m surprised no one has added bonus tracks to this album and tried to make a decent historical document out of it. As it stands, Canteen is a dry run through the dusty past that all but ardent Traffickers should avoid.

Original elpee version

A1. Medicated Goo (Steve Winwood/Jimmy Miller) (3:34)
A2. Sad And Deep As You (Dave Mason) (3;46)
A3. Forty Thousand Headmen (Jim Capaldi/Steve Winwood) (6:19)
A4. Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave (Dave Mason) (5:36)
B1. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Jim Capaldi/Steve Winwood/Chris Wood) (10:55)
B2. Gimme Some Lovin’ (Steve Winwood/Muff Winwood/Spencer Davis) (9:00)

The Players

This seven-piece version of the band (billed here as “Traffic, Etc.”) played a handful of live dates in 1971: “Reebop” Kwaku Baah (congas, timbales, bongos), Jim Capaldi (vocals, tambourine, percussion), Rick Grech (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), Dave Mason (vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar), Steve Winwood (vocals, organ, electric piano, guitar) and Chris Wood (saxophones, flutes, electric piano, organ). The album was produced by Chris Blackwell and Steve Winwood, and engineered by Brian Humphries. And if you think Jim Capaldi plays a mean tambourine, well, you’d be angry too.

The Pictures

Photography and album design by visualeyes.

The Plastic

Recorded in July 1971 at Fairfield Hall (Croydon) and the Oz Benefit Concert (London). Released on elpee on September 1971 in the UK, Israel and Norway (Island, ILPS-9166 on white label), US (United Artists, UAS-5550), Australia (Island, SIL-934338), Canada (Island, 2334 022), France (Island, 6396 041), Germany and the Netherlands (Island, 85676IT) and Japan (Island, AML1-1008). Reached #26 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in Argentina (Island, 0005707).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the 1980s in the UK (Island, ILPS-9166 on blue label) and Italy (Island, ORL-8077).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1987 in Brazil (Island, 6047 259).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1988 in the US (Island, 90924).
  5. Re-issued on elpee, compact disc and cassette in 1988/89 in the US (Island, 842 417-1/2/4, pictured on right).
  6. Re-released on remastered compact disc on March 19, 2002 in the US (Island, 586 847).
  7. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on July 28, 2003 in Japan (Island, UICY-9274).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *