traffic album reviews

AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann [+] After dispensing with his services in December 1967, the remaining members of Traffic reinstated Dave Mason in the group in the spring of 1968 as they struggled to write enough material for their impending second album. The bad news is the almost uniformly unmemorable song material and the duo's tendency to fall back on Adult Contemporary pop production. Still, though, "Don't You Know What The Night Can Do?" Rebop and Hawkins dropped, Hood replaced by Rosco Gee, 1974. Right up there with the Beatles. All I can say on the up side is that some of the songs like the sappy, sax-slathered "Forever," the silly, wah-wah drenched "Replace The Face," and the stately "Ballerina" do recall Mason's 70s style and might have succeeded with even minimally sincere production. There's also an obligatory version of "Feelin' Alright." After Blind Faith blew up in his face, Winwood retreated to the studio and began work on what started out as a solo record. This appears to be one of the few Capaldi records that didn't feature a Steve Winwood guest appearance. (JA), Dave Mason Is Alive (Mason: 1972) Mason's so strapped for material that he lets Krueger and keyboard player Larry Cohn get a few tunes of their own in, and lyrically he's even more bankrupt, continually trotting out the same tired old romance cliches and simplistic rhyme schemes everybody in the music industry uses. If you're in the mood for a mellow, mid-tempo, mid-70s rock record, you can't go wrong. It's monotonous and slavishly commercial, with just a couple of generic ballads breaking up the formula (the Otis Redding-style "One More Morning"). As part of the british New Romantic scene, their debut album, Lexicon of Love, perfectly fit in with the tastes of the time, what with the desire for an artificial blend of (white) soul music mixed with certain '50s conservative sensibilities, all served up with a lot of hollow posing, thank you. The arrangements mostly stay on track (notably excepting a twelve-minute "Look At You, Look At Me"), the band's playing is really sharp, the running time is generous on one CD, and Mason's guitar solos are more biting live than in the studio ("World In Changes"). Traffic (1968) There's also a good Dave Mason site with lots of biographical information. His wah-wah'ed guitar solos are crisper than ever, the rhythm section is solid, and there's even a little funk (the energetic title track), slide guitar (the Harrison-style "You Can Lose It"), and synth silliness (the shrill "Sweet Music"). (JA), Fierce Heart (Capaldi: 1983) Traffic discography and songs: Music profile for Traffic, formed April 1967. God help us if Winwood ever goes back to cookie-cutter collaborators like Will Jennings. This one sold much better than its predecessor, but Winwood was moving farther and farther from his rock roots in the name of selling records. On this forgotten album he once again chases the latest musical fads (e.g., the chorus guitar effect on "Long Lost Friend"), but also injects his crafted compositions with verve and sincerity. The rest of the band is session bass player Bob Glaub, Jim Krueger (guitar) and Rick Jaeger (drums); the no-name guests include a horn section ("Get Ahold On Love"), flautist, and pedal steel player ("Every Woman"). Lineup: Jim Capaldi (drums, percussion, some vocals); Dave Mason (guitar, vocals, some bass, sitar, etc. (with its uneven attempt at reverting to the charms of the debut album) sadly caused even more people to lose interest, and what followed were decades of ABC albums with music actually conforming to the dictate of hollow dancefloor tastes, with spaces in between albums growing ever longer, all to no avail. (JA), Split Coconut (Mason: 1975) The big exception is the funky single "One And Only Man," co-written and performed in its entirety with Jim Capaldi (Capaldi also drums on a couple other numbers). Mason comes down long enough to produce some of his best tunes ever, like the catchy, oddly introspective sing-along anthems "Feelin' Alright" and "Cryin' To Be Heard"; and the Winwood-Capaldi axis is also in good form, contributing some soulful R & B numbers dressed up with impenetrably bizarre lyrics (the picaresque "Pearly Queen"; the unforgettable "40,000 Headmen"). The only original Traffic record I don't have, and I've heard mixed things about it. Produced by Jimmy Miller. The only well-known players out of a dozen are CSNY associate Joe Lala, who plays conga here ("I Love The Music," an up-tempo cha-cha punctuated by horns); and former Mason band member Mike Finnigan, who joins a half-dozen others singing the annoyingly shrill tenor backup harmonies on almost every track. Thus the tone is set for the rest of the album, the first really satisfying ABC album since the mid-'80s by far. The best shot is the smoothly running, funk-disco social protest song "Time Is Running Out," which was the single here; it featured several guests - Rebop, Jim Capaldi, and Winwood's wife Nicole. The production isn't ambitious, sticking with an inoffensive, mid-tempo, mid-80s soft rock formula (disco foolishness on "Hold On"; mushy balladry on "Draw The Line"). Working closely with co-producer and one-man rhythm section Narada Michael Walden, he gets no more up to date than on the early 80s Prince-style dance number "Just Wanna Have Some Fun" - which lives up to its title. There's no reason to remember smooth soft rock numbers like "I'm Missing You," the formulaic title track, or the diaphanous "Gotta Be On My Way," but the record might get your foot tapping anyway. Like usual, lyricist Will Jennings cowrote almost all the songs. Capaldi and Winwood are firmly in control here, producing and writing all the tunes save Wood's "Tragic Magic." Probably the high point is Krueger's swinging, ecstatic "Save Me," with Michael Jackson joining in on the complex harmonies - Bob Glaub puts in the funk bass performance of his career. ABC were an instant success in that climate, but definitely had more to offer than the surface sheen of most of their contemporaries. Mason worked closely with singer/songwriter Jerry Williams, who wrote two tunes and has co-writes on three others. It's a catastrophe, with Baker pushing his jam-like-crazy philosophy on the flawed assumption that this is what made Cream so successful. (JA), It's Like You Never Left (Mason: 1973) CD versions give you all the stuff, so I'd vote for the first album, with the second album second. Absolutely astonishing how Fry has managed to shrug off all the years of uninspired "making do" recordings and tap right back into that well of inspiration. (JA), On The Road (1973) ); Steve Winwood (lead vocals, keyboards, some guitar, bass); Chris Wood (flute, sax, some keyboards). It's distinctive only because of a few banjo parts contributed by backup guitarist Jim Krueger ("Fools Gold"). Still, there are some strong tunes here like the slightly funky title track, and I can't see anything that would disappoint a fan. The remarkable thing here is that Winwood played all the instruments himself - everything, including drums. (JA), Welcome To The Canteen (1971) builds nicely, and several up-tempo tunes like "Holding On" and "Put On Your Dancing Shoes" rank with the best of his solo career, making this a solid buy for fans. (JA), The Sweet Smell Of Success (Capaldi: 1980), Old Crest On A New Wave (Mason: 1980) The album hit #1 on the charts, something that Traffic had never accomplished even at its early 70s peak of popularity. Will wonders never cease? Co-produced by Mason and Joe Wissert, and featuring the same band as usual: Stein, Krueger, Glaub, Jaeger, and percussionist Ray Revis with Finnigan guesting on a few tracks. By now Mason had turned into an L.A. soft rock singer par exellence: nothing in this collection of methodically crafted pop songs hints at his roots as a 60s rocker. Williams is a total schmaltzmeister, but Mason makes good use of him in the same way that Steve Stills did with Donnie Dacus; Williams sings mellow tenor backing vocals while Mason's usual, slightly gritty vocals and guitar solos add a sheen of rock respectability. It mostly draws on the earlier records, with nothing at all from Barleycorn and Low Spark. Even though the players sound practiced there are still tons of screwups, and they have a light-weight bar band sound that robs classic hits ("Pearly Queen"; "Feelin' Alright") of even the slightest grit. At some point Mason released a solo version of the latter song as a single, but he kept re-recording it, and I doubt it's this one. Despite some tight arrangements ("Medicated Goo"), they do lose all self control on "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and the shuffling, percussion-crazed Spencer Davis Group hit "Gimme Some Lovin'" (Winwood's springboard to fame in the first place). Co-produced by Bruce Botnick. Genres: Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Jazz-Rock. After three years out of the limelight, Winwood attempted to jump right back in, trying in some places to modernize his sound. (JA), Two Hearts (Mason: 1987) The other A-side was the dull ballad "I Will Be Here," with Jim Horn on sax. It's all straight from the factory, but at least Capaldi has an ear for smooth melodies and catchy refrains. With this record, Traffic started drifting in the jazz/folk direction that later ruined it. Paul Kossoff, ex-Free guitarist, was heavily involved, and most tracks feature Muscle Shoals veterans Hood, Hawkins, Barry Beckett (piano) and Jimmy Johnson (guitar). Find album reviews, stream songs, credits and award information for Traffic - ABC on AllMusic - 2008 - Surprise, surprise, but that ABC magic is backā€¦ (JA). "Traffic" had now ditched its giddy psychedelic R & B-based pop sound in favor of a quieter, folk/jazz based approach, centering on lengthy instrumentals ("Glad"). A typical Winwood solo record in most ways, but it's just no good. There was also the fact that I knew of and liked the title track, "Dear Mr. Produced by Winwood and Chris Blackwell. Had Mason's biggest hit, "We Just Disagree" - which he didn't even write. Probably Winwood's biggest commercial moment as a solo artist. But the grating music isn't nearly as bad as the nauseating romance-theme lyrics, which drag Mason's unimaginative sad-glad/moon-june rhyming to new lows. But it's not the kind of thing that might convert any new fans. This is basically a rip-off, released by Mason's record company without his permission and presenting very little original material. Their music had richer layers of meaning, which, over time, started to make them seem like a long-lost treasure. Guests include Capaldi, Jim Gordon, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, and Delaney and Bonnie - all of them except Capaldi appeared on Eric Clapton's debut solo album, which seems to have been recorded concurrently. Capaldi and Wood did perform on most of the tracks, but it's Winwood's show all the way - he handles vocals, piano, organ, bass, and assorted guitars. The most bizarre twist of all hasn't been the moderately successful recent Traffic (= Winwood/Capaldi) reunion, or the death of Chris Wood, but Dave Mason's recuitment into the reincarnated, Stevie Nicks/Lindsey Buckingham-less Fleetwood Mac. (JA), Refugees Of The Heart (Winwood: 1990) Roll With It - Refugees Of The Heart - Far From Home - Junction Seven. Most critics hate this, poking fun at the song title "Sometimes I Feel So Uninspired"; I won't stoop to that, but it does have a listless, rambling jazz-pop sound that defies its own professionalized production. One track apparently was recorded with Junior Marvin's band ("Vacant Chair"). Winwood, Walden, Capaldi, and Eugenia Winwood split most of the songwriting credits. (JA), Shootout At The Fantasy Factory (1973) sax a la Wood, prominent and biting guitar, bearable lyrics, and a lot of intricate 70s-style percussion. He acquired lasting admiration worldwide for this kind of quality all those years ago; now the world would do good to start paying attention again. Winwood guests on a few numbers, most notably the title track, where he sings backup, and the catchy "Something So Strong." On The Road is a music live recording by TRAFFIC (Eclectic Prog/Progressive Rock) released in 1973 on cd, lp / vinyl and/or cassette. The sound is terribly modernized and loaded with synth lines and disco dance beats, but it still communicates a fresh, earnest attitude that I don't hear in Winwood's more recent work; he seems more willing than usual to mess around with odd little licks and creepy grooves.

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