Monday, October 28, 2013


Worlds collided when Traffic brought back their original lineup for the dichotomous recording of their eponymous second album.   Dave Mason had left the group after the success of their debut album 'Mr. Fantasy' to pursue a solo career, producing 'Music in a Doll's House' for Family before being invited to join Winwood, Capaldi, and Wood for the recording of 'Traffic'.  Mason recalls:  "Our sound started to come together, and started to gel, on that second Traffic album. I think it was great. My writing was really naive and trite. But sound-wise, and in terms being experimental, musically, there's a lot of shit in there. The second was more straightforward and more song-driven, really cool material. That one song, "Feelin' Alright," just never stopped."

Mason wrote and sang on half of the songs on 'Traffic' and contributed very little to the rest of the album.  His songs are more pop oriented, while the compositions brought by the rest of the group have a more experimental jazz feel.  By the time it was released he had left the band for good.  Winwood expressed at the time:  "We're not too bothered about singles because in the future we'd like to concentrate more on LPs. In the past, a lot of things have relied on our singles being in the charts and we want to get over that. In some ways popularity can rely on the charts, and I don't think it is a good thing. It is for some people maybe, but it isn't for us...I don't think any group has really been so far from rock 'n' roll. It's never been that far away...This rock thing is progression itself in its own way. There is still room to go ahead. There are lots of ways to go ahead and some of the ways can involve rock 'n' roll. We might do some rock, but I think we are on our own road...When we started and were living in the cottage we began by talking together and getting to know each other's ideas on music before we actually did anything. What we really wanted to do was to take things that were going on around us and just express them in musical terms. Not necessarily political things, just things that were happening around us. We have reached some of these achievements but there is still a lot we have to do...We work on basic structures. Practically every number is improvised from there. And we've found that since there's only 3 of us, since Dave left, it has been easier for us to do it that way. We can get a lot more spontaneity on stage. But because so much of it is improvisation, you must have bad nights as well as good nights. At the Speakeasy we thought we weren't much good, but afterwards, friends were coming up and saying we'd been the best they'd seen us for ages. You can easily get all screwed up thinking about it and probably the best thing to do is just go out and play. You can think too deeply about it at times. Unfortunately we have got this thing in America where everybody has heard of us and everybody is going to be there watching. And if we thought about that too much it could screw us up. I suppose really it is a matter of nerves and you should just go out there and do it."

Mason reveals:   "I was trying to figure out what it was I was doing. I had never really written until that band formed. It basically formed with four guys, and we just hung out for a year. Partied, and fucking late-night shit, playing records. And that's really how Traffic came about, that and Stevie's desire to stop being tagged as the young Ray Charles. He was bored with doing the Spencer Davis thing, and wanted to try something new. It started out that way, a group of people, and for me it was, 'Well, shit, this is a great opportunity to be as original as we can.' So my focus was on writing.  When we started, they were looking at doing covers of stuff, too. I mean, Stevie's written enough catchy melodies on his own. My sensibility is a pop sensibility. I look for the melody that will stick, and the lyric, and the hook. "Hole in My Shoe" is the first thing I ever wrote. Looking back at all that early stuff, I think a lot of it is really trite and banal. It's very naive, let me put it that way. Which, in a sense, was where I was at anyway. I was just a kid from the country, basically. I grew up well, but I grew up in a very rural setting. Steve formed an alliance with Jim [Capaldi] because of Jim's lyrics — Jim was great with lyrics, and that's not Steve's forte. But music and playing and melodies, yeah, and singing. That just happened. To me, it was more of a strength to have those differences in there. And then my stuff started getting picked for all the singles. To me it was like, so fuckin' what? Who cares who writes a hit single? That means that more people are gonna listen to the album, and get drawn more into the other music you're doing. It's like having a Lennon and McCartney together — together, they're great. Separately, Paul's a little sappy and John can get a little too over the edge. I always looked at Traffic that way. The problem was that what I was doing became, for them, a monumental fucking problem, to the point where they didn't want me in the band any more. That's why I basically just up and went, "You know what, fuck it, I'm gonna go where this music started. I'm going to America."

Capaldi says:    “This is why Traffic has such an eclectic shape, because there wasn’t much we couldn’t get into. Steve could basically go in any direction, really, that you needed to go...[It] gave us the freedom to be able to be so musical, we could go anywhere. There aren’t many bands I can think of that could really go to the places we went to musically.”

'Traffic' traveled to number seventeen in the US, fifteen in Canada, and nine in the UK.  


full album:

1."You Can All Join In" (Mason) -- 3:34 Dave Mason -- lead vocal, guitar; Steve Winwood -- electric guitar, bass, backing vocal; Chris Wood -- tenor saxophone; Jim Capaldi -- drums, backing vocal
2."Pearly Queen" (Capaldi/Winwood) -- 4:20 Winwood -- vocal, Hammond organ, electric guitar, bass; Wood -- flute; Mason -- harmonica; Capaldi -- drums
3."Don't Be Sad" (Mason) -- 3:24 Mason -- vocal, harmonica, electric guitar; Winwood -- vocal, Hammond organ, electric rhythm guitar, bass; Wood -- soprano saxophone; Capaldi -- drums, backing vocal
4."Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring" (Capaldi/Winwood/Wood)-- 3:11 Winwood -- vocals, Hammond organ, guitars, bass; Capaldi -- drums, percussion, backing vocal
5."Feelin' Alright?" (Mason) -- 4:16 Mason -- lead vocal, guitar; Winwood -- piano, bass, backing vocal; Wood -- tenor saxophone, backing vocal; Capaldi -- drums, percussion
6."Vagabond Virgin" (Capaldi/Mason) -- 5:21 Mason -- vocal, guitar; Capaldi -- vocal, drums, percussion; Winwood -- piano, bass, backing vocal; Wood -- flute
7."(Roamin' Thru the Gloamin' with) 40,000 Headmen" (Capaldi/Winwood) -- 3:15 Winwood -- vocal, guitar, organ, bass; Wood -- flute, Coke tin, sleigh bells; Capaldi -- drums
8."Cryin' to Be Heard" (Mason) -- 5:14 Mason -- lead vocal, bass; Winwood -- Hammond organ, harpsichord, backing vocal; Wood -- soprano saxophone; Capaldi -- drums, backing vocal
9."No Time to Live" (Capaldi/Winwood) -- 5:10 Winwood -- lead vocal, piano, bass; Wood -- soprano saxophone; Mason -- Hammond organ; Capaldi -- drums
10."Means to an End" (Capaldi/Winwood) -- 2:39 Winwood -- vocals, piano, electric guitar, bass; Wood -- drums, percussion

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