Monday, February 25, 2013

Traffic 2: Traffic

Traffic was barely out of the gate (sorry) before Dave Mason left the band. He was soon coaxed back for their second album, where he would play a more prominent role. Traffic bears little of the psychedelia that defined their first album and singles, so maybe that’s why it got the simple title.
The jaunty “You Can All Join” is a celebration of the communal spirit still prevalent in 1968, a happy little singalong to start the side. “Pearly Queen” manages to get a good groove out of a blues riff, with plenty of organ. “Don’t Be Sad” is a nearly sweet pop song with clever rhythms and sustains, while “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” would be improved a year later as “Shanghai Noodle Factory”. Hidden at the end of side one is a song that would soon become something of a standard from the throat of Joe Cocker, but here, “Feelin’ Alright?” shows its roots as a more unsettled tune, albeit with two chords.
“Vagabond Virgin” mostly lopes along, sounding for all the work like a precursor for Crosby, Stills & Nash. “40,000 Headmen” brings us back to the mythology of the house in the country, a mysterious little song, nicely followed by “Crying To Be Heard”, with its subtle harpsichord matching the “sail across the ocean with the wind against your back” sentiment. A ghostly soprano sax heralds “No Time To Live”, one of those “who am I” songs that succeeds despite itself, thanks to the descending piano chords and Winwood’s excellent R&B delivery. “Means To An End” isn’t the best finale, but it will have to do.
Traffic has a lot of stops and starts (sorry), and overall it’s very disjointed—mostly because Dave Mason worked on his own, while Winwood and Capaldi collaborated very well with Chris Wood. It’s an odd little album, still good, but missing something.

Traffic Traffic (1968)—3
2001 CD reissue: same as 1968, plus 3 extra tracks

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