Monday, 29 October 2018
Traffic - Gold
This is an excellent compilation covering Traffic's output from the late sixties psychedelic/folk rock period to the funky jazz rock, slightly prog-rock-ish extended grooves of the early-mid seventies. The years concerned are 1967-1974. The sound, as if often the case on these "Gold" compilations, is absolutely superb, remastered, bassy and in excellent stereo.
The sixties material includes druggy, trippy numbers such as "Paper Sun" and "Dealer", with its frantic bongos, flutes and typically psychedelic vocals. "Coloured Rain" pretty much sums up the kaleidoscope feel of the age, man. "Hole In My Shoe" was a big hit, with its Eastern percussion and guitar and bizarre, detached vocals about a shoe letting in water. It is such an evocative track of its age. I remember as a kid being quite fascinated by its sound. The plaintive "No Face, No Name, No Number" is also a very nostalgic late sixties number, again full of those contemporary Eastern influences that seemed to be almost compulsory at the time. You can really hear the inventive, experimental nature of the group's music in "Heaven Is In Your Mind". Yes, it is all a bit late sixties, dreamy-style, but there is some serious adventurous instrumentation in tracks like this. The guitar at the end is not the first time I will mention Paul Weller, who must have listened to this before writing "Can You Heal Us Holy Man" in 1993. "Smiling Phases" perfectly mixes hippy sixties rock with soul, exemplifying what made Traffic stand out from the crowd. They married all sorts of styles.
"Feelin' Alright" showed the band's desire to produce some funky edges to their rock. "You Can All Join In" is lyrically not the best, but the guitar sound is excellent. "Pearly Queen" had touches of late sixties/early seventies blues rock, and featured some serious heavy guitar soloing too. "Dear Mr. Fantasy" showed the first touches of that extended, bassy and soulful rock that would so influence artists like Paul Weller many years later. The same applies to "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring", with its jazzy touches and swirling melodic organ together with a Stax-y soul vocal.
The seventies material includes the funk rock of "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone", the solid, funky, inventive rock of "Rock & Roll Stew", title tracks from the albums "Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys" and "Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory". "Rainmaker" is very "proggy" in its lyrics and vocal delivery, also in its Jethro Tull-ish instrumentation, with flute to the fore. All very dreamy and trippy. Some Doors influences in there too. You can again hear the style Paul Weller would be influenced by so much in "Empty Pages". Weller was also highly influenced by tracks like "Glad" for his "Cafe Bleu" Style Council material in 1984.
There is also the authentic folk of "John Barleycorn Must Die" and one of my favourites, the catchy, organ-driven slightly Dylanesque and wonderful "Walking In The Wind". Overall, this is a highly recommended collection of excellent material from this influential band that straddled the musical changes of the late sixties and early seventies with confidence.