Music Reviews

Traffic

Heaven is in Your Mind [reissue]

Island

A brief history lesson: Traffic featured Steve Winwood on vocals, Jim Capaldi on percussion, Chris Wood on flute/sax, and Dave Mason on guitars. Winwood, who had already charted prior to his stint in Traffic, went on to other bands (most notably Blind Faith, with members of Cream) and eventually, a couple of chart-busting hits in the ’80s. Dave Mason enjoys a critically-acclaimed solo career. Capaldi is a well-respected session musician. Not sure about Wood, but whatever his status may be, it’s not for lack of talent.

Traffic’s sound is unique from a modern perspective. A casual listen may have you lumping them with most ’60s folk psychedelia, yet the force of their arrangements and their melodic impact was undeniable, and if they fade in with their contemporaries it’s because of their trail-blazing sound, often imitated but hardly duplicated. Gentle, a bit medieval sometimes (it’s the flute, I tell you), the band can range from Thompson folk (“House for Everyone”) to grooving jazz (“Giving To You”) to an important archetype of psychedelic balladry (“Dear Mr. Fantasy”).

These remasters clearly showcase not only the band’s music, but also their innovation in the studio. For this reason, I’d recommend Heaven over Mr. Fantasy, despite the latter’s superior liner notes. Journey back to a time when a sitar solo was adventurous, not cliché.


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