Thursday, 26 January 2017

"Gold" by TRAFFIC [feat Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason] (2005 Universal 2CD Definitive Collection Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…If You See Something That Looks Like A Star…"

Featuring The 1970 LP "John barleycorn Must Die"

At last count - I numbered way over 50 artists across Universal’s vast catalogue given the 2CD “Gold” treatment (sometimes also known as a “Definitive Edition”). But with the artwork for these digitally remastered two-disc retrospective sets being so uninspiring and uninformative (a track list on the rear with bugger all else by way of detail) – many simply go unnoticed – languishing around in digital warehouses unwashed and unloved. But that isn’t to say there isn’t a deal for a buyer to be had…

Amidst their hidden gems - STEPPENWOLF and THE CRUSADERS are two "Gold" editions that jump to mind (I’ve reviewed and raved about both - amazing content as well as quality remastered sound). Well here comes another – the TRAFFIC instalment.

As you can see from the detailed lists below – you get great choices (and lots of them) and best of all (only credited on the inside booklet) - superb ELLEN FITTON mastering. Fitton is a name I’ve sung the praises of before – she mastered all of the extraordinary “Complete Tamla Motown Singles” book collections (75 discs across 14 volumes, 1847 tracks) and has also had a hand in large swaths of Hip-O Select reissues. Her work here is the same. So here are the smiling phases, paper suns and high-heeled boys with low sparks…

Released September 2005 – "Gold" by TRAFFIC on Universal/Island 0602498312070 (Barcode 602498312070) is a 2CD retrospective that breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (79:49 minutes):
1. Paper Sun
2. Dealer
3. Coloured Rain
4. Hole In My Shoe
5. No Face, No Name, No Number
6. Heaven Is In Your Mind
7. Smiling Phases
8. Dear Mr. Fantasy
Tracks 1 to 8 are from their debut album “Mr. Fantasy” – released December 1967 in the UK on Island ILPS 9061 [Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the British LP] and April 1968 in the USA as “Heaven Is In Your Mind” on United Artists UAS 6651 (Stereo) [Tracks 1 to 8 on the US LP – retitled “Mr. Fantasy on 2nd pressings].

9. You Can All Join In
10. Pearly Queen
11. Feelin’ Alright
12. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring
13. Forty Thousand Headmen
Tracks 9 to 13 are from their 2nd album “Traffic” – released October 1968 in the UK on Island ILPS 9081 and in the USA on United Artists UAS 6676 (Stereo)

14. Shanghai Noodle Factory
15. Medicated Goo
Tracks 14 and 15 are form their 3rd album “Last Exit” – released May 1969 in the UK on Island ILPS 9097 and in the USA on United Artists UAS 6702 (Stereo)

16. Glad
17. Freedom Rider
18. Empty Pages
19. John Barleycorn
Tracks 16 to 19 are from their 4th album “John Barleycorn Must Die” – released July 1970 in the UK on Island ILPS 9116 and in the USA on United Artists UAS 5504 (Stereo)

Disc (78:44 minutes):
1. Gimme Some Lovin’ (Live) – from the live album “Welcome To The Canteen” - released September 1971 in the UK on Island ILPS 9166 and in the USA on United Artists UAS 5550

2. Low Spark Of The High-Heeled Boys
3. Light Up And Leave Me Alone
4. Rock & Roll Stew
5. Rainmaker
Tracks 2 to 5 are from their 5th studio album “The Low Spark Of The High-Heeled Boys” – released November 1971 in the UK on Island ILPS 9180 and in the USA on Island SW 9306

6. Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory
7. (Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired
Tracks 6 and 7 are from their 6th studio album “Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory” – released January 1973 in the UK on Island ILPS 9224 and in the USA on Island SW 9323

8. Something New
9. Dream Gerrard
10. Walking In The Wind
11. When The Eagle Flies
Tracks 8 to 11 are from their 7th and last studio album “When The Eagle Flies” – released November 1973 in the UK on Island ILPS 9273 and in the USA on Asylum 7E-1020

The 20-page booklet is unexpectedly substantial – cool photos, an essay on the band by SCOTT SCHNIDER and detailed reissue credits at the rear. And that superb remastered sound too…

To this day tracks like “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and Dave Mason’s wonderful “Feelin’ Alright” (covered by Joe Cocker, Grand Funk Railroad, Lulu and Three Dog Night within a few years of its release) still send me. There’s fantastic audio punch on “Medicated Goo” ("freaky Freddie!”) and Island Records literally named their budget label sampler LP after the “You Can All Join In” track on the 2nd LP. The opening instrumental “Glad” on “John Barleycorn Must Die” always sounded to me like Soul Rock or even Fusion before such a phrase was even coined – brilliant stuff.

The stunning eleven and half minutes of “Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys” where Winwood cruises through this almost hypnotic groove still sounds unbelievably modern – I love it (lyrics above). For sure things began to taper off towards the bands last few albums - but I still feel there’s soulfulness in the Winwood/Capaldi slowy “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired”. The eleven-minute “Dream Gerrard” (a co-write with Vivian Stanshall) has a good groove too - as does “Walking In The Wind” (another Capaldi co-write with Steve Winwood). All this and “Paper Sun”, “Smiling Phases” and the hippy sitar of “Hole In My Shoe”! Will we ever see their like again? I doubt it…

With generous playing times on both discs (a half-decent booklet too), top quality sound and an online price tag that is often below three pounds (three quid for God's sake!) - you’re getting a whole lot of bang for your buck here. Way to go…

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