Traffic was a rock band from Birmingham, England, in the late 1960s and led by Steve Winwood, with Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason, after Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group.
The four musicians often played at a club called The Elbow Room in Aston which is where the name 'Traffic' was conceived after observing passing cars. With Mason and Capaldi eager to form a new group, Winwood agreed to join the partnership along with Chris Wood and so the four members retreated to a secluded cottage in Aston Tirrold, Berkshire to rehearse and record their early work.
Their debut single was 1967's "Paper Sun", a UK hit. "Hole in My Shoe", the second single, was an even bigger hit, and set the stage for a rivalry between Winwood and Mason, the group's principal songwriters. Their debut album was Mr. Fantasy which, like the singles, was a hit in the UK but not in the US or elsewhere. Their second album, Traffic, was released in 1968. The band began touring the US, but Mason was fired and Winwood announced the band's break-up. Winwood formed Blind Faith but after that band split in 1969 he began working on a solo recording which eventually turned into another Traffic album, John Barleycorn Must Die, their most successful album yet.
After some personnel changes (including the return of Mason), Traffic released The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, an American hit that didn't chart in the UK. Once again, personnel problems wracked the band as Capaldi began a solo career. Still, Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory was another hit, as was When the Eagle Flies (1974 in music). Capaldi's solo career began to heat up, and Winwood finally launched one of his own, recording the smash hit album Arc of a Diver. Winwood's solo career peaked with the album Back in the High Life. Traffic did not record again until 1994, when they released Far From Home. After re-uniting, Capaldi and Winwood toured widely but were unable to regain their former stature.
Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004.
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Last Exit (1969) UICY-93643 263MB
Let's begin at the beginning. Steve Winwood is a total talent and a prodigy. You can rate him as a composer, bandleader, musical innovator, guitarist, organist, and especially singer and he comes out on top in every category. In rock that's almost unknown. This blather about Traffic's second album being their best because of the dynamic tension between Dave Mason and Winwood is eyewash. Mason is a folky annoyance.
When Winwood, still a teen back then, stepped up with Spencer Davis it was clear there was a new sheriff in town. The first Traffic album is amazing. When Last Exit came out, the third, nobody knew it wasn't their last. What about the complaints that Last Exit is a dog's breakfast, odds and ends tossed together? So what? On the LP, one side was live, the other was studio. Big deal, not exactly uncommon.
Now, the songs. Just For You - throwaway fluff from Dave Mason, fortunately the only one of the disk. Shanghai Noodle Factory - excellent funk, great to sing along, love those lyrics. Something's Got A Hold Of My Toe - this is the one every reviewer gets wrong. Rather than being some random snippet of tape lying around the studio it is 2:14 of driving rock guitar and back beat that really doesn't let go of your toe. Withering Tree - classic Winwood doing pretty as only he can. Medicated Goo - man, if you can't feel this one in your funky sneakers somebody gave you a soul-ectomy.
Then the big finish, Feelin' Good and Blind Man, 18-minutes of Traffic live at the Fillmore West. Sound quality is admittedly low but this shortcoming is vastly overshadowed by the performance, absolutely the best live Traffic ever. What Winwood does to Feelin' Good is simply beyond belief, he turns it inside out and puts a brand on it. As to Blind Man, that's the blues, big, bad, and beautiful. Just a fantastic CD. That's it from the Traffic-copter, now back to the studio.
1. Just For You
2. Shanghai Noodle Factory
3. Something's Got A Hold Of My Toe
4. Withering Tree
5. Medicated Goo
6. Feeling Good
7. Blind Man