Sunday, May 29, 2011
Traffic were formed by Winwood, Wood, Capaldi and Mason in 1967 shortly after Winwood had left the Spencer Davis Group. He had played with Eric Clapton in a short-lived studio band called Powerhouse, which contributed some tracks to the Elektra sampler "What's Shaking". Winwood had also jammed with Wood, Capaldi and Mason in clubs around the Birmingham area prior to leaving the Spencer Davis Group. The four of them resided at a cottage in Aston Tirrold in Berkshire for six months in order to - as the saying went - get it together in the country. They introduced themselves with the single "Paper Sun", which reached No. 5 in Britain. That and its sequel, "Hole In My Shoe", encapsulated the summer of 1967 as accurately as any overt flower-power anthem. The debut album "Mr. Fantasy", was a successful vehicle of the talents of the entire group, and served notice that Traffic would be more than merely a backing band for Winwood. However, Mason's flair for light melody was straightaway at odds with the more jazz-oriented ambitions of the other members, and he departed in December of 1967.
In 1968 Mason returned in a matter of months to help out on the second album, "Traffic", to which he contributed "Feelin' Alright". Traffic were featured, along with the Spencer Davis Group, on the United Artists soundtrack to the film "Here we go round the mulberry bush". Later that year, Mason quit again, leaving the entire band to call it a day.
1969: "Last Exit" was their farewell album. Island Records, their British company, administering the last rites, issued a "Best Of Traffic" in 1969. Winwood meanwhile had again joined Clapton in Blind Faith and when that collapsed, temporarily enlisted in Ginger Baker's Air Force. Wood, meanwhile did sessions with Dr John.
Traffic expanded the personnel again with a percussionist, Reebop; and for a short British tour in the summer of 1971, ex-Domino Jim Gordon came in to bolster the rhythm section, and the errant Mason again returned to the fold. This line-up played only a few dates together, but the live recording "Welcome To The Canteen" was recommendation enough of their corporate abilities. At the end of the year "The Low Spark Of The High-Heeled Boys", was issued while the band were touring America; it went gold in the US in 1972, and was made by the line-up as before, with the inevitable exception of Mason who had left again.
1972: When the band returned from America, Grech and Gordon, too, had departed along the way. The band was now again in a state of flux, despite the excellence of their last albums. It proved an academic problem, since Winwood fell ill with peritonitis, and Capaldi adjourned to Muscle Shoals to make a solo album "Oh! How We Danced"; while there he established connections with Muscle Shoals sessioneers David Hood (bass) and Roger Hawkins (drums) who joined the band for "Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory", which was recorded in Jamaica in 1972.
1973: With Winwood recovered, the band set out on a 1973 world tour, for which they added Barry Beckett, also from Muscle Shoals, on keyboards. The vitality and strength of this line-up was fully demonstrated on the made-in-Germany live double-album, "On The Road". Traffic appeared in the movie "Glastonbury Fayre".
1974: The Muscle Shoals recruits bowed out after this tour, and for an English tour in 1974 Roscoe Gee the bass-player from Gonzales, was added; since Reebop disappeared somewhere along the way, the band completed the tour in the form which they had originally started, the last performance of the tour was held at the Reading Festival on August 31, 1974. After the final album "When The Eagle Flies", which was very good instrumentally, but marred by some over-ambitious Capaldi lyrics, the band again went into one of its regular periods of hibernation; this time it proved to be for good, since no one apparently any longer had the will-power to hold it all together.