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Smiling Phases

Traffic

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Album Review

During their tumultuous existence between 1967 and 1974, Traffic had two distinct phases separated by a year (January 1969 to February 1970) during which the band was temporarily dissolved. In its first phase, Traffic was heavily influenced by the pop psychedelia of its time, but were also developing a distinctive blues-rock jam style. When Steve Winwood reconvened the group in 1970 without Dave Mason, he was ready to take the spotlight more forcefully, and Traffic evolved into a band that played long, largely instrumental songs. In constructing a two-CD retrospective of Traffic, compiler Kevin Patrick has taken the obvious step of devoting disc one to the early phase of Traffic and disc two to the later one. He faces different challenges in selecting tracks for each disc. The first CD is necessarily diverse; the early singles must be included, and so must some of Dave Mason's material, though his songs tend to sound more like solo tracks. The challenge for disc two is simply that the songs from 1970-1974 tend to be so long, and it's difficult to decide which ones to include. Patrick has met both of these challenges admirably. Though both discs are a bit short by CD standards, running a little over an hour each, there are few significant tracks that are missing. On disc two, Patrick has striven to be fair to the later Traffic albums, even though they are not as good as their predecessors from this phase, but he strikes a reasonable balance. Until 1991, Traffic had had no more than a few single-disc compilations, the most readily available being The Best of Traffic, which contained nothing from the group's later period. So, Smiling Phases was a welcome addition to the catalog, with solid selection and sequencing.

Biography

Formed: 1967 in Midlands, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Though it ultimately must be considered an interim vehicle for singer/songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist Steve Winwood, Traffic was a successful group that followed its own individual course through the rock music scene of the late '60s and early '70s. Beginning in the psychedelic year of 1967 and influenced by the Beatles, the band early on turned out eclectic pop singles in its native Great Britain, though by the end of its first year of existence it had developed a pop/rock hybrid tied to its unusual...
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