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Welcome to the Canteen (Live)

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Album Review

Following the success of John Barleycorn Must Die, Traffic planned a concert album for the fall of 1970, and it got as far as a test pressing before being canceled. A recording was necessary to satisfy the terms of British label Island Records' licensing deal with American label United Artists, which had provided for five albums; four of which had been delivered. With Island starting to release its own albums in the U.S., the UA contract had to be completed, and hopefully not with the potentially lucrative studio follow-up to John Barleycorn Must Die. Thus, Traffic tried again to come up with a live album by recording shows on a British tour in July 1971. Joining for six dates of the tour was twice-dismissed Traffic singer/guitarist Dave Mason, who had subsequently scored a solo success with his Alone Together album. The resulting collection, Welcome to the Canteen (which was technically credited to the seven individual musicians, not to Traffic), proved how good a contractual-obligation album could be. Sound quality was not the best (and it still isn't on the 2002 remastered CD reissue, though it's better), with the vocals under-recorded and stray sounds horning in, but the playing was exemplary, and the set list was an excellent mixture of old Traffic songs and then-recent Mason favorites. "Dear Mr. Fantasy" got an extended workout, and the capper was a rearranged version of Steve Winwood's old Spencer Davis Group hit "Gimme Some Lovin'." Welcome to the Canteen's status as only a semi-legitimate offering was emphasized by the release, after a mere two months, of a new Traffic studio album on Island (Low Spark of High Heeled Boys) that undercut its sales. But that doesn't make it any less appealing as a summing up of the Winwood/Mason/Traffic musical world.

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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