Disposable live album from a great studio band
Art B in Nor Cal | Marin County, CA | 05/03/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Traffic was one of the most interesting and tasteful bands of the late 1960's and early 1970's. But this recording makes it clear just how limited they were live, due to an interesting problem: The wonderful Steve Winwood was their best singer, keyboard player guitar player and even their best bass player. In the studio, he could do all of these things on the same track, and even double up on piano and Hammond B3 organ. But live, he could only play one instrument and sing.
So even when, as on this recording from 1971, he was reunited with erstwhile bandmate Dave Mason, who was a big contributor to Traffic's first two great albums from 1967-68, the results are most disappointing. Where are the tasty piano fills? Or the searing lead guitar on Mr. Fantasy? Missing. Winwood is playing other parts. Mason is not up the lead guitar role. And the recording quality is very poor, barely acceptable for even a bootleg. The bass frequencies are 99% missing. No lower octaves, no bass drum. Even for 1971, this is way below standards.
So, if you haven't heard "Traffic" from 1968, or "John Barleycorn" from 1970, or "Low Spark" from 1972, go buy them right now. These are three fo the greatest albums of their era. The first has more range, due to Mason's songwriting contributions on top of Winwoods usual greatness, and the later two feature Winwood at his very finest. But skip this poor release. It truly sounds like the obligatory contract fulfiller that other reviewers say it was. A real throwaway effort. I feel that my fellow reviewers have caused me to waste money looking-in vain- for a hidden gem I somehow missed.
Great band, bad album.