Dave Mason was back on board when Traffic toured England in '71 and recorded this live LP. They do early Traffic essentials plus then-new Mason gems: Medicated Goo; Dear Mr. Fantasy; Sad and Deep As You even an inspired Gimme Some Lovin' !
To call Traffic "mercurial" might be an understatement. After a promising debut, the band (whose core consisted of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Stevie Winwood, vocalist-percussionist Jim Capaldi, and winds player-keyboardist Chris Wood) variously broke up, saw Winwood's participation in the supergroup Blind Faith, reformed, and struggled with lineup expansions and contractions. Indeed, this 1971 live album recorded in London followed an unreleased Fillmore East effort by John Barleycorn's four-piece edition (the trio plus Blind Faith bassist Rick Grech). Now rhythmically augmented by Jim Gordon, ex-Dizzy Gillespie sideman Reebop Kwaku Baah, and the return of singer-songwriter Dave Mason for his third stint in the band, Traffic turns in a rich, eclectic set that didn't so much recap their career as retool it entirely. With Mason's more prosaic "Sad and Deep as You Are" and "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave" alternating with the exotic impressionism of "40,000 Headmen," the good-natured R&B of "Medicated Goo," and the early staple "Dear Mr. Fantasy," this sounds like a band with a lot of promise. But typically, Mason's tenure this time 'round lasted just six performances. The feverish, polyrhythmic reworking of Winwood's Spencer Davis hit, "Gimme Some Lovin'," hints at the more fusion-oriented direction the band would take on its next studio album. Unfortunately, modern digital remastering hasn't improved the original recording's somewhat muddled sound. --Jerry McCulley