Traffic – Were an English ‘pop’ group formed in 1967 and featuring Steve Winwood (see W) as lead singer. They had a handful of hit singles, which as was the custom then, mostly didn’t appear on albums. I loved them, as they seemed to encapsulate the Summer of Love. First album was Mr. Fantasy (1967) – a bit too poppy really, ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ was wonderful, as was ‘Coloured Rain’ and ‘No Face, No Name, No Number.’ – a pretty good debut. Their second, Traffic (1968), was a bit more varied, jazzy in places, it featured – ‘Feelin Alright’, ‘Pearly Queen’ and ‘Forty Thousand Headmen’ – not quite as good as their debut really. Their fourth, but my third was John Barleycorn Must Die (1970). Despite the title and the cover this is not a folk album, although the title song is – more or less. The record is quite jazz-infused and not my favourite, apart from ‘Freedom Rider’ I don’t really like it that much. Quite a bit better was the generally mellow Low Spark Of High-heeled Boys (1971) – a strange title but the song of that name, though overlong is pretty good. I also like ‘Rock And Roll Stew’ and ‘Rainmaker’. Not sure exactly where the band was heading, having discarded the pop singles and settling into a bluesy and jazzy groove. My last studio album is Shootout At The Fantasy Factory (1973) not so bad really – best are the title track and Evening Blue…I also have a live album Welcome To The Canteen (1971) – which is excellent. It actually has 2 Chris Mason songs; he was an occasional member of the band, which were never on Traffic albums – and a great version of Steve Winwood’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’, which was a Spencer Davis Group song, his former band. Despite that the performance seems inspired. Best are ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ and ‘Medicated Goo’. A strange band, which maybe never quite reached their potential, at least on albums – but part of the brilliant late 60’s, early 70’s development of British music. I also have Collection – a best of – which includes most of their singles – ‘Hole In My Shoe’, ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’ and ‘Mulberry Bush’ (I danced to this with Jane Sarginson back in ’67 – whirling her round and round – but despite my best efforts she never wanted to be my girlfriend).
The Travelling Wilburys – A fantastic and maybe the best-ever Supergroup. All were huge stars in their own right – George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Geoff Lynne and of course Dylan. The story is that the band came together by accident to record a projected ‘B’ side for a George single. But I suspect there was a little more to it than that. Anyway, however it happened the first album Travelling Wilburys Volume 1 – was an instant success; the identities of the ‘Wilburys’ soon becoming an open secret. The lead single, and the song that brought the band together – a George composition was ‘Handle With Care’ – apparently named after a label on a packing case in Dylan’s garage – is possibly their best, although almost all the songs are brilliant. Favourites are – ‘End Of The Line’, ‘Rattled’ and ‘Last Night’. A delight of a record – and a big hit. Sadly, Roy Orbison died in late 1989 – which put the idea of a follow-up on hold. There were also tentative plans for a tour – but Dylan and Petty were pretty heavily booked so that never happened. They did consider a replacement for Roy, and Del Shannon was in the frame for a while – but he too passed away. The four remaining members did get back together again 2 years later. A second album, cryptically titled Volume 3 came out in 1990. It did contain some pretty good songs and the magic was still there – almost. It wasn’t quite such a hit and there are a couple of fillers. The band miss Roy’s soaring vocals, and Dylan’s vocals tend to dominate. Still, by anyone else’s standards it would have been a pretty good album. Best tracks are probably – ‘Where Were You Last Night’ and ‘Cool Dry Place’. The not really a group stopped there which may be a good thing. At least we have these two albums to remember them by.