Posts Tagged ‘Steve Winwood’

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Two stunning BBC sessions from the heyday of the british band fronted by Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi. One shot recorded before the release of the debut album on Island Mr. Fantasy, the second – December the 11th – right after. Facing the beginning of a new groove revolution after the blues explosion.

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Things are getting more sophisticated down here. The band just released his debut album and is ready to roll. Second self-titled album is almost there, so a number of key tracks like Pearly Queen,Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring and Feeling Alright. Three different radio sessions from winter and the hot summer of ’68.

Classic Radio Broadcasts: On their formation in April 1967 Traffic experienced instant success and rapidly expanding popularity. That they accomplished so much in such a short space of time attests to the talent of the band s particular blend of creative forces, but also might explain why the first few years were so tumultuous. Although Steve Winwood was already a widely respected figure due to his time with The Spencer Davis Group, the strength of Traffic’s debut single, Paper Sun, took many observers by surprise. A number 5 hit in the UK, the song signaled that Winwood had matured into one of the most significant figures in British music and, as further material appeared over the course of 67, that Traffic were a major arrival on the scene – Dave Mason’s Hole In My Shoe gave the band a UK number 2 in August and November s Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush their third successive top ten hit. When the group s debut album, Mr. Fantasy, arrived in December, it was to rapturous acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic; but trouble lay ahead. In early 68 Dave Mason quit, citing artistic differences. Although he briefly re-joined the band during sessions for their second album, Traffic, he left again shortly after and Traffic never really recovered. Winwood exited in early 69 (to the shock and surprise of Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood) and formed Blind Faith alongside Eric Clapton & Ginger Baker.

Despite their eventual reformation in 1970 (minus Mason), 67- 68 thus stands alone as the original pure era in Traffic s history. With the impact that the band made on British music at the time, they fast became fixtures of radio programming, on John Peel s Top Gear show in particular. Collected here are the complete BBC performances by Traffic from across 1967-68, a fascinating journey that traces the evolution of the band over the course of its quintessential period, from Paper Sun in September 67 to Feelin Alright in July 68, Dave Mason’s last great gift before he walked.

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The Limited Edition image 1

In celebration of the life and lyrics of Traffic’s drummer, poet and founder – the late Jim Capaldi over 70 of his handwritten lyrics are illustrated with images of Traffic, and illuminated with the recollections of 40 legendary contributors.

Mr Fantasy is a limited edition of only 900 copies. Signed by Steve Winwood, Aninha Capaldi and Robert Plant.

Traffic’s songs and the imagery of Jim Capaldi’s lyrics brought us adventures and characters that vibrated through the psychedelic underground.’ quoted Robert Plant

‘The Sixties to me were the most important years in humankind! Traffic became a reality in 1966. I’d already started writing songs in the previous bands so I naturally took the role of lyricist.’ Jim Capaldi

Read all about the making of this classic album in the limited edition book and record set, Mr Fantasy, which explores the lyrics and music of Jim Capaldi . Jim was the lyricist behind Traffic’s 11 albums, including the hit songs ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’, ‘40,000 Headmen’ and ‘Paper Sun’. Originally inspired by The Beatles, Jim also wrote for the Eagles and played alongside George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix

His handwritten lyrics have been reproduced in facsimile, complete with doodles, typos and alterations to reveal the process behind the words that changed the face of music. ‘As you read these lyrics, ask yourself if anyone in rock ever wrote better. The pirate poet indeed. Jim was a real rough diamond… I loved him.’ Tom Petty

Jim began work on this book before his death in 2005. He provided us with text, giving insight into his inspiration and describing his prolific 40-year song writing partnership with Steve Winwood.

‘I’d had this idea for a lyric and that evening while half asleep I managed to finish it off in my head. I got up, wrote it down and went and woke up Steve; it must have been around 4.30 or 5.00 in the morning. Then we went in to the little living room where there was an old upright piano and finished it. It was the first song we wrote together.’ Jim Capaldi

‘All these bits of paper would be knocking about and while we were jamming, if I could find a way to sing something that was written down I would just sing it. That’s how we created our songs… He was a life-long brother-musician to me and we spent a lot of time together, had a great affection for each other, and understood each other and the way we worked. It’s slightly sad, but, for me, Traffic can never be without Jim.’ Steve Winwood

Jim was one of the most influential songwriters, not only of his generation but in the history of popular music culture. He attacked life with an energy and passion and left a rich legacy. He leaves a benchmark for today’s writers and musicians to emulate.’

This Dynamic broadcast recording from the band Traffic in 1972 featured Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood who met at a nightclub the Opposite Lock in Aston, Birmingham in the mid-1960s. At the time Winwood was still performing with The Spencer Davis Group, but when he quit in April 1967, the quartet formed Traffic.

Traffic signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, and their debut single “Paper Sun” became a UK hit in the summer of 1967. Further hit singles followed and their debut album, “Mr. Fantasy”, was successful in the UK. Dave Mason left the group by the time Mr. Fantasy was released, but re-joined for a few months in 1968, long enough to contribute to their second, eponymous album. The band however was discontinued following Winwood’s departure in early 69. He then formed the supergroup Blind Faith, which lasted less than a year, recording one album and undertaking one US tour. After the break-up of Blind Faith, Winwood began working on a solo recording, bringing in Wood and Capaldi to contribute, and the project eventually turned into a new Traffic album, “John Barleycorn Must Die”, their most successful record of all.

In 1971 the group released The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971), a Top 10 American album but one which did not chart in the UK. They toured America in early 1972 to promote the LP, during which they performed an extraordinary concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 21st February, which was broadcast across FM radio along the West Coast, and is featured in its entirety . The quite superb performance includes cuts from their two finest albums.

recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1972, this concert seems to kick off with a somewhat spacey, mildly exploratory version of the title tune of the band’s then-current LP, “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”; Steve Winwood and Chris Wood get to stretch out nicely on this one, on piano and electric sax, respectively. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” comes next, on which former drummer Jim Capaldi gets to do his white Sammy Davis, Jr. thing while Stevie offers up some wicked guitar licks. (Until his recent collaborations with Eric Clapton, many seemed to have forgotten what a fantastic guitarist he’s always been!) A straightforward yet tasty as can be rendition of “John Barleycorn” follows, featuring some terrific work by Chris on flute; “Rainmaker” makes for a perfect segueway after this one, highlighted by more lovely flute work from Chris and a rousing percussion interlude from Reebop Kwakubaah. The classic Traffic diptych of “Glad”/”Freedom Rider” comes next, accompanied by some psychedelic light FX, and then Stevie sings effortlessly and beautifully on “40,000 Headmen.” “Dear Mr. Fantasy” closes out this set in rousing fashion, featuring some more staggering guitar work from Winwood.

In 1967, when the still-teenaged keyboardist Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group (for whom he’d sung lead on hits like “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man”) to start a new band with guitarist Dave Mason, few observers thought their idea of blending pop, rock, and jazz would work. Immediately, though, Traffic scored giant hits with Winwood’s east-meets-west “Paper Sun” and Mason’s acid-jazzy “Hole in My Shoe”. Between those songs, the smoking-guitar driven title track, the swinging instrumental “Giving to You” and the haunting ballad, “No Face, No Name, No Number”, Traffic’s debut established both players as elite members of the new guard of late 60s British rock.

“I knew it wasn’t just a good piece or a good track for a record,” Traffic drummer and lyricist Jim Capaldi once said of their song “Dear Mr. Fantasy” the pseudo-title-cut from the band’s kaleidoscopic debut LP. “I knew it was going to be a real milestone-type piece.” His hunch was spot-on.

The British quartet never cracked the pop charts with the spiraling psych-rock song. (In fact, they never even issued it as a single.) But the six-minute long “Fantasy” was designed more as a deep, mind-expanding bong hit than a quick joint puff: Steve Winwood’s bluesy howl and the group’s live-in-the-room exploration tapped into the same jam-sprung freedom flourishing at that time from America’s West Coast.

Fittingly, since much of Traffic’s early repertoire reveled in whimsy, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” originated from a doodle. “I’d drawn this character playing a guitar, with puppet hands instead of his own hands,” Capaldi recalled in a video interview celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mr. Fantasyin 2017. “I wrote a letter next to it: ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune.'”

At the time, the band Capaldi, Winwood, multi-instrumentalists Dave Mason and Chris Wood were holed up at Sheepcote Farm, a rural cottage in Berkshire, England, owned by baronet Sir William Pigott-Brown, a friend of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Experimenting with weed and LSD, and living among the filth of their own dirty dishes and laundry, the young men cooked up much of Mr. Fantasy at this ragged sanctuary.

“There was no running water, there was a well and no electricity,” said WinwoodBlackwell took the gamekeeper’s cottage down the lane so he could make sure we rehearsed and wrote material. It was a place where we could make as much row as we liked – and we certainly did.”

During one ordinary vice-filled afternoon, “Fantasy” emerged.

“I was asleep upstairs in the cottage, and I heard this nice little bass line going and some guitar,” Capaldi said “I woke up, went down — we’d jam all time of the day, and we’d all take breaks, do whatever.”

“[I] found that they’d written a song around the words and drawing I’d done, I was completely knocked out by it. Chris wrote that great bass line. We added some more words later and worked out a bigger arrangement too.”

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

Armed with a batch of songs that sprawled from psych to blues to soul to Beatlesque Indian nods, Traffic eventually moved to London’s Olympic Studios with producer Jimmy Miller, with whom Winwood had collaborated as part of his previous band, the Spencer Davis Group.

Miller was crucial in capturing the song’s free-flowing vibe on tape, which they only achieved after scrapping the traditional recording booths and tracking as a live four-piece: Winwood on electric guitar and vocals, Mason on bass, Wood on organ and Capaldi on drums. A surprise fifth member was Miller, who augmented the groove by rushing from the control room to lay down some extra percussion.

“We were in the middle of a take and there’s a part where the tempo changes it jumps and I look around, and Jimmy Miller’s not in the control room,” by the side of engineer Eddie Kramer. “The next thing I see out of the corner of my eye is Jimmy hauling ass across the room, running full tilt. He jumps up on the riser, picks up a pair of maracas and gets them to double the tempo! That, to me, was the most remarkable piece of production assistance I’d ever seen. They were shocked to see him out there, exhorting them to double the tempo. Their eyes kind of lit up. It was amazing.”

“Fantasy” thrives on that anything-can-happen energy: Capaldi’s thumping kick drum accents and tumbling fills, the double-time grooves, Winwood’s Jimi Hendrix-like solo, that tempo-shifting finale. From 1967 onward, it became a staple of Traffic’s live show performed more than any other song in their catalog.

And kindred spirits followed suit onstage. Grateful Dead introduced a faithful cover in 1984, a showcase for keyboardist-singer Brent Mydland, and continued to perform it up through 1990. (Jerry Garcia even joined Traffic for a version during their 1994 reunion tour, documented on the live set The Last Great Traffic Jam.) Several other rock legends have paid tribute, including Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, mid-’90s Fleetwood Mac (featuring a briefly tenured Mason), Peter Frampton and Eric Clapton (alongside Winwood).

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

  • Steve Winwood – guitar, lead vocal
  • Dave Mason – bass guitar, harmonica, backing vocal
  • Chris Wood – organ, backing vocal
  • Jim Capaldi – drums, backing vocal
  • Jimmy Miller – maracas

Traffic / The Studio Albums 1967-1974

This 6LP vinyl box set due in May, Universal Music are set to release a new Traffic vinyl box set, the snazzily titled, The Studio Albums 1967–1974.
The six-LP set collects together the Island-released Mr Fantasy, Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die, Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory, The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys and When The Eagle Flies. 1969 odds ‘n’ sods compilation Last Exit isn’t included.

Traffic were originally formed in 1967 when Steve Winwood fled the Spencer Davis Group at the ripe old age of 18, and joined drummer/singer Jim Capaldi, singer/guitarist Dave Mason and reed player Chris Wood. The quartet soon rented a cottage out in rural Berkshire to ‘get their heads together in the country’.

While the group were quickly successful with the singles ‘Paper Sun’ and ‘Hole In My Shoe’, they were more at home on the album format, and also enjoyed considerable success within the U.S., scoring four consecutive top ten albums from 1970 to 1974.

The Studio Albums 1967-1974 is released 17th May 2019.

The LPs have been remastered from the original tapes and presented in their original and highly collectable ‘first’ Island pressing form (gatefold sleeves, pink eye labels etc). The set also includes a related and rare facsimile promo poster for each album.

Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die front

1969 was a tremulous year for the band Traffic. After a successful tour in the US following their second album, Steve Winwood left the band for the short-lived super group Blind Faith. In the meantime Island Records released the album “Last Exit”, a mishmash of leftover studio cuts and live performances Traffic recorded in 1968. Blind Faith recorded one excellent album but broke up shortly after, leaving Winwood then free to start working on a solo record suggested by Island Record’s manager Chris Blackwell.

The plan was for Winwood to play all the instruments using tape overdubbing techniques in the studio. Winwood is a fine multi instrumentalist who could certainly perform such a feat, but he found the process difficult: “I began trying to make music all on my own with tape machines and overdubbing and stuff. It was a very good way of writing, but it was a weird way of making music. The whole thing that makes music special is people. I was getting to the point that I needed the input of other people. It seemed inhuman to make records just by overdubbing.”

Steve Winwood started calling on his friends from Traffic to help him in the studio. First to join was Jim Capaldi who helped writing some of the songs and contributed drums and percussion tracks. Next was reed man Chris Wood who brought his jazz and folk influences, and the three worked for a few months on the album. It became clear that the solo album, with the planned title name of “Mad Shadows”, was really a Traffic record.

Chris Wood was influenced by the folk revival that swept the British Isles in the late 60s. One song he suggested to the group was John Barleycorn, which he heard on the 1965 Watersons record Frost and Fire. The Watersons’ version, like most of their material from that period, was an unaccompanied vocal group performance.

Winwood applied himself to the song and played a wonderful guitar part on it. Capaldi added tasteful and sparse percussion parts and more importantly a brilliant vocal harmony starting on the fifth verse. Wood’s flute accompaniment is the icing on the cake on this great take on the song, which has been performed by many British folk artists over the years including Martin Carthy and John Renbourn. The Mainly Norfolk site has a good page chronicling many of the song’s covers. It is interesting that amidst the great activity that took place at the time in the British folk rock scene by bands like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Fotheringay and many others, one of the most memorable songs remains this performance of John Barleycorn by Traffic, wnot considered a folk rock band.

The album was engineered by Andy Johns, younger brother of Glynn Johns. Between them the two brothers recorded classic rock’s royalty. Before working with Traffic, Andy Johns recorded Jethro Tull (Stand Up, Living in the Past), Spooky Tooth and Blind Faith. After Traffic his career soared with Led Zeppelin (II, III, the legendary IV, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti) and the Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street). Quite a resume, and this is just within a span of 4 years.

Johns had a deep respect for Steve Winwood. In an interview he mentioned an experience he had when working on the Blind Faith album: “I came back from a lunch break one day and the soundproof door was cracked a little bit, and I could hear him playing the Hammond. He’s playing both manuals and the bass pedals and he’s singing. I look at him and he’s looking at the ceiling. Not only is he playing the top manual, the lower manual, the bass pedals, and singing, but he’s also thinking about what his old lady’s going to make him for dinner. So he’s doing four or five things at once and the music was just stunning. I hate to use the word genius, because it’s bandied about so much, but that guy, in the end of his little finger, has more than a whole tribe of musicality— he really does. It’s just unfair.”

When you first listen to the song you may think that you landed in the midst of a Middle Ages inquisition session. The lyrics describe all kinds of brutal methods inflicted by three men upon a poor fellow named John Barleycorn. However a closer look reveals that the distressing lyrics are actually a metaphor to the process applied to barley in order to produce beer and whiskey. While it has its roots in old folklore tales about the Corn God and religious symbolism, it is really a satire on legally prohibiting the production of alcoholic beverages while still needing the drink to get on with everyday life, as revealed in the last verse:

The huntsman, he can’t hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly to blow his horn,
And the tinker he can’t mend kettle nor pot,
Without a little Barleycorn

In short, John Barleycorn is a drinking song. Maybe the best of them all.

Steve Winwood performs a solo acoustic version of Traffic’s John Barleycorn (Must Die).

Image of Traffic 'First Exit' blue vinyl LP

Steve Winwood formed Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood in 1967. In the spirit of the times, the group was intended to be a cooperative, with the members living together in a country cottage in Berkshire and collaborating on their songs. Signed to Island Records their single “Paper Sun,” peaked in the U.K. Top Five in July 1967 and also spent several weeks in the lower reaches of the charts in America. Traffic toured Europe in the summer of ’67 and the live recording that comprises this album was made for radio broadcast in Sweden at Radiohuset, Stockholm on September. 12th, 1967. It has been newly mastered for vinyl and pressed on blue vinyl.

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• Restored and newly mastered audio
• Historic live radio broadcast available for the first time on LP
• Includes the hits ‘Paper Sun’ and ‘Hole In My Show’
• Complete live show from 1967
• Limited edition blue vinyl

Image of Traffic 'First Exit' blue vinyl LP

TRACK LISTING
1. Giving To You [live] / 2. Smiling Phases [live] / 3. Coloured Rain [live] / 4. Hole In My Shoe [live] / 5. Feelin’ Good [live] / 6. Paper Sun [live] / 7. Dear Mr Fantasy [live]

Steve Winwood formed Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood in 1967. In the spirit of the times, the group was intended to be a cooperative, with the members living together in a country cottage in Berkshire and collaborating on their songs. Signed to Island Records their single “Paper Sun,” peaked in the U.K. Top Five in July 1967 and also spent several weeks in the lower reaches of the charts in America. Traffic recorded two sessions for Saturday Club and Top Gear shows in 1967. Session 1 first aired October 1967 while Session 2 first aired December 1967 recorded for the BBC Top Gear programme. Both are released here for the first time. Traffic also toured Europe and the live recording that comprises part two of this album was also made for radio broadcast, this time in Sweden at Radiohuset, Stockholm on September. 12th, 1967

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traffic

John Peel’s legendary status is defined by the vast amount of bands and artists he championed. His urge to “hear something he hadn’t heard before” led to a relentless search through demo tapes sent in to his radio show from songwriters and musicians looking for a break. His conviction in not following conventional programming formats, and offering his listeners an alternative to daytime pop pap would ensure that his relevance to broadcasting would remain vital right up to his untimely death in 2004. Chris Wood’s Flute playing is amazing on this. Their BBC Sessions deserve to be officially released! As does the Copenhagen ’67 Concert.

His sessions would become an important outlet for new listeners to sample live selections from fledgling and established artists. Many of these recordings have been released to the public, some remain in the vaults. Here is a continuing history of all the sessions, starting in 1967 for his “Top Gear” show right up to the final recording in October 2004.

December 11th 1967: Traffic John Peel Session Studio – 201 Piccadilly, Studio 1

Tracklist:

Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush
Heaven Is On Your Mind
No Face No Name No Number
Dealer
Hope I Never Find Me There

The Band:

Jim Capaldi – drums, acoustic guitar, lead vocals, Dave Mason – electric guitar, bass, vocals Steve Winwood – electric guitar, keyboards, vocals Chris Wood – flute. percussion ,

Caught In ’70s Traffic One More Time

As the piano kicked in on ‘Something New’ at the same time as one of the most distinctive voices in rock, Traffic were back in the American album chart on this day 41 years ago with When The Eagle Flies. With Stevie Winwood  vocals and keyboards augmented by the work of Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and now Rosko Gee (plus the uncredited Rebop Kwaku Baah), they would once again strike gold in the States — but this would be their last chart showing with a new studio record for very nearly 20 years. This ninth album by the British rock pacemakers gathered half a dozen new compositions by Winwood and Capaldi, and another, the equally impressive ‘Dream Gerrard,’ that Steve wrote with inimitable performer-humorist Vivian Stanshall, late of the Bonzo Dog Band. It arrived just over a year and a half after the band’s 1973 entry Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory, after which they had released the On The Road memento of their concert in Germany that year.

 

traffic-on-the-roadTraffic-When-The-Eagle

 

Whereas Traffic’s recent studio endeavours had been produced by Winwood, When The Eagle Flies was overseen, like the live disc, by their Island label boss and confidant, Chris Blackwell. There was a subtle update to their sound, too, with the use of Moog and Mellotron keyboards, and an ever greater advance into a sophisticated jazz-rock style. But, with their status as FM album rock radio staples intact, there was no sign of any reduction in their American popularity.

While their British audience showed less enthusiasm for the new album, granting it only a fleeting top 40 place, Eagle entered the 28 September, 1974 US chart at No. 52 and became the group’s fourth top ten LP in a row there. Billboard called the album “a superb return.”

It reached No. 9 in a 27-week run, going gold by November, but after a promotional tour in the US in the autumn, Traffic called it a day. They were commemorated by two compilations in 1975 but the name was not revived by Winwood and Capaldi until 1994’s Far From Home.