TOOTH TRAFFIC

Last year I bit off more than I could chew.

A brave, but ultimately foolhardy attempt was made to cover all the 1967 albums stored in the Vinyl Connection larder. A couple of dozen LPs made it to the fifty-year table; a very modest selection from the potential number of courses.

Some sense of failure ensued, so much so that it is now well into the second half of 2018 and just one 1968 review has been seen. Yet, as the saying goes, it’s never too late to be late. For your dining pleasure we will present, between now and closing time, a selection of dishes from a year that, while not perhaps rising to the stratospheric heights of ’67, still offers many musical delights. 

*

The pop scene in mid-sixties Britain being small, it is not surprising that many of the musicians we know from famous bands encountered each other in their formative years. So it was for members of Spooky Tooth and their more acclaimed brethren, Traffic.

Spooky Tooth’s guitarist, Luther Grosvenor, played in an outfit called The Hellians with Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi, while their drummer, Mike Kellie, was in a band with flute and reed player Chris Wood. Excluding main man Steve Winwood, that is the entire Traffic line-up from their first period.

The connections don’t stop there. Both bands signed to Island Records and had their 1968 albums produced by Jimmy Miller. Both featured organ (Winwood and the Tooth’s Gary Wright) and both experienced significant line-up fluctuations.

Released in June 1968, Spooky Tooth’s debut album was called It’s All About (though it was re-titled Tobacco Road in the US, following some Stateside success with the titular single). It is an interesting concoction of powerhouse white soul belters and psychedelic reverie with a couple of ballads thrown in for good measure. The single “Tobacco Road” is a good example of that first category; this is a heavy sound, especially for the time, and still thumps out of the speakers like a thundering lorry. Opening song “Society’s child” is similarly potent, starting pensively but building soulfully. Shades of Steve Marriott out front of the Small Faces here. “Too much of nothing” actually sounds like a heavy, threatening Traffic song.

The Edison Cylinder fights back

Personally, I lean towards the more psychedelic numbers such as the title song “It’s all about a roundabout”, closer “Bubbles” (whose vocals sound spookily like Steve Winwood) and an overlooked gem, the melancholic “Here I lived well” (which clocks in at a languorous five minutes, unusually long for the era).

Following 1967’s Mr Fantasy, Traffic’s second alum was—somewhat confusingly—called Traffic. It came out in October ‘68, and contained a pleasing mixture of Dave Mason’s accessible folk-pop-rock songs and the more exploratory creations of Winwood/Capaldi.

Chief amongst the former were Mason’s “Feelin’ alright?”, which gained elevation to pop standard status largely thanks to Joe Cocker’s version (in which it gained a g and lost its question mark). Championing the latter category is Steve and Jim’s “40,000 Headmen” or, to give it it’s fully stoned title, “(Roamin’ thro’ the gloamin’ with) 40,000 Headmen”. Melodic and meaningless, this acid-soaked tale still transports, carried on Winwood’s voice and Chris Wood’s flute.

Along the way we have the folky, country-tinged opener “You can all join in” and the plaintive “Cryin’ to be heard” (both Mason, though the latter sounds as close to Winwood/Capaldi as Dave M ever got), and the vibrant “Pearly Queen” (Win/Cap).

If you seek out Traffic on CD, check out the bonus tracks. The Island Remasters re-issue (1999) adds five very tasty tracks, two from the soundtrack of the sixties coming-of-age film Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (recorded in 1967), the fabulous single “Medicated goo” b/w “Shanghai noodle factory” and “Withering tree” (a very strong song whose inclusion makes the post break-up album Last Exit largely redundant for all but diehard fans).

So that’s today’s two course menu. Hope you’ve enjoyed visiting Café ’68 here at Vinyl Connection and that we’ll see you again soon.

PS. There is a page listing all the posts on 1967—1968 music. Sixties fans are invited to browse!

19 comments

  1. I was waiting for 1968 to happen and then it did, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My belated pleasure.
      We have, of course, previously covered Tomorrow, the second Pink Floyd album, James Taylor’s debut and the mighty Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. So some solace for ’68-ers!
      Any further requests? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So many choices. Kinks, Morrison, Pretty Things, The Airplane, wow, maybe better than 67.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. SF Sorrow is slated for sure!

          Like

  2. I don’t think I’d have as hard a time covering these years as your do!

    Don’t know any Spooky Tooth but know of them cause of Mott, Priest, Humble Pie, Foreigner connections.

    I do have a Traffic album though! Just not this one… I’ve only got John Barleycorn Must Die.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s more the choice of prioritising the material than any particular difficulty. Many of these albums are both significant and highly enjoyable, I just need to choose, listen and write!
      I reckon the proto-heavy songs on the early Spooky Tooth albums would be of interest to you, HMO.
      Meanwhile, John Barleycorn is a fine start for Traffic… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was thinking I just wouldn’t have many albums to write about from these years but, having thought about it, I have more than I thought actually. Stuff that I don’t listen to as much but still like to have around… Mayall, Procul Harum, Moody Blues…

        And its quite interesting to see how many artists were cranking out more than one album in these years. Hendrix, The Doors, Pentangle. So I probably would struggle after all!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Listened to the Moodies this afternoon. ‘In Search’ is my favourite, I think. So that’s on the cards. As are the Pentangles (see previous correspondence!). Happy to leave the Doors to you. 😉

          Like

        2. I’m more of a “what a day to go kite flying” Days Of Future Passed kinda guy myself!

          Funnily enough I used to hate the Doors but they’ve wormed their way in. I get occasional notions for their stuff… and they get a bit more frequent every year.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Had never heard of Spooky Tooth. Did some sampling; really like “Sunshine Help Me” and “It’s All About A Roundabout.” Regarding Traffic: Learning that there once was a single called “Medicated goo” b/w another called “Shanghai noodle factory” has officially made my day. 🙂 Am I the only one that thinks Winwood’s hair and face, on the Traffic album cover, look like those of a woman in a pre-Raphaelite painting?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always delighted to have contributed to your day, JDB. And you know what? Both A and B sides are pretty good (though I prefer Shanghai on balance. Love noodles).
      I believe Gered Mankowitz took the cover shot. And yes, definitely a pre-Raph look!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Too much time on my hands this morning…I felt compelled to find a reasonably close pre-Raph match. This one by Rosetti (who else?!) is a good one, complete with full lips and forest green garment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the painting of Veronica Veronese looking extremely disengaged from her violin practice. Perhaps she might find guitar lessons from Steve Winwood more exciting?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to have gotten my point across! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I hadn’t realised Spooky Tooth and Traffic had such close connections. And I hadn’t spotted how similar they sound at times, either. This blogging lark isn’t just for entertainment; it’s wonderfully educational, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can never have too much music trivia, that’s the VC motto!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Ok here’s the Deal. You know CB plays in “the Traffic”. Heard of Spooky Tooth but I don’t think I’ve knowingly ever heard them. I will take care of that pronto. The Traffic album is another of your fold outs. ( I had to go look to be sure)

    Like

  7. Nice! I’m glad to see the 50th anniversary series is back, the later the greater.
    I hope it’s back in 2019 too as 1969 is among my favourite musical years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a tasty year, for sure, Geoff. Now I’m curious about your ’69 faves!

      Like

Comments and responses welcome for all posts: present or past. Please join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: