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.
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!