...it's almost impossible not to visualise the hippie-stoner audience trying to get up...
Greg Boraman 2002
A shining light amongst the general malaise of 1960s blues/rock groups, Traffic have been elevated to legendary status by following generations of rootsy performers. Joe Cocker, Paul Weller and all manner of neo-soulsters regard this short lived outfit as a benchmark of musical integrity. This re-mastered and re-released live date was recorded at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon in July 1971, a time when the 60s was still exerting its full effect on the times and the sound of the group. The line-up of Traffic was almost more changeable than Spinal Taps, but this release featured multi-instrumentalist and main man Steve Winwood, who was still a shockingly young 23, despite the fact this was his second successful outfit after he disbanded the also near-legendary Spencer Davis Group. Along with Winwood on Hammond Organ were guitarist Dave Mason, singer Jim Capaldi, bassist Rick Grech, Chris Wood on various horns, Jim Gordon on drums and the wonderfully named "Rebop" Kwaku Baah on percussion.
The sound of Traffic at this time perfectly illustrates the main influences on the, then contemporary, rock scene blues, soul, rock and folk all mix together to create a truly organic sound in this warts and all recording. The up-tempo opener "Medicated Goo" is a great place to start and it's almost impossible not to visualise the hippie-stoner audience trying to get up onto its shaky legs in order to dance to this gleeful, energetic song!
The following three tracks "Sad & Deep As You", "40,000 Headmen" and "Shouldn't Have" are the mid set lull tracks that must have given the switched on audience time for some deeper contemplation before the elongated version of "Dear Mr Fantasy" began to get them back in their groove shoes.
The set's closer - a highly syncopated version of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin" - highlights perfectly the US soul roots of most of Winwood's prodigious writing at the time. Traffic were a short-lived outfit, mainly due to the fact that all the group's members became involved in other solo projects and super-groups. Winwood himself even shelved Traffic for while to join Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in the equally lauded Blind Faith.
As a reminder for original fans and an introduction for new listeners, Welcome To The Canteen is a worthy, honest and happy package that illustrates what was best about the musical melting pot of the late 60s and early 70s. Recommended.