Mr Fantasy - Island 1967
Steve Winwood had left Spencer Davis Group in early 1967 to form a new band with Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. Both Winwood and Mason were extremely talented songwriters, and they each wrote a single hit for the band prior to the release to this album. Both great singles ( "Paper Sun" and "Hole in My Shoe" ) were included on the original US mono-version of the album, which makes up the second half of this CD-release
Traffic succeded in combining Winwood's jazzy/bluesy style and Mason's melodic songwriting style with the new pshychedelic trends of which the band themselves were very much a part of.
The album is perfectly produced by Jimmy Miller, and though these recordings are nearly forty years old, they sound as fresh and crisp as ever.
Most songs were written by Steve Winwood in collaboration with Capaldi and Wood; and their songwriting is incredibly inspired. Songs like the opener "Heaven is in Your Mind", the moving "No Face, No Name, No Number", "Mr Fantasy" ( terrific guitar solo from Steve ) and "Coloured Rain" are classics. They also show a humouristic free and easy attitude on tracks like "Berkshire Poppies" and "Giving to You"; which gives the album the variety that is needed to make it a classic.
Dave Mason wrote 3 songs, all tracks are fine, but his contributions here are not so significant as on the follow-up album, which included his classics "Feeling Alright" and You Can All Join In". They are all more or less in the same vein as "Hole in My Shoe", though none of them not nearly as catchy.
Before the album was released in the US Dave Mason had left the band ( there were some disagreements over the musical direction ), so two of his songs were excluded from that release and exchanged with the 4 songs from their 2 singles. This made the American 12 tracks version an even stronger album. The B-side "Smiling Phases" was another great Winwood/Capaldi/Wood composition that deserved being included in the first place.
There are some interesting differences between the mono and stereo versions. The guitar-solos on the two mixes of "Heaven is on Your Mind" are completely different; funny that they exchanged the great solo on the UK version with an obviously less inspired on for the US release; could be a mistake? Minor differences can be on most tracks.
Interesting that Dave Mason isn't even credited as band member on the US album cover. Mason returned later to record the follow-up album with Traffic.