Volume 178, sent Jan 6, 2000:
1. Traffic -- Mr Fantasy 3D cd
2. Reply to Ted G
3. My opinion for "THAT " guy
4. Traffic vs Solo fans
5. More pure opinion - Winwood solo albums
6. More response to Ted G.
7. Ranking Winwood Solo Albums
8. Reply to Ted G.
9. remasters/SW solo albums
10. Question for Ted
11. live Traffic
Date sent: Mon, 3 Jan 2000 12:58:20 EST
Subject: Traffic -- Mr Fantasy 3D cd
I recently found a copy of Traffic -- Mr Fantasy on cd that has a 3D mark on the cover. It was put out on Island in 1997. What exactly is this 3d sound system. Was the cd remixed? It's an imports and the track list is: Paper Sun Dealer Couloured Rain Hole In My Shoe No Face No Name Heaven Is In Your Mind House For Everyone Berkshire Poppies Giving To You Smiling Phases Mr. Fantasy
Date sent: Mon, 3 Jan 2000 12:58:50 EST
Subject: Reply to Ted G
Woh, Traficologist Ted g has some serious Winwood issues there, I reccommend he increase his fiber intake and lay off whatever he was doing that day. I never heard a Winwood song I hated, as far as disliking anything the man has recorded I am a simple Winwood nut. I can honestly say I can listen to any album and respect/ relate to it. As far as the used cd bin, I will buy the cd. Bobbie can give out my address. I recall something in the Bible about "casting pearls to swine" , perhaps he was feeling swiney and didn't appreciate the pearl. I love Spy in the house and Lord of the Street. And if you can't move to Got to get back to my baby, I suggest one Free his a** and the rest will follow. My point is, Winwood and Traffic are about music and joy in life. I will relate a favorite story about Steve's music. I had just been sent to Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota fresh out of basic training. My wife and I had been married 11 days before I left for basic so we were newlyweds and 19 years old. We had just moved out of "temporary housing" military lingo for flop house into a dingy relocateable house ( a house that can literally fold up for transport, I am not making this up) We had spent Christmas in Fargo in a roadside hotel and we were depressed and literally tired of life in general. To make it all worse, the weather was terrible. Snow and cold beyond imagination. One morning on my drive home from a twelve hour shift in a dark warehouse, The sun came out and made the snow pretty and the ratty little AM radio in my old clunker started playing the now familiar song "While you see a chance". Life was at once changed for me, I felt by listening to Steve sing about life and opportunities that I had a lot going for me. I was young, healthy and had a pretty girl waiting for me at home. Thankyou, Steve Winwood for singing just for me that day over 19 years ago, I am still taking the chances and realizing life is a gift. Enjoy!
From: "lani arthur"
Subject: My opinion for "THAT " guy
Date sent: Mon, 03 Jan 2000 15:02:28 PST
Way back in volume 169 (10/12) of SP, Trafficologist asked us to "rank Steve's 7 solo albums" from our favorite to least. Ted, I haven't forgot about your request. I have been a little busy lately plus your request was not as easy as I first thought it would be. In fact, just last week I had J7 on in my car trying to figure out where it would be on that favorite list of mine. By the way, while I had on the J7 CD my daughter was with me. She is into ballet, she wanted to know why Steve has "changed his style from rock to =this=". She thinks he should stay with the 'rock'.
At first I thought well, Roll With It would definitely be my #1....then after that it was a very difficult question. Which one would end up being my =least= favorite? Would Steve Winwood be #7 for me....no since I really love Hold On, Midland Maniac & Vacant Chair. Would J7 be it....welllll no, love all of it except Fill Me Up. For me, I think it depends on what I am in the mood for. Do I need a jolt of Roll With It or Back In The High Life so I can work, or do I need to de-stress with a cup of Earl Grey and Refugees of The Heart! When I am especially feeling sorry for myself (when I have to sit down twice a month and make out the bills) I always put on Steve Winwood and Talking Back to The Night. It's like a meal....what are you in the mood for?
But as far as the solo work that I reach for the most would be, Arc Of A Diver, Roll With It and Refugees. Ted it's just too hard to pick a #7, I can't even decide what to fix for dinner sometimes!
From: "lani arthur"
Subject: Traffic vs Solo fans
Date sent: Mon, 03 Jan 2000 19:50:17 PST
After reading Trafficologist opinions again tonight, I think how you feel about the solo career albums depends on if you are a #1 Traffic fan or not. Just this past year, have I really been listening to Traffic music other than Dear Mr Fantasy & Low Spark. While I find some of the Traffic music a little odd, for example Berkshire Poppies. There are always other tracks on an album I like and some albums I have really come to love....like John Barleycorn.
I agree Talking Back has a somewhat 'tinney electronic sound', but I don't feel Arc is 'overrated'. And J7..."flat-as-cardboard material"...IMHO I think it has a romantic sound to it...sexy?;-) At least that is what I thought the first time I heard it on the way home from Borders. And maybe those "slow numbers" is why my daughter asked me why Steve changed his style of music after all the Traffic music she has heard coming from my CD player. It is plain to see Winwood does what he wants.
Date sent: Mon, 03 Jan 2000 15:49:26 -0600
From: Steven Robert Seim
Subject: More pure opinion - Winwood solo albums
In response to Ted G.'s comments on SW's solo albums: I had meant to respond to this originally, but figured others might be tired of hearing my opinions. Since I think the topic interesting, and not wanting to leave Ted hanging, however, I'll take a crack at it.
I tend to agree with most of Ted's observations, but I think Steve's solo albums can roughly be grouped into 3 "tiers" of quality:
Bottom Tier (in no particular order): S/T, Arc of a Diver, Talking Back... These three albums illustrate what was wrong with most pop/rock of the late 70s/early 80s. Even the relatively strong tracks (Vacant Chair, Still in the Game) are weighed down by the limp, uninteresting, artificial-sounding instrumentation.
Top Tier (in no particular order): BITHL, Roll With It, Refugees... With BITHL, SW finally learned how to use synthesizers within their appropriate (and limited) place in the broad scheme of an arrangement. This, along with the end of his "one man band" mentality, give these three albums the musical richness and energy and his first three lacked. Steve was finally playing rock & roll again. As to specific albums, I'd say that "Roll With It" is his most consistent (no real duds in the bunch), but that the highlights of both "BITHL" and "Refugees" are more moving than anything on "Roll With It."
Middle Tier: Junction 7. This album breaks the pattern. While it doesn't return to the synthesized mush and do-it-yourself mistakes of his early work, much of it veers dangerously into modern R&B/pop territory. Although not up to the quality of his previous three albums, it (at times) has more energy and funk than anything on his first three.
Date sent: Mon, 03 Jan 2000 16:07:21 -0600
From: Steven Robert Seim
Subject: More response to Ted G.
Just a few more random thoughts:
1. I think "Far From Home" can be classified more as a solo album than a Traffic one (and I suspect Ted might agree). Personally, I'd definitely place it in my "top tier," and would probably even call it SW's best solo album. Although he reverts to his "one man band" here, he actually seems to pull it off. And Jim actually manages to write lyrics that clearly beat almost anything Will Jennings has done.
2. Speaking of Jim Capaldi, I believe Ted also wrote a while back how unimpressed he was with Jim's solo material (except for the song "It's Alright"). For the record, I couldn't agree more.
3. I was disappointed to hear Ted's fairly low opinion of SW's solo work in general. True, his solo work may seem mundane compared with the heights of Traffic, but Traffic was not immune from kiddy pop (e.g. Paper Sun), silliness (e.g. House for Everyone), and tedium (e.g. much of the Low Spark album). I'd argue that rock & roll has never reached the peaks it did in the late 60s-early 70s and, relatively speaking, SW made some of the best pop/rock of the late 80s & early 90s. Finally, I've always thought that what sets SW apart from the crowd is his voice - and that can best be heard on some of his later solo material.
From: "Gabb, Anthony A"
Subject: Ranking Winwood Solo Albums
Date sent: Tue, 4 Jan 2000 11:17:04 +1100
Well there are people reading all the posts in the newsletters. However it takes time to post a considered response especially to something as extensive as ranking solo albums. My list is:
BACK IN THE HIGH LIFE This benefits from strong material, good production and the various guest artists who participated on this album. Every song on this album is good but the standouts for me are the title track, Take It as It Comes and Higher Love. This is the first material I'd ever heard from SW and so I guess it's not that suprising that it's my favourite.
REFUGEES OF THE HEART This is a great album though probably lacks enough up-tempo tracks to keep the music critics awake. The material is generally good with the exception of the lyrics on One and Only Man which are a bit lame but otherwise the song is good. Again a strong team of musicians plus some new sounds add to the appeal (I really like the slide guitar on Another Deal Goes Down). Standout tracks are In the Light of Day (sheer brillance revolving around a constant keyboard rhythm), Another Deal Goes Down and Running On (I could be the only person who likes this song from what I've been reading).
ROLL WITH IT This is catchy stuff and plenty of up-tempo tracks, good playing and a different feel to previous or future efforts. The organ solo on the title track to me is quite memorable but SW's guitar work is less of a standout. I also quite like the extensive use of brass in the songs. Standout tracks are the title track (again watch out for the B3 solo), Morning Side (the rises and falls in this song are brilliant and makes the song very uplifting) and Hearts on Fire.
ARC OF A DIVER I just like what SW managed to produce as a one man band. Most of the songs are good however the lyrics on Second Hand Woman just doesn't seem like lyrics SW would sing and seems out of place given the arrangement. Standout tracks are While You See a Chance (excellent arrangement and that soaring mini moog solo), Spanish Dancer, Night Train (some of SW's best guitar work here however I would have preferred a different rhythm track from the combo drum machine/acoustic drum effort) and the title track.
JUNCTION 7 An interesting experiment of applying SW's talents to the overproduction of NMW. Sometimes it works (Got to Get Back to my Baby, Family Affair) but often it doesn't and the lyrics are patchy in quality. For me there is way too much involvement from drum machines as well - I've always liked the extensive use of acoustic drums in albums leading up to this. Lord of the Street is also a good track let down by the rhythm track but lifted by the piano work of Steve.
STEVE WINWOOD It just has that 70's sound which I'm not a great fan of but there is enough good tracks to hold interest. Time is Running Out is good while other standouts are Luck's In and Midland Maniac.
TALKING BACK TO THE NIGHT Compared to it's predecessor (Arc of a Diver), this album sounds old. You'd swear blind this album was done before Arc of a Diver but that's not the case. This album suffers from sounding the same right throughout with overuse of the drum machine and not enough variety in the keyboard and synth sounds used. There is also very little in way of guitar which is a great shame given SW's capabilities. The re-work of the title track and Help Me Angel on the Chronicles album improves them enormously. Personally I think the whole album should be re-produced and re-released then I'll judge it again - the sound just doesn't do the songs justice - it could have been so much better. My favourite tracks are the title track, Help Me Angel (thanks to the Chronicles reworking), Happiness and Still in the Game.
Date sent: Tue, 4 Jan 2000 07:28:15 EST
Subject: Reply to Ted G.
Have enjoyed reading a while but not responded 'til now, and specifically to the Trafficologist (Ted G.). Thanks for the run-down on the solo albums (Smiling Phases, vol 177, #8). I have several in one format or another, but live in a land particularly devoid of Traffic/Winwood fans (at least as I'm aware). As far as your opinions go: keep soundin' off man! I'm not a Trafficologist but I am a writer. Each time we write we are laying our selves out for criticism, just as a musician is when she or he generates an album. Regardless of agreement, there is exposure, and for that I thank you. After reading your posting I have a richer impression of those solo releases, and things to listen for when I play them again. As far as "Spanish Dancer," man, that sound has absolutely shifted my soul since I was 17 (not quite 20 years ago). It really does seem like I can feel through my shoes when I hear it! (whatever, lol). Anyway, thanks, you guys for being here and keeping me posted. Hi 'specially to BobbyG, PollyPossum, and Winwoodie (and whomever else I may have chatted with and cannot name). Have A Great Year!!!
From: "Christie, Paul (DASC)"
Subject: remasters/SW solo albums
Date sent: Wed, 5 Jan 2000 12:01:32 +1030
I would have to agree with you that the liner notes on the recent Traffic remasters are rather uninformative, and riddled with typos. It's a shame, as this music deserves better, and the fans would no doubt appreciate more factual information about the albums, rather than the capsule history of Traffic. However, I am grateful to have the music in remastered format. In an earlier message I reported that Last Exit would come out in Japan in remastered format - I now have doubts about this. I saw a listing of upcoming releases from Japan on a web-site, but the web-site that has inexplicably changed its listing just a few days ago, and now only lists "Mr Fantasy" and "Traffic" as being released in Japan in February. Sorry to get your hopes up there - I guess it makes sense that the Japanese would release the same remasters that have come out in Britain.
Has anyone heard the remasters of Traffic's albums released by Mobile Fidelity in the US? They are on gold CD. I have most of them, and they sound wonderful. They've also released gold remastered versions of a number of Steve Winwood's solo albums, including the first one, Arc of a Diver, Talking Back to the Night, and Back in the High Life. I have particularly been enjoying the MF issue of Shootout at the Fantasy Factory - the bass is much better than on previous versions, including my LP. The Mobile Fidelity version of Arc of a Diver also is a great improvement on the earlier CD version, which sounded rather thin to my ears. The Mobile Fidelity versions aren't cheap (from about US $25), and some are probably not as dramatically better than earlier CDs than others. But I would still recommend them to Traffic & SW fans. Some of them have been out of print for a while, but you can still track them down on eBay and from some audiophile websites. Mobile Fidelity has recently gone out of business, so their reissues are going to become more sought after.
Ted: I will offer my two-bobs worth on the Steve Winwood solo albums, although I haven't heard all of them. I love the first album - I think it's very Traffic-like in parts. I particularly like "Hold On", "Time is Running Out", & "Luck's In". I know it has its problems, but this album has a certain feel to it that I like. I especially like the drum and bass playing, moreso on the albums where Steve did it all himself. "Arc of a Diver" is a fine album, but one that I don't listen to that much. I think maybe some of the instrumental sounds have dated. "Talking Back to the Night" was disappointing for me - I don't think it had the charm and novelty of Arc, and I think Steve's approach of playing all the instruments was more limiting than on Arc. But the songs are good. Joe Cocker did a version of "Talking Back to the Night" on his album Sheffield Steel in 1982 that for me is the definitive version, and brings out the best in Steve's songwriting. Finally, I really like "Back in the High Life" - a more commercial album perhaps, but one that holds up very well now. I don't think there are any duds on that album, although I've heard "Higher Love" a few too many times now. I can't comment on any of the later albums.
From: "Christie, Paul (DASC)"
Subject: Question for Ted
Date sent: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 17:21:33 +1030
Here's a question for Mr Ted Trafficologist:
I just picked up my remaster of "Mr Fantasy", and was reading SP Volume 175, where you detailed some of the differences between the stereo and mono versions on the remaster. My copy has only the mono version of "Hole in My Shoe", as track no. 14.
Have I missed something, or is your comparison based on other CD or LP releases which contain the stereo version of "Hole in My Shoe"? If so, can you tell us what they are?
I must say, I have been enjoying the Mr Fantasy remaster. The mono versions don't matter that much to me, but I do value having the different tracks that were not on the original UK mix. It's strange that there are such dramatic differences between the UK and US versions. I haven't got a feel yet for which version I prefer, if any, in terms of track selection and sequencing. I am puzzled as to why the US version didn't come out in mono (I suppose it did eventually) - but I have noted the use of stereo to create interesting effects in the UK version, which seem to me to be part and parcel of the music. Some of the swirling stereo effects really highlight the music, and seem very appropriate for the time in which the album was made.
From: "Christie, Paul (DASC)"
Subject: live Traffic
Date sent: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 17:29:13 +1030
Sorry to be doing multiple postings, but I'm on a real Traffic kick at the moment.
I have noted in various places that "On the Road" seems to get lukewarm reviews (eg. All Music Guide). I used to have the album as a double vinyl LP, many years ago, and thought it was pretty good back then. I haven't heard it since the advent of CDs, and am considering buying it.
I'm not familiar with the earlier Traffic live material (other than what's on the new Barleycorn remaster). Can someone enlighten me as to the quality of the various live recordings, and how you think "On the Road" stacks up against them?
Is this stuff likely to be remastered in the foreseeable future, or is it more likely that the later studio albums will have priority for remastering?
End of Smiling Phases, volume 178