Traffic is one of the most important bands of the late 1960s
and early 1970s
, and influenced much of popular music.
Traffic were formed in 1967 by Steve Winwood formerly of the Spencer Davis Group. He and guitarist Dave Mason, drummer Jim Capaldi, and sax and flute player Chris Wood holed up in a hippie cottage in Berkshire, England, in ultra-groovy recording sessions that produced the singles "Paper Sun," "Hole In My Shoe," and the album Mr. Fantasy. The title track "Dear Mr. Fantasy" was also a big seller. (BTW, Mr. Fantasy was my old BBS handle.)
1968 saw Mason leave and rejoin the band for two songs on the eponymous Traffic, which was a big hit both in England and the US. Traffic had become established as one of the leading psychedelic rock bands of the late 60s, with a sound full of blues and jazz and the experimentation of the time.
In 1969 the band released Last Exit with a side of studio music (including the hit "Medicated Goo") and a side of live music. Then the band went their separate ways--Mason recorded the excellent solo album Alone Together, Winwood went off with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Rick Grech to form Blind Faith.
In 1970 Winwood began a solo album and enlisted the help of Capaldi and Wood, and then they decided to call themselves Traffic again and released the classic John Barleycorn Must Die. The instrumental track "Glad" is well known.
In 1971 Mason rejoined the band for some live shows caputred on Welcome To The Canteen, including a nine-minute version of the Spencer Davis Group hit "Gimme Some Lovin'". The band (at this time Winwood, Capaldi, Wood, bassist Rick Grech, percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah and guitarist Jim Gordon recorded The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys with its epic title track.)
1973 saw the release of Shootout At The Fantasy Factory which is one of their more obscure albums as a band. The band also got rid of Grech and Gordon and added David Hood and Roger Hawkins. Also in 1973 was the live album On The Road. Most critics felt Traffic live never lived up to the promise of their excellent studio albums.
1974 saw the release of When The Eagle Flies which finds Winwood experimenting with synthesizers and much more mellow, long tracks. After that, the band more or less broke up, with Winwood going on to a very successful solo career.
In 1994 Winwood and Capaldi collaborated on a new Traffic album Far From Home. It's good but really sounds like a Winwood solo album.
Starting in 2000 and 2001, Universal has been remastering and re-releasing the early Traffic albums. The sound quality is excellent, and if you're just getting into the band, are the versions to get (they also include numerous bonus tracks.)
Traffic is one of my favorite bands. I was just listening to Mr. Fantasy on my way to work today and realized just how important an album it is to what most people are doing in rock music today.
(I did some fact checking for this writeup on SonicNet, http://www.sonicnet.com/. They have a really good biography of the band.)