Pop Spectacular: BBC 1970 (no label)
Paris Theatre, London, England – April 30th, 1970
(54:08): Intro., Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring, mc, Every Mother’s Son, mc, No Time To Live, mc, Medicated Goo, mc, John Barleycorn, mc, Pearly Queen, mc, Empty Pages, mc, Glad, Freedom Rider
Pop Spectacular: BBC 1970 captures Traffic’s radio session right when they reformed as a three piece and finished working on John Barleycorn Must Die. This release is sourced straight from the original BBC transcription service disc (CN 1876/S) with very little surface noise.
The trio of Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood switch instruments throughout the broadcast and even features Wood playing sax as the bass line in “Medicated Goo.” They play the yet to be released new album except for “Stranger To Himself” and the only older songs played are “No Time To Live,” “Pearly Queen” and “Medicated Goo.” DJ John Peel offers commentary between each song leading the listener through the various instrument changes and commenting on the songs they are playing.
The show beings with Peel saying, “Of all the stories of groups breaking up constantly in the music papers it’s really nice to have one of the all time great ones get together again. And it’s even nicer to have them on this program. Traffic.” “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” sounds tremendous in the recording with intricate organ lines weaving around the rhythm section. “I hope you agree with me that Traffic are playing better than ever. Very relaxed and really nice. This is from their second LP together released in 1968” Peel says before “No Time To Live.”
Before “Medicated Goo” Peel explains, “On this next number there is a certain amount of change of instrumentation. To begin with Chris will be playing the bass part on tenor saxophone as a result of electronic trickery too complex for me to explain it to you. Not that I understand it myself. Steve will be playing guitar and Steve and Jim will be singing it.”
With its uptempo beat and happy melody, it is a good change of pace from the rest of the material which is both very contemplative and serious. On “John Barleycorn” they sing the lyrics from the fifteenth century rendition of the song but they mess up the lyrics at the end with Capaldi singing the correct version while Winwood sings the last verse causing them to fall apart.
Peel introduces “Pearly Queen” as one of his favorite Traffic numbers and afterwards compliments Winwood’s guitar playing by saying, “so if you’re a guitarist and you think you gotta go on playing those same old blues riffs at ear shattering volume in order to make it, you don’t and that’s proof of it.” Before the ending Peel remarks how great it is to see a band actually smiling as they play.
Traffic close with the “Glad” and “Freedom Rider” medley. The spectacular contrast in styles in the tracks comes through clearly and Wood’s flute solo sounds tremendous against the organ. This title is packaged in a single jewel case and is limited to two hundred copies.
This is an excellent sounding Traffic boot and I agree the surface noise from the vinyl is no issue. The band sounds great as a three piece and its nice to hear John Peel describing who is playing what. I can easily recommend this title to Traffic fans.
I remember hearing this on vinyl some years ago and I recall it being a clear and good recording. I don’t know of any other CD or CDR releases. Fans of Traffic might also want to get hold of ‘Home Away From Home’ on the Mainstream label. This is a 2CD set from the Fillmore West, June 30 1970. It’s claimed to be a soundboard, though I’m not so sure myself. What’s of interest however is a complete performance of John Barleycorn Must Die.
At this time the BBC distributed their programs through their worldwide service on vinyl instead of tape. Although it is preferable to hear these old sessions from the actual studio tapes, that oftentimes isn’t possible and the best we can do is to hear them from these old transcription discs. Regarding this Traffic session, the CD is sourced from a very clean copy of one of the transcription discs. There is minor surface noise but the sound is excellent. I unfortunately have not heard other versions of this show. Does anyone know how this compares?
Is a “transcription service disc” comparable to a master tape, or a soundboard recording? You mention surface noise, so I wonder if it is similar to an acetate. This show has been previously booted from the BBC broadcast in very good sound; can you say how they stack up?