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Traffic - Mr. Fantasy (1967)
Cover Front Album
Artist Traffic
Length 34:34
Format CD
Genre Rock
Label Island
Index 1
Collection Status In Collection
Track List
01 Heaven Is In Your Mind 04:21
02 Berkshire Poppies 02:59
03 House For Everyone 02:06
04 No Face, No Name, And No Number 03:36
05 Dear Mr. Fantasy 05:37
06 Dealer 03:15
07 Utterly Simple 03:23
08 Coloured Rain 02:47
09 Hope I Never Find Me There 02:12
10 Giving To You 04:18
Personal Details
Price £6.99
Store Ross Records
Rating 8
Spars DDD
Rare No
Sound Stereo
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Since Traffic's debut album Mr. Fantasy has been issued in different configurations over the years, a history of those differences is in order before proceeding to a review of the current version. Traffic was formed in England in April 1967 by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason. They signed to Island Records, and their first single, the psychedelic pop tune "Paper Sun" (with the jazzy near-instrumental "Giving to You" as its B-side) hit the British top five and even spent a handful of weeks in the American charts. (Island not yet having established an American division, Traffic's recordings were licensed to United Artists Records stateside.) Mason's sitar-dominated "Hole in My Shoe" (B-side "Smiling Phases") was a second top five in the U.K., and the movie theme "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush" (B-side "Coloured Rain") gave the band three consecutive Top Ten hits upon release in November 1967. Mr. Fantasy followed in December. In those days, British record industry custom was to consider albums and singles separate entities, with singles not appearing on concurrently released albums. Thus, Mr. Fantasy did not contain any of the group's successful A-sides. The original ten-song lineup, as released in both mono and stereo versions by Island was: Side 1: "Heaven Is in Your Mind"; "Berkshire Poppies"; "House for Everyone"; "No Face, No Name, No Number"; "Dear Mr. Fantasy"; Side 2: "Dealer"; "Utterly Simple"; "Coloured Rain" (same as the B-side); "Hope I Never Find Me There"; "Giving to You" (an entirely different version from the B-side).
Just as the album was being released in the U.K., Traffic split from Mason and went on as a trio. The following month, as United Artists prepared to release the album in the U.S., it was changed drastically, both because American record industry custom, then as since, was that singles ought to appear on albums, and because the remaining group members sought to diminish Mason's presence. New album cover photographs were taken featuring only Winwood, Capaldi, and Wood; Mason's songs "Utterly Simple" and "Hope I Never Find Me There" were deleted; "Paper Sun," "Hole in My Shoe," "Smiling Phases," and the previously unreleased "We're a Fade, You Missed This" (really just a brief reprise of "Paper Sun") were added; the album was re-sequenced; and, on the first pressing, the title was changed to Heaven Is in Your Mind. (By the time the LP reached the American charts in April 1968, it was back to being called Mr. Fantasy.)

On December 15, 1987, Island reissued Mr. Fantasy on CD for the first time, choosing to use the ten-track British configuration on a worldwide basis. This version thus became the standard one in the U.S. for the first time. On August 8, 2000, Island undertook a second reissue, but this time with a twist. The label released Mr. Fantasy in its mono mix with the U.K. song list and five mono singles sides as bonus tracks; and it also released Heaven Is in Your Mind, the American lineup in stereo with four bonus tracks - the two missing Mason songs and two songs from the Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush soundtrack.

As such, the version of Mr. Fantasy in print as of August 2000 is in essence the long-unavailable mono release of the album. Anyone familiar with the recordings in their stereo mixes will note striking differences. Naturally, the sound is punchier and more compressed, but the mix is also markedly changed, with different instruments coming forward or receding in the simplified sound picture.

Given the musical style, mono is not the ideal sound for the album. Traffic was fashioned as an unusual rock band, starting with its instrumentation, which was anything but the usual guitar-bass-drums lineup. Winwood's primary instrument was organ, though he also played guitar. Wood was a reed player, spending most of his time on flute. Capaldi was the drummer, and Mason played guitar, but he was also known to pick up the sitar among other instruments. As such a mixture suggests, the band's musical approach was eclectic, combining their background in British pop with a taste for the newly fashionable comic and dance hall styles of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Indian music (another Beatles favorite), and, most memorably, a blues-rock jamming style. It is songs in the last category that have proven the most distinctive and long-lasting, particularly "Dear Mr. Fantasy," "No Face, No Name, No Number," and "Dealer." But Mason's more pop-oriented contributions remain winning, as do light-hearted efforts like "Berkshire Poppies."

The mono mix makes for an interesting gloss on this material, but that interest is likely to be restricted to long-time fans. Anyone wishing to hear Traffic's first album for the first time is directed to the release called Heaven Is in Your Mind. (Brian Hogg's liner notes to the 2000 reissue are worth reading only for their unintentional humor. Riddled with typographical errors, they describe Winwood as a "child protege" [of whom?, one wonders], while Mason and Capaldi's pre-Traffic band Deep Feeling is characterized as "short-loved.") — William Ruhlmann