Friday, May 28, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Traffic (reissue)
Heaven is in Your Mind

United Artists/Sundazed LP 5316 mono LP

Produced by: Jimmy Miller
Engineered by: Eddie Kramer
Mixed by: Eddie Kramer
Mastered by: Bob Irwin (LP cut by "WG" at Nashville Record Productions)

Review by: Michael Fremer

I once pissed next to Dave Mason in the Cambridge Boathouse bathroom back in 1970 something. That has nothing to do with this review except that it’s a review of a Traffic album and Dave Mason was in Traffic but you wouldn’t know that from the cover of their first American album.

Mason is missing from the cover of Heaven Is In Your Mind (United Artists UAL3651 mono /UAS6651 stereo/Sundazed LP 5316 mono), though he’s on the cover of the original UK Island Records Traffic debut called Mr.Fantasy (though the jacket just says "Traffic" (ILPS 9061) produced by Jimmy Miller and engineered by Eddie Kramer at Olympic and packaged in a gatefold jacket with a completely different cover and many different songs.

What’s more, while the original stereo American copy (UAS 6651) was originally called Heaven is in Your Mind, it was quickly changed to Mr. Fantasy with a credit box added on the back cover. Sundazed reissued using the original cover.

Even though Mason’s mug is missing from the cover, two Mason songs appear on the album and he’s credited on the back of the second issue jacket.

Was this any way for a group to make its American debut? Of course not. Not helping was that UA had picked up the record from Island, which at the time didn’t have an American presence. United Artists was not exactly a rock and roll dynamo at the time, or ever, though it had previously signed 17 year old singing sensation Stevie Winwood’s previous band The Spencer Davis Group.

What United Artists did correctly though was package the debut with the UK hit singles that were customarily left off of albums in the UK (that’s why, for instance, “Paint It Black” wasn’t on the UK Aftermath).

So this album includes the catchy, tuneful “Paper Sun,” and “Smiling Phases” (popularized by BS&T) while the UK original does not. This also has Dave Mason’s “Hole in My Shoe” that’s not on the UK original either. A track called “We’re a Fade, You Missed This” ends the album and it’s nothing more than “Paper Sun”’s fade out!

You’d think someone was high on drugs here and listening to Mason’s contributions (on this record and on ones on the UK original omitted here) and his “I’m in the group, I’m outta the group” behavior, he probably was!
This mono reissue doesn’t list the tracks on the back cover so let me do it (in addition to the aforementioned): “Dealer,” “Coloured Rain,” “Hole in My Shoe,” “No Face, No Name and No Number,” “Heaven is in Your Mind,” “House For Everyone,” “Berkshire Poppies,” “Giving to You,” “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”

The highlights are “No Face, No Number,” “Coloured Rain,” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” in my opinion though even the wacky Bonzo Dog Band/psychedelic Sgt. Pepper’s…” inspired tunes offer something interesting. Dave Mason was definitely fixated on George Harrison’s sitar drenched raga-rock! His psychedelic, flange-y “Hope I Never Find Me There” is a definite “sign of the times” extravaganza found only on the original UK pressing.

Sundazed’s choice to reissue the mono mix was an interesting one, particularly for hardcore fans who will hear some differences ala the mono and stereo mixes of Beatles albums. The mono is punchier, meatier and more coherent but you lose some of the spatial effects the stereo mix offers.

The team of Winwood, Mason, multi-faceted Chris Wood and drummer Jim Capaldi was one of the era’s most versatile and talented. While the next album, simply called Traffic, was more consistent and definitely more tuneful and less gimmicky, this one has plenty to offer, if just to hear Winwood’s soaring voice still in its teen years.

Heaven Is In Your Mind is one of Sundazed’s most attractive mono reissues, especially if you have a mono cartridge, or at least a “mono” button on your preamp. But even if you have neither, this one is highly recommended!

BTW: even though the original pink label Island lacks the hits, the sound is far superior to the original UA and this reissue too, though it's 100% faithful to the original UA release.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

No comments: