Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock.

Forgotten Sound

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? Our Traffic LPs are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, with dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here on our Hot Stampers.

Find me a modern record that sounds like this one and I will eat it. And by “modern record” we hasten to include both modern recordings and the modern remasterings of older recordings so popular nowadays. NO ONE alive today can make a record that sounds even remotely as good as this one does. To call it a lost art is to understand something that only a minority of vinyl-loving audiophiles appears to have grasped since the advent of the Modern Reissue, which is simply this: they just don’t sound as good.

After twenty years of trying and literally hundreds of failed examples the engineers of today have yet to make a record that sounds as powerful and life-like as this Island from decades ago.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1967
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Mr. Fantasy

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Heaven Is in Your Mind
Berkshire Poppies
House for Everyone
No Face, No Name, No Number
Dear Mr. Fantasy

Side Two

Dealer
Utterly Simple
Coloured Rain
Hope I Never Find Me There
Giving to You

AMG  Review

As such a mixture suggests, the band’s musical approach was eclectic, combining their background in British pop with a taste for the comic and dance-hall styles of Sgt. Pepper, Indian music, and blues-rock jamming. Songs in the last category have proven the most distinctive and long-lasting, but Mason’s more pop-oriented contributions remain winning, as do more light-hearted efforts.

Background

Released in 1967. For the recording, group members included Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason, however Mason left the band before the album was released. The album reached the number 16 position in the UK album chart on 30 December 1967, and reached number 88 in the American Billboard charts.

Considered by far the strangest and most art rock style album that Traffic released, Mr. Fantasy didn’t gain much more than a cult following for Traffic at the time. Critics seemed to like the album, though, and most said it was clear that Steve Winwood and Traffic were good at putting together semi-mainstream psychedelic rock, except this album was not quite mainstream enough. By their next release, the eponymous Traffic, the band was said to have worked through that.

This album features even more horns, flutes, and less rock-style instruments than most of Traffic’s future releases. The sitar was used much more in this album than any other later Traffic albums, undoubtedly because of Dave Mason’s influence.

Wikipedia

Recording Dear Mr. Fantasy

According to Capaldi, when the group later went to Olympic to cut the song, “We tried originally to record it regularly, with all of us in little booths and all, but we weren’t feeling anything. So we got rid of the booths and we all played together in this big room. We ended up cutting the song very live.”

Eddie Kramer: “We had the band set up on a riser at one end of the studio, which is a big room — maybe 65, 70 feet long by about 45 wide with about a 30-foot ceiling. They were set up as if they were onstage and I recorded them live, straight to 4-track. I can remember with such clarity the time when we were actually cutting ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’: We were in the middle of a take and there’s a part where the tempo changes — it jumps — and I look around and Jimmy Miller’s not in the control room.

The next thing I see out of the corner of my eye is Jimmy hauling ass across the room, running full tilt. He jumps up on the riser, picks up a pair of maracas and gets them to double the tempo! That, to me, was the most remarkable piece of production assistance I’d ever seen. They were shocked to see him out there, exhorting them to double the tempo. Their eyes kind of lit up. It was amazing. That was Jimmy!

“I have such fond memories of those sessions,” Kramer says. “Everybody was thinking in terms of, ‘How do we make this record better and more exciting?’ And Jimmy Miller was the ringleader, pushing everybody’s buttons in the right way, in a nice way; mine, too. He would allow me to do wacky things, and he would encourage it — not that I needed much encouragement — but Jimmy always had a firm hand on the tiller.”

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