- You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this British Pink Label Island pressing
- Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this 1969 release come alive
- This amazing compilation boasts superb sound, often better than the very same tracks on many of the original British releases
- Top 100 and 4 stars: “The entire second side of the LP, comprising ‘Medicated Goo,’ ‘Forty Thousand Headmen,’ ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘Shanghai Noodle Factory,’ and ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon.”
What outstanding 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 1969
- 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.
It takes us about a year to find enough clean original Pink and Pink Rim (Sunray) Label Island pressings to do a shootout for this title (along with a few later Brit pressings, which can sound good by the way. They never win the shootouts but they easily beat the Pinks that don’t have the Hot Stamper goods.)
What We’re Listening For on The Best of Traffic
- 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 most 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.
Heaven Is in Your Mind Superb Sound!
No Face, No Name, No Number Superb Sound!
Coloured Rain Superb Sound!
Hole in My Shoe
Medicated Goo Quite Good!
Forty Thousand Headmen Superb Sound!
Shanghai Noodle Factory Superb Sound!
Dear Mr. Fantasy Superb Sound!
Though Traffic broke up at the start of 1969, the band was on a commercial ascent, which led Island Records to assemble a posthumous album, Last Exit, released in April 1969.
Meanwhile, former band member Steve Winwood formed Blind Faith, which produced a debut album that topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. No wonder Island determined that the fall of 1969 was a good time for a Traffic compilation. The release was especially needed in Britain, where the singles sides “Paper Sun,” “Hole in My Shoe,” and “Smiling Phases” had not yet appeared on an LP.
Since Traffic had moved away from being a singles band after its first year, the album was not dubbed a hits collection, though all its tracks had been released on one side or the other of a single on one side or the other of the Atlantic.
As a selection of the best and most popular material from the group’s first three albums, the result is hard to fault…
The entire second side of the LP, comprising “Medicated Goo,” “Forty Thousand Headmen,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “Shanghai Noodle Factory,” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon. Who could have known when this disc was first released that the band’s story was far from over?
Shadows of the Real Thing
Since we here at Better Records never tire of beating long-dead horses, let’s lay into a couple of our favorites: Heavy Vinyl reissues and CDs. When we play these “Shadows of the Real Thing”, so lacking in life and the analog magic of the best pressings we’ve heard for ourselves in shootout after shootout, the one consistent thing we can say about them is that they’re just a drag. They’re no fun. They’re an imitation that doesn’t give you the thrill this wonderful music is supposed to give you — can give you and does give you — if you have the right vinyl pressing.
Yes, that old aphorism is still true: you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool people with good turntables and records that sound like this. You can hear how much better this album sounds than any of that other stuff from another room. This is the kind of sound that puts the lie to all the remasterings and digital masterings that fool some of the people.
Play this album for your skeptical friends. You know you have them, we all do. They can’t not hear it. No matter how badly they may not want to admit it, this is the sound they can’t get any other way and they had better just learn to accept it. Reality is that thing that, no matter how hard you want it to, just won’t go away. This kind of sound is reality. You can’t get to it any other way and there’s no sense wasting your time trying.