by: Traffic

After spending the majority of his late-teen years being mistaken -- in the realm of audio -- for Ray Charles, the Spencer Davis Group's "little" Stevie Winwood found himself at the helm of one of the most promising and volatile bands of the late '60/early '70s, Traffic. The initial core foursome of Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood successfully went from psychedelic art rockers to blues-rock "jamathoners" without losing any momentum, cranking out both concise, pop-oriented radio singles ("Paper Sun," "Dear Mr. Fantasy") and rambling epics ("Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys," "John Barleycorn") with equal amounts of elegance and swagger. Despite numerous lineup changes, side projects, and endless clashes between Winwood and Mason, the group lasted well into the '70s, a good chunk of which appears here on the double-disc, liner-note-heavy Gold. While previous Island collections like Feelin' Alright: The Very Best of Traffic and 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection dutifully cover the radio essentials, Gold provides both newbies and longtime fans with a fully stocked buffet of fan favorites and album highlights. ~ James Christopher Monger

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