Album Reviews



Heaven Is In Your Mind  Hear it Now

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Stevie Winwood, all of 18 years old, is probably the major blues voice of his generation. If this wasn't already apparent on the two Spencer Davis Group albums released in this country and the other records so far unreleased, and from the monstrous smash song "I'm A Man," then with the R&B tracks Stevie sings on the American release of Traffic's first album, it should be even more so. His voice has matured, acquired new depth and new reaches, a more individual feeling and a greater range in both style and tones.

The albums that feature Stevie Winwood are all pretty much great albums, and Heaven Is In Your Mind (or Dear Mr. Fantasy, to which the title was changed after the first pressing of the album) is no exception.

Traffic is the group that Winwood formed after he and his brother Muff split the Spencer Davis Group a year ago. Winwood got three other musicians (Dave Mason, guitar and sitar; Jim Capaldi, drums; and Chris Wood, flute and bass) to join him. Together they set out for the country, where they lived for three months in an isolated cottage in Berkshire. (Hence the song "Berkshire Poppies," with all its pleasant references to country life, disgust at the sadness of the city, and "Rainy Day Woman" type refrains . . . leading one to draw hasty, and probably not incorrect, assumptions about what went on in the cottage in the field of Berkshire poppies.)

Just as the group was releasing its first record, and fame appeared imminent, Dave Mason left the group. Not because of any conflicts, just that he didn't want to be famous. He still expects to record and write for Traffic. The American release of the album leaves off two of Dave Mason's song, but it does pick up all the sides of the two American single releases not on the English LP and the great R & B-styled cut "Smiling Phases," which is one of the best pieces on the album.

"Hole In My Shoe" and "Paper Sun" are the singles which never went anywhere. They are excellent examples of what Traffic, with Mason, is capable of without Winwood's vocals or R&B strength. Both use a sitar, and on "Paper Sun," the sitar lines are phrased much like Jimi Hendrix's guitar. 'Hole In My Shoe," has got an almost insane beat and melody, but still they both work very well as songs. They're not as good as the Winwood-styled stuff, but they stand on their own because they are much different. "Dealer" is another one of these, with a gypsy guitar woven around a variety of flute solos. These songs are "comprehensibly farout."

But the strongest points of this album are where the elements of Traffic's "comprehensible far-out" and Winwood's great R&B style are combined. "Heaven is In Your Mind" is one of those, but it doesn't really make it in the way that "Dear Mr. Fantasy," the magnum opus of the album, does. "Heaven" is too scattered in instrumentation and arrangement to be a real grabber. "Mr. Fantasy" has excellent lyrics ("Do anything to take ups out of this gloom, sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy;"), the Hendrix riffs again, and attractive guitar solo, soul chorus and accurate crescendos in pace and volume from the bass and the guitar. Winwood does the vocal and gives us some real "British soul."

Giving to You" is an interesting cut. The members of the group are excellent musicians, and so anything they do is bound to be interesting. Also interesting are the one-eighth level faded segues between tracks and the close to "Mr. Fantasy."

The most successful—or attractive—tracks include "Colored Rain" with excellent lyrics ("Yesterday I was a young boy, searching for my way, not knowing what I wanted, living from day to day;") and an incredibly up-tempo bridge. The drumming here is very well-rounded and precise with little repetition. Also on "No Face, No Name, No Number," Winwood's vocal is exquisite, full of the most restrained passion, the most phrasing and indescribable whispered overtones. "No Name" is also strengthened by classical piano chording and violins.

"Smiling Phases" is the most out and out R&B song on the album, and it is also the strongest songs. The reasons have all been given above. Winwood is simply incredible. He has a top group of musicians with him and they have made an album which, although it needs one unity that time will provide, is one of the best from any contemporary group.

(Posted: Apr 27, 1968)


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