- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 9, 2000

TRAFFIC

Mr. Fantasy (Island)

Heaven Is in Your Mind (Island)


Pay attention: This is a tad complicated. Island has just released two beautifully remastered versions of Traffic's first album; that's right, one album, two CDs. For Traffic fans, both are must buys; for casual fans, take your choice, but my favorite for now is "Mr. Fantasy," the mono version, that is. Let me explain.
When Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood released the folk-psychedelic "Mr. Fantasy" in England in December 1967, it featured 10 tracks. A month later, when the album was released in America, it was retitled "Heaven Is in Your Mind," and had 12 cuts, with some of the British tracks deleted and others added. To make things more confusing, the name of the U.S. album was changed to "Mr. Fantasy" after the first pressing.
Island's solution is to release the British record in mono, the American version in stereo. Both have bonus cuts that allow listeners to program the other album on their CD player if they prefer that running order. The biggest surprise for this listener is how full the mono sound is: I heard elements in these time-tested songs that have eluded me for more than 30 years.
But both CDs are loaded with strong material, draped in sitars, flutes and saxophones and anchored by Mr. Winwood's guitar and organ genius. From the extended title track to "Paper Sun," one of the classic singles of the Summer of Love, to the haunting ballad, "No Face, No Name, No Number," Traffic serves up one now-legendary track after another.
For those who are sick of the '60s generation talking about how great its music was, buy "Heaven Is in Your Mind," and listen closely. For boomers, this is a wonderful reminder of what it was all about. — Fran Coombs

SPINAL TAP

This Is Spinal Tap (soundtrack)(Polydor/UME)

Break Like the Wind(MCA/UME)


Music satire reached its zenith with 1984's "This Is Spinal Tap," a pitch-perfect puncturing of ego-bloated hair rockers. The film spawned immortal dialogue ("but these go to 11"), but it also fueled a beguiling soundtrack, a disc at once both hilarious and musically compelling.
That album, and the faux band's 1992 follow-up, "Break Like the Wind," are being re-released in conjunction with the film's resurgence in theaters and DVD. The new discs boast an extra song or two, printed lyrics and digitally remastered sound, as if this were "Pet Sounds," not "Smell the Glove." The lyrics will help long-suffering fans add more Tap-isms into their lexicon.
Never mind the repackaging, though. The revival proves a heady reminder of the talents of Michael McKean (David St. Hubbins), Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls) and Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel), the comic actors who brought Tap to absurd life. Their creation still zings rock metal, even if the genre remains precariously propped up on Ozzy Osbourne's wilting shoulders.
The first disc serves up classic raunch rock, from "Sex Farm" to "Big Bottom" (you know the words if you're smirking). An added track, "Christmas With the Devil," proves more noisy than funny. The album's genius lies in cuts such as "Cups and Cakes" and "(Listen to the) Flower People," fabricated nuggets of '60s psychedelia that are irresistibly catchy.
The second CD fails to match the soundtrack's catchy tunes, though such songs as the title track and "Stinkin' Up the Great Outdoors" score direct hits. "The Majesty of Rock" provides a fitting sense of self-importance, while "Just Begin Again" flounders as a wannabe ballad.
Superfluous cameos by Cher and Dweezil Zappa on "Wind" obfuscate the band's satirical mission, since the former belts out her part on "Again" without the deadpan sincerity of Tap itself. The band mates' earnest approach to their craft makes this lingering comic gag all the sillier.
The only thing missing here is a self-aware nod to re-releasing material to soak money from their fans.
Perhaps Mr. McKean and his mates find nothing funny about a second round of royalties. Maybe Spinal Tap is more like a real band than we thought. — Christian Toto


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