Traffic: Last Exit

MAY 1969 (43 YEARS AGO)
Traffic: Last Exit is released.
# Allmusic 3/5 stars
Last Exit, released in May 1969, is the third album by Traffic. It is a collection of odds and ends put together by Island Records after the initial breakup of the band. The album reached number 19 in the American Billboard charts. As implied by the cover photos, the album features the original lineup of Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason, though Mason does not actually appear on most of the songs.
Half live, half studio, Last Exit is a fitting testament to Traffic’s strengths in both arenas. This 1969 release was the band’s third album in two years, titled as such because it was to be their farewell. Upon disbanding, Steve Winwood joined the short-lived Blind Faith, only to reconvene Traffic a year later with their classic John Barleycorn Must Die. The catchy, playful pop of Dave Mason’s “Just For You” and Winwood’s “Medicated Goo” are classic Traffic, sounding of a piece with their debut, Mr, Fantasy.
Though pared down to a trio at this point–Winwood (organ, vocals), Chris Wood (saxophone and flute), and Jim Capaldi (drums, vocals)–Traffic also performs well in the way of extended jams. Two long selections recorded live at the Fillmore West never falter. The band’s version of Anthony Newley’s “Feelin’ Good” exalts at every turn, with Capaldi’s drums springing out of Winwood’s church-y Hammond like a percussive hallelujah chorus.
by William Ruhlmann, allmusic
Since Traffic originally planned its self-titled second album as a double LP, the group had extra material left over, some of which saw release before the end of 1968 (there was a new, one-off single released in December, “Medicated Goo”/”Shanghai Noodle Factory”). In January 1969, Steve Winwood announced the group’s breakup. That left Island Records, the band’s label, in the lurch, since Traffic had built up a considerable following. As far as Island was concerned, it was no time to stop, and the label quickly set about assembling a new album. The non-LP B-side “Withering Tree,” “Medicated Goo,” and “Shanghai Noodle Factory” were pressed into service, along with “Just for You,” the B-side of a solo single by on-again, off-again member Dave Mason that had been released originally in February 1968 and happened to feature the rest of the members of Traffic as sidemen; a short, previously unreleased instrumental; and two extended jams on cover songs from a 1968 live appearance at the Fillmore West. It all added up to more than half an hour of music, and that was enough to package it as the posthumous Traffic album Last Exit. Actually, Last Exit isn’t bad as profit-taking products go. “Just for You” is one of Mason’s elegant folk-pop songs, including attractive Indian percussion. “Medicated Goo” has proven to be one of Traffic’s more memorable jam tunes, despite its nonsense lyrics, and the equally appealing “Shanghai Noodle Factory” is hard not to interpret as Winwood’s explanation of the band’s split. And while the cover material seems unlikely, the songs are used as platforms for the band to jam cohesively. So, Traffic’s third album, thought at the time of its release to be the final one, has its isolated pleasures, even if it doesn’t measure up to its two predecessors.
Side one
“Just for You” (Dave Mason) – 2:18
“Shanghai Noodle Factory” (Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Mason, Jimmy Miller, Larry Fallon) – 5:06
“Something’s Got a Hold of My Toe” (Winwood, Mason, Miller)
“Withering Tree” (Winwood, Capaldi) – 3:04
“Medicated Goo” (Winwood, Miller) – 3:36
Side two
“Feelin’ Good” (live) (Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse) – 10:40
“Blind Man” (live) (Malone, Scott) – 7:06

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