Dear Mr. Fantasy
Eagle Rock, 2007
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/24/2007
Capaldi, Winwood, Chris Wood and Dave Mason founded Traffic in late 1967 and recorded a handful of psychedelic rock tunes, including the title track of this tribute. Once Mason left, the band would turn a little more progressive in the 70s with The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys and John Barleycorn Must Die. The band is now in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Capaldi was a rare combination of drummer, lyricist and vocalist and went on to produce a number of solo discs. So honoring him seemed a good idea, and fortunately the musicians here are on par for the evening.
Walsh escapes the rigid musical confines of the Eagles and revs up his old guitar sound. “Forty Thousand Headmen” is a terrible vocal performance but a guitar tour-de-force, wherein Walsh reaches back in time, adds a little wah-wah sound to the mix and just rocks. “Living On The Outside” puts Walsh’s gruff vocals and guitar against the background of Jon Lord’s organ and Bill Wyman’s bass, and on “John Barlycorn Must Die” his subtle vocals and acoustic guitar playing reduce this complicated song to its basics.
“Evil Love” finds Gary Moore leaving the blues behind and returning to his rock roots. Moore remains true to the song for two verses but then turns his guitar playing loose for several minutes of improvisation, taking his guitar on a musical journey few musicians can equal. “Gifts Of Uncommon Things” features a smooth vocal from Phil Capaldi, though the highlight is the organ-bass interplay between Jon Lord and Bill Wyman. It's good to hear the underrated Rolling Stone back on the stage.
There are several nice surprises here. Dennis Locorriere, of Dr. Hook fame, seems closest in spirit and vocal style to Jim Capaldi. He sings “Elixir Of Life” as a ballad that builds upon itself with acoustic guitar, piano and sax in support. Cat Stevens weaves his own song “Wild World” into a wonderful medley with Capaldi’s “Man With No Country.”
Dear Mr. Fantasy has some conspicuous misses, though. Pete Townshend gives a subdued performance on “No Face, No Name, No Number.” Oddly, Steve Winwood’s “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” are only ordinary. Peter Weller sticks close to the orginal releases with “Paper Sun” and “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush,” and they just do not measure up.
But overall, Dear Mr. Fantasy is always interesting and a worthy tribute to the memory and music of Jim Capaldi and Traffic.
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