Feelin' Alright: The Very Best of Traffic

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The 2007 Traffic entry in Universal Music's series of best-ofs called The Definitive Collection is simply a retitled reissue of the 2000 compilation Feelin' Alright: The Very Best of Traffic. (It even has the same catalog number.) Though the two-CD set Smiling Phases finally put a comprehensive Traffic compilation on the market in 1991, the only readily available single-disc collection had long been Best of Traffic, originally issued halfway through the band's career. Thus, Feelin' Alright: The Very Best of Traffic, aka The Definitive Collection, a 77-minute sampler for the CD era, was long overdue. It combines the group's early singles hits like "Paper Sun" and "Hole in My Shoe" with lengthier album tracks like "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys." Looking over the song list, any Traffic fan will be able to reel off omissions. But easy as it is to note what's missing, it's not so easy to figure out how such songs could be shoehorned into a single-disc set that is already packed with great material. Except in its first year in England, Traffic was not a band that made hit singles, but it did make a plethora of strong recordings, many of which were lengthy by the standards of the time. Several of the absolute necessities on a collection of their best work run longer than five minutes each; "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" runs close to 12 minutes. Beyond those absolute musts are a bunch of other good songs, many more than could fit on one CD. Compilation producer Bill Levenson has made a reasonable choice among them to construct a well-balanced disc that shows off the band's many talents. Neophytes with a few extra dollars to spend are strongly urged to take the plunge and buy Smiling Phases or the more recent two-disc set, Gold, but as a one-CD collection of some of the highlights of Traffic's career, this album lives up to its title, either of them.

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