Artist: Dinosaur Jr.
Album: Sweep It Into Space
For everyone who thought guitar-based rock was destined for the underground, the new Dinosaur Jr. album pulls it voraciously back into the light.
Since the reformation of the original lineup in 2005, J. Mascis (vocals/guitar), drummer Murph and bassist/vocalist Lou Barlow have churned out a stream of good to great albums. The problem with a band like Dinosaur Jr. is that their consistency can lull a fanbase into not noticing an extra special work, and Sweep It Into Space certainly qualifies for that distinction.
With the new Sweep It Into Space, they’ve reached the crunchy, catchy heights of their lauded early days. Anyone out there with “I-only-like-their-old-stuff-itus” should really crawl out of 1998 and give this new album a spin. Everything you want is here, but wait, there’s more!
The band’s trademark electric roar is surely intact here, but there are interesting detours along the way. “I Ran Away” wouldn’t have been out of place on the superb J. Macsis acoustic-tinged album Tied To A Star. “Take It Back” borders could almost qualify as bubblegum pop, and “Garden” is one of the greatest garage ballads of recent memory.
Longtime fans of Dinosaur Jr. have plenty to be happy about with Sweep It Into Space, as the boys have retained their identity while shuffling the deck enough to keep things fresh. With so many great albums it’s impossible to suggest a neophyte’s point of entry into the Dinosaur Jr. universe, but Sweep It Into Space is a worthy addition to any longtime fan’s collection.
Album: Dear Mr. Fantasy
Fresh from a stint with the Spencer Davis Group (“Gimme Some Lovin’,” “I’m a Man”), Steve Winwood joined Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason and Chris Wood to form Traffic in 1967. Traffic’s fusion of jazz, folk and world music elements helped set them apart from the electric-blues tidal wave that would envelope rock music for the remainder of the decade.
Depending on your country of residence in 1968, the debut LP from Traffic would have been titled either “Mr. Fantasy” or “Heaven Is in Your Mind.” For whatever reason, when British albums were released in the U.S., the album titles (and sometimes the songs included therein) were sometimes altered from their original form. To save 37 pages of investigative explanation, the most recent issue of “Mr. Fantasy” has all of the original album tracks and stray singles collected.
The most famous song from “Mr. Fantasy” is “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” a folk-ish tune given a virtuoso rock treatment. Featuring apocalyptic vocals and guitar from Steve Winwood, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” became the signature Traffic tune until “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” popped up four years later.
While Winwood, Capaldi and Wood favored a group writing approach, guitarist/vocalist Dave Mason preferred to write on his own, which caused tension early on. Mason’s “Hole in My Shoe” was his standout track on “Mr. Fantasy” and a moderate hit in the U.S. Although he went on to write some great songs for Traffic, “Giving to You” was a rare group composition which foreshadowed the brilliant work that would shortly emerge from the Allman Brothers Band.
Traffic never got the ink that their bombastic, blues-scavenging countrymen did, but their catalog has aged better than most from their era. Most Traffic albums are recommended, but they’re best listened to in order. The metamorphosis Traffic would undergo in just a few short years was one of the greatest in rock/pop music.