|Welcome to the Canteen|
|Live album by Traffic|
|Recorded||Fairfield Halls, Croydon, 6 June 1971
The Oz Benefit Concert, London, July 1971
|Genre||Progressive rock, jazz fusion|
Welcome to the Canteen is the first live album by English rock band Traffic. It was recorded live at Fairfield Halls, Croydon and the Oz Benefit Concert, London, July 1971 and released in September of that year. It was recorded during Dave Mason's third stint with the band, which lasted only six performances.
The track list includes one song each from the first three Traffic albums; two songs from Mason's first solo album, Alone Together; and "Gimme Some Lovin'" from Steve Winwood's former band, the Spencer Davis Group. (Winwood's organ and Mason's rhythm guitar are conspicuously out of sync for part of "Gimme Some Lovin'".)
In the band's native United Kingdom, the album was a surprise flop, the first in a series of albums by the group that would fail to make an appearance in the charts. In the USA, however, it was a solid success, hitting number 26 in the charts and yielding the single "Gimmie Some Lovin' (live)", which reached number 68 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Although regarded as a Traffic album, it was originally released without the name "Traffic" anywhere on it; credited instead to the seven individual musicians. Nonetheless the Traffic logo appeared on the cover (on the back, in this case) as on all of their albums. Most later issues retain the original front cover with its individual crediting, but credit the album to Traffic on the spine.
In 1970, Traffic toured in support of their comeback album John Barleycorn Must Die, with a quartet line-up of Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi, and Ric Grech. In November, the group played a series of concerts at the Fillmore East, and recordings from these concerts were compiled into a live album consisting of "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring", "Glad", "Pearly Queen", "40,000 Headmen", "Dear Mr. Fantasy", and "Can't Find My Way Home". This album was set for release in early 1971 but cancelled for unknown reasons, though Side A eventually appeared as bonus tracks on the 1999 reissue of John Barleycorn Must Die.
By the time of their next tour, Traffic had expanded with the additions of Dave Mason, Jim Gordon, and Reebop Kwaku Baah. The band only played six dates, two of which - their opening performance at Fairfield Hall, Croydon and a London benefit for Oz - were recorded and mixed to become Welcome to the Canteen. Mason was keen to take this version of Traffic to the United States, but Winwood was only interested in doing these six dates. Mason said, "It's Stevie's band, so it's up to him."
Rolling Stone accused most of the songs of the album of being "near duplicates" of the studio recordings, but commented that the strong performances of the musicians mostly makes up for it. They were far more laudatory towards the last two tracks, "Dear Mr. Fantasy" ("Eleven swirling, blending, building, wondrous minutes of "Fantasy" with Winwood as pensive/yearning/mournful as ever") and "Gimmie Some Lovin'" ("From an all-time great three-minute single to a nine-minute eternal experience").AllMusic's retrospective review was even more enthusiastic, saying the album "proved how good a contractual obligation album could be... the playing was exemplary, and the set list was an excellent mixture of old Traffic songs and recent Mason favorites."
The album was remastered and reissued in the US in 2001. It was reissued in Japan in 2002 and again in 2008 remastered.