Traffic fans like myself had been waiting for years for this long-rumored, unreleased instrumental solo album by the band’s founding flautist/saxophonist Chris Wood to finally surface. When it did, some 25 years after his death from pneumonia, Vulcan bore Wood’s unmistakable melodic sound.
The beginnings of this 2008 release from of Cherry Red Records’ Esoteric label date back to the 1970s, after Traffic’s break-up in 1974, as evidenced by “Wood’s Bolero (Moonchild Vulcan),” a previously unissued instrumental featuring the members of Traffic from their final tour. Two new Traffic session outtakes, “Barbed Wire” and “Moonchild Vulcan,” were composed by Wood in ’74, as well.
There is a work-in-progress feel to a few of the tracks, but that’s not a bad thing. The man never lost his talent — despite years lost in drug and alcohol usage, which most likely contributed to his untimely and sad demise in 1983 before this album could be finished and released.
If you remember the jamming aspects of Traffic’s best music; you’ll be pleased to know that it’s in full evidence on this album. There’s also some Latin and Jazz influences playing substantial parts of his musical landscape. Surprisingly, some reggae inflections pop up as well, which Traffic never experimented with.
Out of all of the members of Traffic, it seemed that Wood really could’ve sustained a long and fruitful career in jazz or jazz fusion after Traffic’s break-up, if things had worked out differently. Wood was a very versatile, organic player. His flute or sax always uniquely colored and lightened up any song he touched, as evidenced on all of his instrumentals here.
Listening to Vulcan was like reconnecting with an old friend you haven’t heard from in decades. Recommended for all Traffic fans and jazz lovers.
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