Chris Wood – Evening Blue (2017)

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Evening Blue, an incredible 4-CD/1-LP box set dedicated to Chris Wood, just might be the final musical word on the man and his undeniable talent.

Long overlooked and under-appreciated, Traffic’s late multi-instrumentalist should garner new-found respect and interest as fans enjoy every known solo moment, guest artist appearances and some select Traffic songs spanning the years 1967-83. It’s all presented in fantastic newly remastered sound, too. Amongst the famous names are Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Gordon Jackson, Free, Dr. John, Shawn Phillips, Crawler, Remi Kabaka, Nick Drake, Bobby Whitlock, John Martyn and Traffic percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah, plus Traffic member solo recordings. That’s just the known names. There are other more obscure artists tunes represented here, which Chris Wood also guested on.

Within Evening Blue‘s 212-page, 12-inch hard-back book, there are many unpublished photos which most Traffic fans including yours truly have never seen before – both private casual photos and professional band photos. There’s also a treasure trove of unreleased music to be had here.

Chris Wood’s lost unreleased 1978 album has been assembled especially for this box set. Also amongst the first time unreleased material are four tunes from Mason Capaldi Wood and Frog, the short-lived post-Traffic group, including a BBC recording of “Feelin’ Alright,” “On a Theme Of” and “Jarn 1.” Dave Mason later took “Waiting on You,” another unreleased BBC song, with him to re-record for his first solo album, Alone Together in 1970.

Fans of Doug Fieger and the Knack will enjoy Sky’s 1970 alternate version of the ballad “There in the Greenbriar” featuring Chris Wood on flute and French horn. Chris also appears on flute for an alternate version take of his “Three Hours,” casting a contemplative mood. World beat, which would enter into the lexicon years later, already figures into Wood’s solo music like “Song for Pete” from 1977. “See No Man Girl” uses what became known as cool jazz for its framework, also from ‘77. Gordon Jackson’s mid-tempo “Song for Freedom” features a three-fourths reunion of Traffic from 1969 that includes Wood, Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi. Chris Wood’s haunting flute again takes center stage on Tyrone Downie’s reggae-infused “Automatic Reggae.”

The superb, well-researched liner notes also include text from Dan Ropek’s excellent new Chris Wood biography, Tragic Magic. As I have said before and I shall say again, Wood could’ve done anything he wanted to do after Traffic had split up for good in 1974. Evening Blue proves that theory without a doubt.

He could’ve joined or formed any band doing jazz fusion, world music, rock n’ roll, R&B or jazz band – or even have done session work more as a career. All of these possibilities might’ve been new directions for Wood had he not died so young at age 39 in 1983. But Wood only reluctantly started a solo career after Traffic. He simply lacked the confidence and the internal drive to take it any further than he did. Then Chris Wood simply ran out of time with his deteriorating health in 1983.

If you want to deep dive into the musical world of Chris Wood, you can’t do better than this superb box set.

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