Travis – The Man Who (Craft Recordings)
One of the finest albums of the late-Nineties gets the deluxe treatment
20 years ago, the Scottish band Travis issued their breakout album, The Man Who. At the time, it was a departure for the group, whose debut, Good Feeling, had been a rockin’ good time two years earlier. This new direction was darker, and more melodic. It also paved the way for many other UK bands, like Coldplay, who went on to even bigger fame, with their own spin on this style of middle of the road fare.
The Man Who still stands up – full of jangly guitars and gentle hooks, courtesy of leader Fran Healey. There are times when he sings so softly, as on “Writing to Reach You,” that he sounds like he’s whispering.
The gentle funk of “The Fear” – the chiming “Driftwood,” the Pepper-esque ballad “Last Laugh of the Laughter,” the slightly rocking “Turn” and the epic standout “Why Does It Always Rain On Me,” all contribute to an impressive song cycle.
The music is mellow, but still really catchy. And the entire record is solid from start to finish.
The original disc has unlisted bonus material at the end of “Slide Show,” track 10. After a 4 minute silence, the rocker “Blue Flashing Light” comes roaring in. Recorded during the sessions, but oddly out of step with the mellower material.
The original American disc has two extra bonus cuts not here, “20” and “Only Molly Knows.”
The second disc comes with 19 bonus tracks – b-sides, live cuts, etc. “Green Behind the Ears” is a great rocker, while “Only Molly Knows” is a gentle acoustic number that was a bonus cut on the US disc. “Coming Around” is a great, Byrds-esque flavored single that came right after the album. Some of the tracks rock like their first album, as on “Yeah Yeah Yeah” and “High as a Kite.” There are some odd covers – “Be My Baby” is, um, the Ronettes cover, slowed down. There are two Joni Mitchell songs – “Urge For Going” is buoyed by acoustic guitar and “River” is her “Christmas” song, on piano. “Baby One More Time” is the Britney Spears song (why?). And “The Weight” is their (not bad) version of The Band song. There’s a great acoustic rendition of “Driftwood” which is another highlight.
Travis would go on to release many more albums. Some really good, like Ode to J. Smith, and some others, just sort of so-so. But, The Man Who is still Travis’ masterstroke. —Tony Peters