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Hidden Masters presents… Chris Wood – Evening Blue 200+ page hardback book-set + 180gsm vinyl + 4Cds. First release in new worldwide distribution deal with Caroline International.
Over four years in development, Evening Blue is the first book-set to chronicle and celebrate Chris Wood’s life in music from co-founding Traffic via his many collaborations with the likes of John Martyn, The Wailers’ Tyrone Downie, Free and many others to his own solo work.
The first edition, limited to 1,000 individually numbered copies worldwide, will be issued this summer via HiddenMasters new worldwide distribution deal with Caroline International on what would have been Chris’s birthday – June 24th
Evening Blue has been curated in close collaboration with Steph Wood who administers her brother’s estate. Included are:
A first pressing of Chris’s never-released solo LP on 180gsm vinyl. The ¼” reels were compiled and sequenced by Chris with engineer Terry Barham at Island’s Fall Out Shelter studio in Hammersmith on Sunday, October 1st 1978. Long thought lost, the masters were discovered by chance in a barn in the West of England during the spring of 2013. While some titles are known, none of the selections have previously been heard.
Side One: Song For Pete | See No Man Girl | Letter One | Barbed Wire | Don’t It Side Two: Jam In Butter | Moon Child Vulcan | Tone Blind Rhythm Deaf | Birth In A Day
It will be housed in a 200+ page hardback book which includes over 420 images, the majority of which have not been seen before. The text has been abridged and edited from Dan Ropek’s biography of Chris and, together with Ropek’s own interviews with the late Jim Capaldi and Paul Medcalf as well as many of Chris’s friends and musical colleagues throughout his life, Evening Blue includes exclusive interviews with: Steph Wood and Anna Capaldi-Gilbey, studio engineers Dick Cuthell, Terry Barham and Brian Humphries, musicians Mike Kellie, Steve Winwood, Poli Palmer and Gordon Jackson, photographers Brian Cooke, Richard Keith Wolff, Dina Regine, Barrie Wentzell, David Miller, Dan Cuny and Gered Mankowitz, as well as Muscle Shoals Swampers Charles Rose and David Hood.
The CDs include music drawn from Chris’s entire career with his solo recordings taking centre-stage. Evening Blue also includes alternate takes and mixes as well as previously unheard compositions and never-before-heard home demos and other sketches.
Naturally, there is music from Traffic as well as recordings by Gordon Jackson, John Martyn, Dave Mason, The Sky, Jim Capaldi, Bobby Whitlock, Airforce, Martha Velez, Shawn Phillips and others.
The set also features previously unheard collaborative work with The Wailers’ keyboard player, Tyrone Downie as well as Rebop Kwaku Baah, Remi Kabaka, Dr John and Jeanette Jacobs. Tracks from the only known-to-survive recordings by the short-lived Mason, Capaldi, Wood & Frog line-up are also included.
With only a couple of exceptions (where the original masters no longer exist) the selections have been re-mastered by Richard Whittaker in the UK from the original 1⁄4”, 1” or 2” analog tapes.
Steph Wood: “I’d like to think Chris would be quietly proud of this; you see, he was never one to particularly push himself forward or speak up for that matter… he was much more interested in playing the very best he could. That’s what mattered to him. There is such a cross section of music here – and that’s a good thing because Chris never knew boundaries in music. As much as he loved working with people like Steve and Jimi, he was equally at ease helping young people just starting with the sax or flute – passing on what he’d call colouring with music. That’s what he did the best – colour the music. I’d no idea he’d written a song for me – I don’t think anybody did until the Tyrone Downie tapes were tracked down. What a lovely surprise. Bless him.
HiddenMasters – is a bespoke contemporary music archive curation service. It was established in 2008 and its first release was the critically acclaimed The Jess Roden Anthology – about which Mojo said: a meticulously compiled treasure-trove. … all of it beautifully restored and presented. Record Collector gave it one of only three 5star reviews in issue 415 of the magazine; Uncut stated: this meticulous 6CD set marks the first thorough overview of Jess Roden’s career while Richard Williams for The Blue Moment added: There are surprises all over these CDs, some of them unearthed from unlabelled tape boxes that had lain undisturbed in obscure vaults for decades.
Gemma Hayes’ limited edition first ever live LP followed after which came the expanded hardback edition of her most recent album, Bones+Longing. Further book-sets in-development include career retrospectives for Head Hands & Feet, Manchester’s The Distractions, a 3-set edition that will cover Robert Palmer’s full career and others together with expanded vinyl editions of both Jess Roden led Bronco LPs and also Jess’s first solo LP.
Chris Wood: Perhaps best known for co-founding Traffic with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason, Chris Wood was self taught on Saxophone and Flute although he was also an accomplished keyboards player and bass guitarist too. And a fine artist as well. From Stourbridge College of Art, Chris was accepted by the Royal Academy in 1965 where he ultimately faced the choice – music or art.
Via The Steve Hadley Quartet, he moved on to other Midlands-based bands – Shades Of Blue which included pianist Christine Perfect (later McVie of Fleetwood Mac) and then Locomotive with Mike Kellie (Spooky Tooth). Knowing Steve Winwood from The Elbow Room in Birmingham as well as through his sister Steph who designed clothes for The Spencer Davis Group led, eventually, to the formation of Traffic which evolved from out of hours jam-sessions at The Elbow Room. | Traffic decamped to an isolated farmhouse (The Cottage) on the Berkshire Downs. Success came with their first single (Paper Sun) with their first album (Mr Fantasy) being issued in December 1967. The group split after releasing their second album with Winwood joining Eric Clapton in Blind Faith. Wood and Capaldi reunited with Dave Mason to form the short-lived Mason Capaldi Wood and Frog before Chris left for America where he joined Dr John and toured the US. On his return to Britain, along with Winwood, he joined the first version of Ginger Baker’s Airforce, playing two gigs and releasing one album. After which Traffic – as a three piece – reformed.
Chris introduced the traditional ballad John Barleycorn to Capaldi and Winwood and it became not only the title song to the next LP but a lynchpin of their concerts for the remainder of the group’s life.
Close friends with Jimi Hendrix, Wood played on his Electric Ladyland album as well as contributing to records by Free, Fat Mattress, The Sky, Noel Redding, Third World, John Martyn, Gordon Jackson, Crawler, Jim Capaldi, Rebop Kwaku Baah, Bobby Whitlock and many others.
He met his wife via Hendrix (she was part of Jimi’s inner circle) – Chris and Jeanette Jacobs were married in November 1972 at Kensington Registry Office in London.
Traffic folded after the release of the When The Eagle Flies LP in 1974. In the years that followed, Chris took tentative steps toward recording his own LP but, plagued by addiction and his wife’s serial infidelity while progress was made, it was slow. Eventually, an album was sequenced in October 1978 but, for reasons which remain unknown, Island chose not to issue it.
Jeanette (from whom he was now separated) died of a seizure on New Year’s Day 1980 – she was 30. Chris was affected by her death as deeply as he was by Jimi’s passing as well as other close friends like Paul Kossoff and his erstwhile band-mate Rebop Kwaku Baah.
Never to completely shake his dependencies, Chris Wood died in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital on the morning of July 12th 1983. Three weeks earlier, he had turned 39.
Traffic’s Far from Home LP, issued in 1994, was dedicated to Chris – the front cover shows a solitary stick-figure playing a flute.
Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15th, 2004. In Jim Capaldi’s acceptance speech he said: Chris Wood was the magic man in Traffic. He was the one who came up with John Barleycorn. We sadly miss Chris. Traffic forever.

(With thanks to Neil Storey of Hidden Masters for providing us with the press release)

CR - 9th February 2016