Friday, May 22, 2009

The Missed Step

This has to be Freddie Foxxx's (or, "Freddy Fox"'s, as it's spelled here) second rarest record, after this one. And they both have some key elements in common: they're both white labels of tracks Freddie did for his Flavor Unit period, which he put out himself when the label dropped him, and they're both different mixes than what ultimately wound up appearing on Traffic's Crazy Like a Foxxx restoration. By the way, I did a pretty detailed, comprehensive post already comparing the many differences between the Traffic version and the version of the album that leaked back in the 90's, so you might want to catch up there if you missed it the first time (The Real Crazy Like a Foxxx), and then rejoin us. Basically, between that post and the "Do What You Gotta Do" write-up, this 12" is the last piece in the puzzle. And I finally got it, so let's rock. 8)

"Step" dropped in 1996, making it the last in the series of Crazy Like a Foxxx singles, even counting "Do What I Gotta Do," which wasn't on the original Crazy tape, but was included on the Traffic mix. Oh, and interestingly, this 12" plays at 45 rpm. Anyway, this is pretty similar to the version you heard on the Traffic album in a lot of ways... lyrically, it's exactly the same, Chuck D's part is the same, the samples used are the same, etc. But you'll hear the difference instantly - there's a DJ doing some wicked cutting throughout Chuck D's introduction on this 12" version that's sadly absent from the Traffic version. The scratches come back on the 12" for each hook, and are definitely a strong factor to the song. Both versions are also mixed differently... the Traffic version is a slower (you can even see it in the running time!) and places more emphasis on the bassline, while the 12" mix puts more on the drums. What's more, the 12" version also features a tight horn sample, that sounds sort of like a cross between something The 45 King and Showbiz would use. I don't know why Traffic chose the mix they did, because hands down, this one is the winner.

And for the record, this 12" mix is the version that was on the old tape, too.

Oh, but it ain't over. Because unlike the "Do What You Gotta Do" record, this is no single-sided 12"; this has a B-side: "Pressure On the Brain." And it's different, too. And just to make things a little bit more complicated, Traffic released two versions of "Pressure On the Brain" in their 2-disc set, giving us another version to compare. So let's jump right in:

Straight up, I almost wonder if Traffic didn't make a mistake. The two versions of "Pressure On the Brain," they released sound kinda similar. Don't get me wrong... they're different; you can tell just from listening to 'em. But they're much more alike than the 12" version to either of them. So, let's see, where to start? Well, first of all, like "Step," the 12" mix has some nice scratching on it that's missing from both Traffic mixes. Also, both Traffic mixes have essentially the same bassline. The 12" mix has a different bassline and, yes, it's better. One difference between the two Traffic versions is that the Jailhouse version has these keyboard tones in them, which makes the whole thing sound more like a polished studio product, as opposed to the grimier demo mix. The 12" here is in line with the demo mix, it doesn't have those keyboards (and just to be clear: I don't miss 'em).

Finally, I'll say that the 12" mix and the promo tape are essentially the same. They do sound like they're mixed differently (and the 12" is a tiny bit faster), but it's hard to tell how much of that is an inherent difference in the source material, and how much of that is just the format difference between a copy of promo cassette and an original 12" pressing. They're certainly "close enough," I think, even for a really serious fan not to care.

So, in the end, I don't know whether to scold Traffic for a dumb move or praise them for a good one. On the one hand, they clearly released the inferior of their options, so my first instinct was to say, "well, Traffic sure screwed up here!" But on the other hand, as rare as it is, this 12" is out there, available to the public (they just have to be die-hard enough fans to track it down). In putting out these (admittedly weaker) versions, Traffic has released versions that have never ever been released before, not even on the leaked promo tape. So their shit's 100% exclusive. So, ultimately it's a win for the serious collector/fan, who will ultimately get all versions, and the more casual fans or are missing out on the better versions of the songs wouldn't know what they were missing anyway. So, I'm leaning in favor of Traffic and giving 'em props. Now, if they really wanna make me happy, all they gotta do is press up this awesome 2-disc set of theirs on to vinyl! =)


  1. I would appreciate this knowledge much more if I had the chance to hear the 12", or at least some snippets. All this information with no record isn't very satisfying.

  2. nob, I feel ya. Sometimes, when I feel like "oh, you've gotta hear this to appreciate what I'm talking about," I make it a video post so you can hear snippets. But for the most part, the idea here is to discuss the music, put people onto good stuff to look for, etc; and then for people to go out and dig for themselves.

    Plus, I just don't have the rights to post rips of anybody's music.