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Travis, Good Feeling LP Reissue from Craft Recordings

04-05-2021 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 114

Travis, Good Feeling. 120 gram, black vinyl LP: $21.99 MSRP. Available from Craft Recordings.

It's been said that everyone who listened to the Velvet Underground's first album started a band. The same can almost be said for Travis' first album, Good Feeling, which was massively influential on an entire generation of UK bands, especially the likes of Keane, The Killers, and Coldplay. In fact, in a 2019 interview with the BBC, Travis frontman Fran Healy said that "Coldplay 'bodysnatched' their sound because it was the most popular music around in 1999 when they [Coldplay] were recording their debut album." Healy also said that Coldplay obviously wanted to be the biggest band in the world, but Travis' goal was to be the best.

The band that eventually became Travis formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1990; they performed for a couple of years as a five-piece under the moniker Glass Onion. The group evolved over a period of several years, with guitarist Andy Dunlop being the only holdover from the band's original incarnation. As the band's lineup began to change, Neil Primrose took over at the drum kit; when their lead singer departed, Primrose invited an art student friend, Fran Healy, to audition as the band's new vocalist. Healy proved a good fit, dropping out of The Glasgow School of Art to become the band's principal songwriter and second guitarist. In 1993 Glass Onion recorded an EP (they only pressed 500 copies, and it's become quite the collector's item) that failed to gain much traction for the band. The group's keyboardist and bassist were sent packing, and Healy's good friend Dougie Payne replaced the pair as the band's bassist; the trimmed down lineup soon took on the band name Travis. The name "Travis" apparently came from Harry Dean Stanton's character Travis Henderson from the 1984 Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas.

Travis relocated to London, where they spent almost a year rehearsing, writing songs, playing gigs, and recording demos to ready themselves for attempting to get signed to a record contract. They were eventually signed by Blair MacDonald of the Sony-financed label Independiente Records, and the band reconvened to upstate New York to record their debut album Good Feeling with producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, XTC, Peter Gabriel, The Rolling Stones) at Woodstock's Bearsville Studios. The band had about two dozen songs ready, with half of those making the final album cut; in time, many of the remaining songs ended up on Travis' second album. While barely noticed at the time of its release in the US, Good Feeling spawned five singles in the UK, reaching as high as the number nine position on the UK album charts. The chart run was fairly short-lived, however, and the album initially only sold about 40,000 copies. Regardless, four of the five singles released broke into the UK's top forty. The band's breakout single, "More Than Us," was the last to be released in 1998, and cracked the top twenty, while propelling Good Feeling back onto the charts for another 27 weeks. Travis was definitely making an impression!

I have to admit that although I'm fairly familiar with much of Travis' work from The Man Who and onward, I'd never heard Good Feeling prior to the arrival of the Craft Recordings reissue LP. Side One opens with the first single, "All I Want To Do Is Rock." It features electrifying and anthemic hooks and Andy Dunlop's jangly, crunching guitars that help propel the album to a rocking good start. That momentum continues into the second song (and their next single), "U16 Girls," with more great guitar work from Dunlop. After a rousing "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah" chorus, Healy offers a cautionary tale of rockers needing to avoid those ever-present 16-something-but-looking-much-older girls that frequent the rock scene. Healy screams the vocals on both "The Line Is Fine" and "Good Day To Die"; Neil Primrose's pounding drums set the pace, and each chorus is bracketed by raucous guitars. The title track "Good Feeling" kicks off with a slow, steady bass and drum groove, but Dunlop's guitars and Healy's vocals propel the song to more anthemic territory. And there's some pretty nifty keyboard work in the song's center from Phish's Page McConnell. "Midsummer Nights Dreamin'" continues Side One's rambunctious tone as Healy literally screams out the finale.

Side Two continues with the rollicking single, "Tied To The 90's," but that grinds to a halt with "I Love You Always," a love song which is maybe the first thing even close to a ballad on Good Feeling. The fourth single, "Happy," cranks up the mood again, opening with a chiming, jangly guitar figure, then it's right back to the energetic, clamorous tone so present throughout the first half of the album. Healy screams "I'm so happy that you're so happy!"—it's a happy song, with another great Dunlop guitar solo in the song's center. The album's huge hit single, "More Than Us" is another introspective ballad, and a definite look into the future of the soon-to-be Travis that was just around the corner with 1999's The Man Who. The single's more restrained tone continues into "Falling Down," where Healy sings plaintively, "But I can't stand anymore...without falling down...and I'm getting used to the floor...forever falling." "Funny Thing" is the album's closer, and while still in that subdued tone of the previous few songs, there's more of that really edgy guitar work that prevents the song from getting too maudlin. Dunlop's guitar tone is absolutely sublime here!

Craft Recordings Reissue LP

This Craft Recordings reissue marks the first time Good Feeling has been available as an LP since it was originally released in 1997. The album was originally slated to be released on 180 gram vinyl worldwide, but that ended up getting changed at some point in the production process, and my review copy arrived pressed on standard 120 gram black vinyl. 180 gram vinyl will only be available in the UK, but I found the standard weight LP to be superb in every aspect. I was unable to ascertain who pressed the LP, or if it was remastered from an analog original, but I do know that the lacquers were cut at Metropolis Studios in London. My review copy was perfectly flat, and despite the presence of some paper dust from the replica paper inner sleeve, a quick cleaning revealed otherwise pristine surfaces. The outer sleeve featured a replica tip-on style jacket on medium-weight card stock with a satin varnish coating.

The sound quality of the LP was superb; the album surfaces were glossy and scratch-free and featured extremely quiet background levels, with nary a pop or tick throughout the proceedings, and no signs of groove modulation noise. I compared the sound of the LP to the digital files that I'd downloaded from Craft and also to the files available on Qobuz. I felt the digital files were a bit compressed, and that the LP had a much more natural and open presentation with greatly improved dynamic range, providing an overall more organic sound quality than the digital files were able to offer.

My listening was done through my usual analog front end, which features a ProJect Classic turntable fitted with a Hana SL moving coil cartridge, with the signal fed into a Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ phono preamp that's powered by a Michael Yee linear power supply. Once again, I used a new pair of PS Audio M700 mono amps, along with my PS Audio preamp, playing into my Magneplanar LRS loudspeakers. This is a great sounding LP; Craft Recordings is really upping their game with their recent batch of reissues. 

While Good Feeling was a good start for the band, and is a classic example of really great Britpop, it bears very little resemblance to the contemporary sound of Travis that seems to have found a much broader audience beyond their debut. Despite the decline in popularity of Britpop toward the end of the Nineties, the band's next album, The Man Who, drew heavily from material originally recorded and intended for the first album. It was stylistically very different from the sound of the debut record, but quickly grabbed the attention of the record buying public, eventually going nine-times platinum in the UK and selling almost four million copies worldwide. In spite of Travis' later successes, Good Feeling is a classic debut album that's well worth re-exploring, especially the excellent Craft Recordings vinyl reissue. Highly recommended.

All images provided by Chummy Press