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Thread: Featured album: TRAFFIC - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

  1. #1
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Featured album: TRAFFIC - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    http://www.progarchives.com/progress...1717102008.jpg


    TRAFFIC - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    traf.jpg

    Tracks Listing:
    1. Hidden Treasure (4:16)
    2. The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys (12:10)
    3. Rock & Roll Stew (4:29)
    4. Many A Mile To Freedom (7:12)
    5. Light Up Or Leave Me Alone (4:53)
    6. Rainmaker (7:39)

    Line-up:
    - Steve Winwood / piano, organ, guitar, vocals (1,2,5,6), producer
    - Rick Grech / violin, bass
    - Chris Wood / flute, saxophone
    - Jim Gordon / drums
    - Jim Capaldi / percussion, lead (3,4) & backing (6) vocals
    - Reebop Kwaku Baah / percussion

    Here is what Rollie Anderson (AKA Chicapah) had to say about it on ProgArchives
    Fresh off the success of "John Barleycorn Must Die," the album that began as a Steve Winwood solo project but (with the versatile help of Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood) fleshed out into being a bonafide Traffic LP, the band opted to expand their membership for the next studio recording. This would bring in new energy and ideas and eliminate the limitations they encountered by only having three people in the group. With the addition of Rick Grech on bass, Jim Gordon on drums and Reebop Kwaku Baah on congas Traffic was able to be a lot more assertive musically, thus allowing them to venture progressively into uncharted folk/jazz/rock areas that few (if any) bands were exploring in 1971.

    The album starts serenely with smooth harmonizing recorders, acoustic guitars and Steve's unmistakable voice singing "Hidden Treasure," a song that invites the listener to slow down the pace, listen to your soul's urging and discover the peace within. The low- key rhythm is perfect for Wood's airy flute and the permeating atmosphere has that charismatic Traffic climate that's as comfortable as an old sofa. What's next just may be their finest achievement ever. "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" slowly fades in as if the group is traveling in a gypsy caravan and they are gradually coming within earshot on the horizon. Drawing closer they fully immerse themselves in the song's half- speed tempo and it hypnotizes your senses. It's one of the most unique grooves in the history of rock and roll. Winwood turns in a vocal for the ages and his piano work is delicate and tasteful throughout. The drums, congas and percussion never drag for a nanosecond and Grech faithfully serves as the rock solid anchor with his unwavering bass pattern, keeping the whole endeavor from losing touch with its essential heartbeat. But to me this is Chris Wood's triumph. His saxophone work, both unadorned and then augmented by a distortion effect, is spellbinding and inspired. Following Winwood's last verse he delivers what I like to think of as "the note" that will define this tune forevermore. It's not so much of an indescribable tone as it is a FORCE that makes your hair stand on end. (Chris died prematurely in 1983 but I have it on good authority that the archangel Gabriel was so impressed by "the note" that he stopped Wood just inside the pearly gates and negotiated the rights to use it on judgement day in lieu of the scheduled blast from a trumpet. True story.)

    It's impossible to follow something like that gracefully so "Light Up or Leave Me Alone" comes up next (at least it does on the LP version) and it's not too shabby. An easy- going, R&B-styled rocker, it features Capaldi on vocal and an interesting arrangement. Winwood has never been one of my preferred guitarists (some of his earlier work with this band is downright embarrassing) but on this tune he does a decent job overall. One of the characteristics of Traffic is their propensity to perform the essential ingredients of a song, then jam out on the ending and they do that not only on this song but several times on this album. Grech and Gordon contribute "Rock and Roll Stew," an uptempo tune they co-wrote about life on the road, and it garnered quite a bit of FM airplay at the time with its infectious, funky feel. The gospel-tinged "Many a Mile to Freedom" is next and it's a pleasant enough song but I think that if Steve would have played one of his exemplary Hammond organ solos instead of insisting on plunking out another less-than-memorable guitar ride it would have sent this tune soaring through the ceiling. At least during the ending jam we hear some welcome flute work from Chris. "Rainmaker" is the final song and it's excellent. With its somber, haunting chant of a chorus it tells a simple story of a farmer pleading for rain to nourish his crops and I'm sure everyone can find the human allegory it presents. Wood throws in some pertinent flute and Grech adds a dash of violin before they abruptly change gears and adopt a funky beat to improvise on for the rest of the track. The sax and guitar play around each other and the percussion embellishes the Bohemian mood they create as their gypsy caravan loads up and slowly moves on down the road before eventually fading into the twilight.

    "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" has become such a mainstay of classic rock stations the world over that it's easy to forget how ahead of its time the tune and this album was in the early seventies. There was absolutely nothing remotely like it on the musical landscape (not to mention the innovative art and odd geometric shape of the LP cover) and record buyers flocked to it in droves, eventually driving it up to #7 on the charts. Traffic had succeeded in creating their own niche in the biz and that allowed them to follow their muse wherever she led them. This album may not be a masterpiece but the title cut certainly is and more than enough reason to include it in your prog collection.





    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  2. #2
    A perennial favourite. The title track is worth the price of admission alone, and although some of the bluesier numbers seem a little dated to me today, I still enjoy a full run through this album on a regular basis.

  3. #3
    Rainmaker, cued up during the enjoyment of many a spliff in my student days...

    Probably my second-favourite Traffic overall, after John Barleycorn.

    EDIT: Or maybe it's actually my favourite. Who the hell knows?
    Last edited by Mascodagama; 1 Week Ago at 07:59 AM.
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  4. #4
    One of my all-time favorites. I remember as a teenager being a bit stoned and trying to put the record sleeve back into the distinctly shaped album cover. Definitely a cognitive test. Could've been used by police to check sobriety.
    "And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision."

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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Mascodagama View Post
    my second-favourite Traffic overall, after John Barleycorn.
    Whereas Low Spark comes high as a result of the title track and "Rainmaker", Eagle beats it on the line due to "Dream Gerrard" and "Graveyard People". IMHO. But none could touch Barleycorn.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  6. #6
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    my own trilogy is Barleycorn, Sparks and the very-much underated Shootout, but hard to tell in which order.
    Bubbling under are Canteen and the debut (Road as well, of course).

    However, I could never really get into Eagle, though. Dream Grerard is just too repetitive and overstays its welcome by a good 5 minutes (IMHO, and it is rare I criticise the lengthiness of tracks). The rest of the album is relatively bland to my ears.
    Last edited by Trane; 1 Week Ago at 09:08 AM.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    However, I could never really get into Eagle, though. Dream Grerard is just too repetitive and overstays its welcome by a good 5 minutes (IMHO, and it is rare I criticise the lengthiness of tracks). The rest of the album is relatively bland to my ears.
    This is precisely how I feel about Shootout; uninspired [no pun!], forgettable and repetitive, with "Roll Right Bones" arguably the single most irritatingly dull track I ever heard from Winwood. "Dream Gerrard" has structural flow and a unified dynamic to proceedings, the ending probably constituting the most interesting thing I ever heard from Winwood.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  8. #8
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    This is precisely how I feel about Shootout; uninspired [no pun!], forgettable and repetitive, with "Roll Right Bones" arguably the single most irritatingly dull track I ever heard from Winwood. "Dream Gerrard" has structural flow and a unified dynamic to proceedings, the ending probably constituting the most interesting thing I ever heard from Winwood.
    I'm aware that some are really not up for Fantasy Factory. I was going to make that one the featured album, but I changed at last minute.

    You're about RRS (stones, not"bones") being a bit repetitive & overlong but the brass gives it a "swinging-happy" movement (and therefore not thinning its welcome), whereas Gerard doesn't have that.
    as for Uninspired, I'd like to read an article/interview of Winwood came to write that song. I can easily see him play the first few notes and singing the first line as really uninspired, than simply letting inspiration settle in the way it did and transforming despair into beauty.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  9. #9
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    Good album. Love..... Light Up and R&R Stew, along with every other track.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    stones, not"bones")
    No, mine says "bones". I got a special copy made so as to win this argument.






    And "Gerrard" is the best too.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  11. #11
    Eat The Rich spellbound's Avatar
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    I bought this record when it was new, and have loved it ever since. Not a bad song on it.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    Whereas Low Spark comes high as a result of the title track and "Rainmaker"...
    Yes. Overall a band that I always liked a lot, but never really loved. Of course their significance in the course of progressive rock cannot be overrated. Bands like Van Der Graaf Generator or Genesis owe them a lot. Even Jethro Tull, if they started somewhat later than Traffic as I always thought.

    Barleycorne and the debut used to be my favorites. I need to relisten.

  13. #13
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    Besides his collection of Yes albums, this is the "hidden" treasure of the LPs I inherited from my brother when he went off to join the Navy in 1978. It remains a Desert Island LP in my collection. I love every minute of it, and I consider it a shining example of music that is "progressive" without sounding anything like King Crimson or Yes.

    I don't know how many others here caught the terrific mid-90s tour. It was just Winwood and Capaldi from the old days, but they brought along some great players and IMO recaptured the jammy-jazzy hippie-rock spirit and ethos that this album embodied. Shame it didn't lead to more music before Capaldi's untimely demise.

    RIP Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Ric Grech, and Rebop Kwaku Baah.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  14. #14
    ^ I wasn't aware of Rebop's passing, so thanks for addressing it.

    But yeah, bands like Family, Traffic, Colosseum and a small handful of others certainly represented a somewhat different route from either the "symphonic" side of things, the spacey/post-psychedelic or the Canterburian as far as early 70s UK progressive rock was concerned. And the great thing about a tune like the title track here is that the jamming actually works; it brings out that meditative sense of "organic" motion which draws you in as listener. You can easily hear their obvious influence on someone like Talk Talk in that track.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  15. #15
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    i caught that mid-90s tour (think ot was 93 or 94k and it was sooper enjoyable.
    No one plans to take the path that brings you lower

  16. #16
    Member Garyhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Dark Elf View Post
    One of my all-time favorites. I remember as a teenager being a bit stoned and trying to put the record sleeve back into the distinctly shaped album cover. Definitely a cognitive test. Could've been used by police to check sobriety.
    That's funny......I had the same recollection. That Rod Stewart album the shape of a whiskey glass was also a puzzle.
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  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    I wasn't aware of Rebop's passing
    Yes, you bloody well were. You're confusing him with Rosko Gee, you dumbass mofo.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    You can easily hear their obvious influence on someone like Talk Talk in that track.
    Obvious? I, at least, had never thought about it. I am not suggesting that you're not right though.

    Some Talk Talk tonight could bring some comfort, and I intend to close another grim day on their company.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post

    And "Gerrard" is the best too.
    Think so too. I have most of the LP's, but would love to have a complete CD-complilation. That's why I didn't buy https://www.discogs.com/Traffic-5-Cl...elease/9815006 because it is missing When The Eagle Flies.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Zappathustra View Post
    Obvious? I, at least, had never thought about it.
    Well, apart (of course) from Winwood's contribution to The Colour of Spring as guest musician, there's the slight soul-infusion and that unmistakable teaming of piano/organ which was so characteristic of TT at that point. Although I hear distant echoes of Winwood in Hollis' voice as well (even on Eden), I'd say the possible Traffic-infection was mostly over after Spring.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  21. #21
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Everybody know who Traffic is but I am not too knowleldgeable. The clips you posted are excellent. Nice off the centre choice.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  22. #22
    Funny that no one seem to rate highly the second album, which, for many, represented Traffic at the height of their powers, when still having vital songwriting member Dave Mason in their ranks: Feeling Alright?, 40 Thousand Headmen, Cryin' to Be Heard, Pearly Queen, Vagabond Virgin, No Time to Live... are all among their greatest songs. After that, Traffic was still very good, but it became mainly a one man show for Winwood, without the counterbalance of Mason's songs, which were also of a great quality, but bringing a somehow different and poppier style to the brew. Not to say that Mason also was a great guitar player.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    Well, apart (of course) from Winwood's contribution to The Colour of Spring as guest musician, there's the slight soul-infusion and that unmistakable teaming of piano/organ which was so characteristic of TT at that point. Although I hear distant echoes of Winwood in Hollis' voice as well (even on Eden), I'd say the possible Traffic-infection was mostly over after Spring.
    Thanks for elaborating. I am much more familiar with Eden and Laughing Stock, which perhaps explains my bewilderment.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by yoyiceu View Post
    Funny that no one seem to rate highly the second album
    Both this one and the debut are very, very good - but in a way they represent the "other" Traffic; halfway between 60s pop, psychedelia and folk-rock. I always considered that era of the band to end with the a-side of The Last Exit. But you're correct in that the songs themselves are sometimes strong as hell. This period, however, is arguably best represented by the excellent Best of Traffic compilation from late '69 which also contains a couple of their early singles.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  25. #25
    Yes, certainly, the pre-Blind Faith and the post-Blind Faith and post Dave Mason eras, although the live Welcome to the Canteen for me has much more energy and excitement than On The Road, helped along by the two songs culled from Mason's fantastic debut album. Although I love Low Spark and John Barleycorn, I do prefer the short first era. Later on Traffic became kind of a lazy jam band, in spite of the fact that, although they were very good musicians and had one great singer and composer, no one was really a great soloist.

    When Mason left, in a way, Traffic went through the same thing that Procol Harum went through when Matthew Fisher left after the first three albums, leaving Gary Brooker to carry most of the load, and what Roger McGuinn and the Byrds went through after David Crosby left.
    Last edited by yoyiceu; 1 Week Ago at 06:05 PM.

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