Traffic


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1966-67)

- Jim Capaldi (RIP 2005) -- vocals, drums, percussion

- Steve Winwood -- vocals, keyboards, guitar

- Chris Wood (RIP) -- woodwinds

 

  line up 2 (1967)

- Jim Capaldi (RIP 2005) -- vocals, drums, percussion

NEW - Dave Mason -- vocals, lead guitar

- Steve Winwood -- vocals, keyboards, guitar

- Chris Wood (RIP) -- woodwinds

 

  line up 3 (1971-72)

NEW - Reebop Kwakuh-Baah (RIP 1983) -- percussion

- Jim Capaldi (RIP 2005) -- vocals, drums, percussion

NEW - Roscoe Gee -- bass

NEW - Jim Gordon -- drums

NEW - Ric Grech (RIP) -- bass

NEW - David Hood -- bass

- Steve Winwood -- vocals, keyboards, guitar

- Chris Wood (RIP) -- woodwinds

 

  line up 4 (1972)

- Reebop Kwakuh-Baah (RIP 1983) -- percussion

NEW - Barry Beckett -- keyboards

- Jim Capaldi (RIP 2005) -- vocals, drums, percussion

NEW - Rodger Hawkins -- drums

- David Hood -- bass

- Steve Winwood -- vocals, keyboards, guitar

- Chris Wood (RIP) -- woodwinds


 

 

Reebop Baah (solo efforts)

- Ginger Baker's Air Force

- Blind Faith (Ric Grech and Steve WInwood)

- Jim Capaldi (solo efforts)

- Derek and the Dominos (Jim Gordon)

- Family (Ric Grech)

- Fleetwood Mac (Dave Mason)

- Ric Grech (solo efforts)

- KGB (Jim Gordon)

- Spencer Davis Group (Stevie Winwood)

- Dave Mason (solo efforts)

- Steve Winwood (solo efforts)

- Chris Wood (solo efforts)

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  John Barleycorn Must Die

Company: United Artists

Catalog: UAS-5504

Year: 1970

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4691

Price: $10.00

Cost: $66.00

 

 

Following the release of Traffic's "Last Exit" Steve Winwood's original plan was to complete his contractual obligations to Island Records (United Artists in the States) with the release of a solo set.  Teamed with producer Guy Stevens, the solo sessions quickly saw Winwood joined by drummer Jim Capaldi and multi-instrumentalist Chris Wood.  Their participation quickly evolved into a full fledged Traffic reunion with Winwood and Chris Blackwell taking over production responsibilities.  When released in 1970 "John Barleycorn Must Die" marked a major change in musical direction. Winwood's voice remained instantly recognizable, but the band's earlier psychedelic moves was ditched in favor of an intriguing mix of jazz, traditional English folk and progressive moves.  Not exactly the most helpful description, but then this is one tough album to describe.  Abandoning any pretense of commercialism, tracks such as the leadoff instrumental 'Glad', the 15th century title track (I'm still curious to know what it's real about) and 'Every Mother's Son' all stretched out over five minutes giving the trio an opportunity to showcase their instrumental prowess - hard to believe this set was recorded by a trio. Not exactly the year's most commercial album, it's still a blast to hear (great Sunday morning set).  Ironically, even though it was their least commercial offering, the album proved the group's sales breakthrough peaking at # 11 in the States and # 5 in the UK.

 

"John Barleycorn Must Die" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Glad (instrumental)   (Stevie Winwood) - 6:59

2.) Freedom Rider   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 5:30

3.) Empty Pages   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 4:34

 

(side 2)

1.) Stranger To Himself   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 3:57

2.) John Barleycorn   (traditional - arranged by Stevie Winwood) - 6:27

3.) Every Mother's Son   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 7:06

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9180

Year: 1971

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gimmick cover

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4693

Price: $10.00

 

Besides sporting a title that's left hundreds of thousands of fans wondering what it means, 1971's "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" stands as Traffic's commercial zenith.  It may also be their creative zenith.  Recorded in London with Winwood handling production chores, the album sported an expanded line up in the form of percussionist Reebop Kwakuh-Baah, ex-Derek and the Dominos drummer Jim Gordon and former Blind Faith bassist Ric Grech.  Propelled by Winwood's voice, the album's instantly identifiable as a Traffic release, though musically tracks such as Capaldi's 'Light Up or Leave Me Alone" and the Gordon-Grech penned rocker "Rock and Roll Stew'' give the album a surprisingly mainstream feel.  While the difference isn't overwhelming, the expanded lineup also serves to give the album a slightly fuller sound (particularly when compared to "Barleycorn".  Lyrically the extended jazzy title track, 'Light Up or Leave Me Alone' and 'Rock and Roll Stew' all seem to offer up non-too-subtle commentaries on the music business' darker side.  That said, the true charmers are found in the form of three mid-tempo Capaldi-Winwood compositions: 'Hidden Treasure', 'Many a Mile To Freedom' and 'Rainmaker'.  Elsewhere 'Rock and Roll Stew (Part 1)' b/w 'Rock and Roll Stew (Part 1)' (Island catalog number 1201) went top-100 in the States.  In spite of the absence of a supporting tour (Winwood came down with peritonitis forcing the band to cancel plans for a world tour), the album hit # 7 in the States.

 

"The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Hidden Treasure   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 4:16

2.) The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 12:10

3.) Light Up or Leave Me Alone   (Jim Capaldi) - 4:53

 

(side 2)

1.) Rock and Roll Stew   (Jim Gordon - Ric Grech) - 4:29

2.) Many a Mile To Freedom   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 7:12

3.) Rainmaker   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 7:39

 

 

 

he album cover notwithstanding, Traffic didn’t cut any corners on their followup to John Barleycorn. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys follows the same design: six tracks that wrap psychedelic/rock/folk sounds together into a rich musical landscape. The difference is a saturation in sound versus the dry Barleycorn, possible now that Traffic’s recent tour had left them swelled to a sextet. Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood are still responsible for the bulk of the music, including such classics as the title track and the similar-sounding “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone.” On the 12-minute title track especially, Traffic was mesmerizing. It’s hard to say why; the music isn’t any more complicated or catchy than Chicago, but it has an unspoken stillness that commands attention. (Astute listeners may find a parallel between this track and David Bowie’s “Sweet Thing.”) Also popular is the funked up “Rock & Roll Stew,” another psychedelic cut that’s aged remarkably well, this time written by new members Rick Grech and Jim Gordon. It’s an atypical track for Traffic, but a great way to shake off some of the dust. The remaining songs are uniformly excellent, belonging to the same school as Barleycorn’s other bits. The pronounced folkiness of “Rainmaker” suggests the rustic school of Tull, while the bittersweet “Hidden Treasure” and “Many A Mile To Freedom” serve the same purpose as a “Freedom Rider” or “Stranger To Himself.” While the arrangements are richer, don’t expect a linear increase in complexity over Barleycorn; as Canteen showed, more players doesn’t necessarily equal more music. The percussion of Reebop Kwaku Baah is an added dimension, but Grech and Gordon don’t anything that a Winwood or Capaldi couldn’t have multitracked. Still, this is the richer album, trippy and vibrant where Barleycorn had a pronounced, brittle folkiness. If their last studio album went down smooth, you’ll get an even bigger charge out of Low Spark.

 

The ‘new’ Traffic that rose from the "John Barleycorn" era was, to say the least, a dynamic band – and in a fundamental way, a kind of paradox. On the road, the size of the group went from a three piece, to four, to seven, then six – all in the span of about a year! In the midst of these lightning fast and almost chaotic changes in personnel, the music seemed to be finding itself. The vision that The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys presented in the fall of 1971 was mature and confident as well as deeply spiritual – a fully realized work. Matching the central metaphor of the title track; the external wrappings of the band fluctuated, while the core of Traffic stayed intact – and got even stronger.

"Hidden Treasure" opens, and from the first notes Chris Wood’s flute weaves a spell, a sort of invocation that set the tone for the whole album. In combination with the acoustic guitars, Steve Winwood’s wonderfully languorous vocals and a set of lyrics that interconnect nature with the human spirit, the song seems to open a door to a sense of multidimensionality.

This theme is echoed throughout the album, as well as the cover of the album itself, whose unique cube shaped caused many to ponder it’s significance (and continues to do so). Of the Tony Wright design, Steve Winwood said at the time: "It looks like how our music sounds". Indeed, beyond the sense of depth that the shape imparts, Wright seemed to distill the essence of Traffic – the checkerboard dance floor representing rock ‘n roll – the ‘grounding’ of the band, and a point of departure. The ‘walls’ are elemental – the clouds on the left, representing water in its most ethereal form (the endless transition of day to day life), while the marble on the right represent the earth at its most enduring (indestructible ‘spirit’). And of course, there is no ‘ceiling’ on the cube – the ‘sky is the limit’, leaving the impression of the endless possibilities of life.

The title track is the best known of all Traffic songs, and besides being an FM hit (a bit too long for AM!), may be their true masterpiece. The title (courtesy of a stoned Michael Pollard scribble) and Jim’s lyrics have evoked puzzlement by many fans, of which many have sought some sort of an interpretation. One view is that the song is a sort of Rorschach test – read your own message into the imagery. The emotional quality of "The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys" does indeed stand on it’s own, and from that point of view, no other objective ‘meaning’ is necessary – great art requires no absolute definition. On the other hand, by dismissing the lyrics a whole dimension is lost – one that links the song to themes that Traffic had been developing almost from the beginning.

The skeleton key to this lock is to listen mythically and metaphorically rather than literally – opening the mind/heart as well as the ears to the experience. What unfolds is a meditation on the nature of life and eternity. The physical structure of ‘Low Spark…’ implies this by fading in and out with the same three bass notes – a song with no beginning, and no end; a sort of eternal framework. Lyrically, the song suggests that the external aspects of life – worldly possessions, the glitter of rock ‘n roll, and violence – come and go, while the unchanged inner core of being houses a "spirit … that no one destroys". This concept is sometimes symbolized by the ‘wheel of life’ or ‘fortune’ (or Traffic’s own symbol), an ancient, and multicultural icon that was best described by Joseph Campbell, the great interpreter of world mythologies:

"There’s the hub of the wheel, and there is the revolving rim of the wheel. If you are attached to the rim of the wheel of fortune, you will be either above going down, or at the bottom going up. But if you are at the hub, you are in the same place all the time. The central point is where stillness and movement are together. Movement is time, but stillness is eternity."

This may be why great art, like ‘Low Spark…’ seems to slow down or suspend time while we are interact in it – the eternal is suggested to us in some way that we can respond to. What a wonderful gift!

"Many A Mile To Freedom", and "Rainmaker" continue on the same myth evoking path, and spreading them out between the Jim Capaldi sung rock ‘n roll numbers (‘Rock & Roll Stew", and "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone") helped to create a reoccurring thematic strand that strengthened the album. Jim’s songs ("Rock & Roll Stew was written by Ric Grech and Jim Gordon) gave a needed change of texture, and signaled his changing role to the occasional lead vocalist in the band. In fact, with Dave Mason gone for good, Jim’s gravely vocals provide an important counterpoint to what would otherwise be an all Winwood sung album.

Soon after this album was completed (September of 1971), and even before it was released, Traffic was on tour playing the new music to appreciative crowds across the United States. The road must have seemed to go on forever…

 

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys marked the commercial and artistic apex of the second coming of Traffic, which had commenced in 1970 with John Barleycorn Must Die. The trio that made that album had been augmented by three others (Ric Grech, Jim Gordon, and "Reebop" Kwaku Baah) in the interim, though apparently the Low Spark sessions featured varying combinations of these musicians, plus some guests. But where their previous album had grown out of sessions for a Steve Winwood solo album and retained that focus, Low Spark pointedly contained changes of pace from his usual contributions of midtempo, introspective jam tunes. "Rock & Roll Stew" was an uptempo treatise on life on the road, while Jim Capaldi's "Light up or Leave Me Alone" was another more aggressive number with an unusually emphatic Capaldi vocal that perked things up on side two. The other four tracks were Winwood/Capaldi compositions more in the band's familiar style. "Hidden Treasure" and "Rainmaker" bookended the disc with acoustic treatments of nature themes that were particularly concerned with water, and "Many a Mile to Freedom" also employed water imagery. But the standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business. 

The band had only just fulfilled a contractual commitment by releasing the live album Welcome to the Canteen, and they had in their past the embarrassing Last Exit album thrown together as a commercial stopgap during a temporary breakup in 1969. But that anger had proven inspirational, and "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" was one of Traffic's greatest songs as well as its longest so far. The result was an album that quickly went gold (and eventually platinum) in the U.S., where the group toured frequently.

 

Whether light or heavy, Traffic consistently occupied the charts in both the U.K. and the U.S. during the late 60s and early 70s. With both Dave Mason and Steve Winwood at the helm, fans got a double dose of superb songwriting and vocals. When you have all the right ingredients in the mix, it's easy to understand how, on paper, this was a winner right out of the gate. Unfortunately, Mason left after only a year, briefly returning three years later for a handful of shows in London resulting in the live album Welcome To The Canteen. The reunion wasn't meant to be as Winwood defiantly commandeered the ship into wooly waters and tossed Mason overboard. Two months later, Traffic unveiled The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys. It would reach the American Top Ten and sell over a million copies without even denting the British charts. Initially, the cut-cornered album seemed like a dense and peculiar entry from a shaky candidate. And yet, it remains a refined blend of Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood in perhaps their finest hour together.

Robert Christgau, an insightful critic who rarely dishes out high praise, called The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys "relaxed and exciting at the same time." He couldn't have said it better. Picking up from where they had left off with 1970's John Barleycorn Must Die, the three principle members of the group recruited some heavy hitters in an effort to augment and expand their sound. Bassist Rick Grech, who had played with Winwood in Blind Faith, and drummer Jim Gordon, late of Derek and the Dominoes, became the rhythm section and co-wrote "Rock & Roll Stew." Reebop Kwaku Baah, along with Gordon and Capaldi, rounded out a three-man percussion section that offered up a backbeat worthy of distinction. Together, the band set sail through a cavalcade of windswept peaks and valleys, lead by Winwood's incomparable abilities on the keyboards and guitar with the added embellishment of Wood's flute and sax work. It begins slowly with the subtle "Hidden Treasure" and never comes out the same twice.

The title track, inspired by the utterings of actor Michael J. Pollard, languishes, then builds on a simple, but majestic piano riff. At almost 12 minutes, the song rows steadily like a slow moving boat with a wide open sea ahead. Capaldi's lyrics slice through the decadent rock and roll game: "The percentage you're paying is too high priced/While you're living beyond all your means/And the man in the suit has just bought a new car/From the profit he's made on your dreams..." Capaldi's distaste for the rock lifestyle continues with "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone," a spiraling tale of groupie excess: "You're trying to tell me 'bout the birds and the bees/The skirt that you're wearing is way past your knees..." From the solemn gracefulness of "Many A Mile To Freedom" to the spiritual candor of "Rainmaker," there's no second guessing about the depth and fortitude plied into each and every groove. Recently remastered with a second, single version of "Rock and Roll Stew," The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys will forever be the quintessential Traffic album.

 

One of the most evocative and most-loved songs in the Traffic canon, "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" has some interesting origins. At some point in 1970, Traffic drummer and lyricist Jim Capaldi was hanging out with actor Michael J. Pollard (of Bonnie & Clyde fame). The diminutive actor was apparently free associating on rock stardom (and possibly the then-emerging glam movement) and came up with the title line. Capaldi took it to heart, and, thus, the lyric idea was born. Capaldi's lyric hits hard at rock stardom, and especially the business side of it, with lines like "and the man in the suit has just bought a new car/with the profit he's made on you're dreams." Musically, it's a fabulous example of Miles Davis-inspired slow jazz, and fused with a funk/ rock chorus. The song was also used as an extended piece for space-jams at Traffic concerts (as well as on record), and it still rightfully graces Steve Winwood's concert repertoire.

 

Like the title song of Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys album, "Light Up or Leave Me Alone" is a meditation on rock stardom. Basically a direct attack on a groupie or hanger-on, the author's patience is clearly wearing thin. You can almost see the hotel rooms, champagne in iced silver buckets, and other images of being on the road. Musically, it has a funky, almost African-inspired electric guitar riff that propels the simple, three-chord melody, which is blues-based. This is one of the few examples of Jim Capaldi writing on his own (he usually wrote with Steve Winwood), and he shows himself very capable of writing a powerful rock song.

 

After all of the scathing attacks on rock stardom that are contained on the Low Spark of High Heeled Boys album, this, the final song on the record, came as a welcome surprise. A low-key epic, "Rainmaker" is about a subject that was a reoccurring theme in Traffic songs, the power of nature. Winwood's pastoral melody fits Capaldi's lyric like a glove, and it's one of the most comforting songs in Traffic's canon.

 


Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  When the Eagles Flies

Company: Asylum

Catalog: 7E-1020

Year: 1973

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: tight seams; original inner sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4502

Price: $9.00

Cost: $66.00

 

First off, I seldom publish a review without having at least listened to the album three times (preferably over an extended period of time - okay I'll admit I couldn't get through Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" three times). My opinions also tend to change with time. I'll also mention that I have a fondness for Traffic and Steve Winwood.  

 

Those things said, most of 1973's "When the Eagle Flies" leaves me cold.  Produced by Chris Blackwell, this late inning set found Capaldi and Winwood continuing to explore their interest in extended, pseudo-jazzy improvisations.  Mind you, the album has more than its share of fans, but to my ears the results are rather dull.  Sporting one of the album's most accessible melodies, the bluesy opener 'Something New' was pretty good.  The most commercial song, 'Walking In the Wind' was tapped by Asylum as a single (Asylum catalog number E-45207).  Co-written with the late Bonzo Dog Band headman Viv Standshall, 'Dream Gerrard' seems to go on forever, but sports an interesting mix of free form jazz and funk.  Chris Woods contributed one of those sax figures which was simultaneously mesmerizing and irritating, while Roscoe Gee added a wonderful bass solo to the song.  Elsewhere Winwood and company sound flat and rather uninspired; almost as if they knew Traffic has run out of creative steam.  About the best thing I can say is that anyone who liked "Low Spark" or Winwood's forthcoming self-titled solo debut will probably find this worth their time.  Perhaps the result of an American tour, the album sold better in the States (where it went top-10), than in the UK where it stalled at # 31.

 

"When the Eagles Flies" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Something New   (Jim Capaldi - Steve Winwood) - 3:20

2.) Dream Gerrard   (VIvian Stanshall - Steve Winwood) - 11:04

3.) Graveyard People   (Jim Capaldi - Steve Winwood) - 6:07

 

(side 2)

1.) Walking In the Wind   (Jim Capaldi - Steve Winwood) - 6:55

2.) Memories of a Rock & Rolla   (Jim Capaldi - Steve Winwood) - 4:56

3.) Love   (Jim Capaldi - Steve Winwood) - 3:20

4.) When the Eagle Flies   (Jim Capaldi - Steve Winwood) - 4:21

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  On the Road

Company: Island

Catalog: SW-9336

Year: 1973

Country/State: US/UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 189

Price: $15.00

 

Reported released in an effort to beat record pirates, 1973's "On the Road" was Traffic's second live set in three years,  The album was recorded during a 1973 German tour supporting the "Shoot Out At the Fantasy Factory" album.  Originally released as a four track, single album package, the collection was a bit lackluster in terms of material - three of the four tracks lifted from "Shoot Out", with the addition of 'The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys' from the forthcoming album of the same title.  On the other hand the collection was interesting in that it sported an extended touring ensemble with Traffic mainstays Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood, and Chris Wood being supported by Muscle Shoals sidemen Barry Becker, Roger Hawkins, and David Hood.  Musically the set featured plenty of extended jams including a 17 minute 'Low Spark of High Heeled Boys' and a ten minute version of the ballad '(Sometimes I Feel) So Uninspired'.  The good news was that Winwood and company sounded pretty tight throughout the set and a couple of the tracks (notably the rocking 'Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory') actually benefited from the extended live formats.  The other good news was that engineer Brian Humphreys did an amazing job of capturing their live sound.  The collection sounded sterling on a good stereo, or with a quality pair of headphones.  Unfortunately, those characteristics were offset by the limited song selection and the fact some of the extended pieces seemed endless.   

 

"On the Road" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 17:47   rating: *** stars

I can't say that 'The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys' was ever a personal favorite and stretching it out to epic proportions didn't do much to change my opinion.  Each member was basically given a shot at the spotlight which meant you were forced to endure extensive jazzy sax soloing from Wood and way too much of Beckett and Winwood's quasi-jazzy keyboard meanderings.  That said, the band started to gell towards the end of the song (if anyone was still listening), and Winwood sounded fantastic on the song.

2.) Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood)  - 6:47   rating: *** stars

Highlighted by an extended blazing Winwood lead guitar solo, 'Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory' at least found the band showcasing their rock credentials.  Thing is, it would have been better as a four minute excursion rather than a six and a half minute epic. 

 

(side 2)

1.) (Sometimes I Feel) So Uninspired    (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 10:31   rating: *** stars

A pretty ballad that was simply blugeoned to death by the extended arrangement, '(Sometimes I Feel) So Uninspired' once again displayed Winwood's frequently overlooked talents on lead guitar - this may have been one of his prettiest and most impressive performances.   

2.) Light Up or Leave Me Alone   (Jim Capaldi) - 10:45   rating: **** stars

After three extended jazz-tinged numbers, Capaldi's rollicking 'Light Up or Leave Me Alone' came as a minor shock.  Yeah, his voice wasn't anywhere near as good as Winwood. but he brought a much needed sense of fun to the proceedings - the whole band seemed relieved to cut loose for a change - check out Winwood's stunning  playing on this one.  Again, it would have been even better if cut down to say five minutes (just deleting the extended band introductions would have helped), rather than ten minute plus version, but this was still the album highlight for me. 

 

 

Its an album that's grown on me.  I'll be the first to admit the extended, improvisational arrangements took awhile to get accustomed to, but with a bit of time and effort, the album does show a band that could rock like very few of their contemporaries.   It certainly sold well, hitting # 29 in the States and # 40 in the UK. 

The collection also sports one of my favorite album covers.  There's just something very mid-'70s in Ann Bortwiick's cover.  Without success, I've spent countless hours trying to learn more about the artist and the cover.

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  On the Road

Company: Island

Catalog: ISLA 2

Year: 1973

Country/State: US/UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3279

Price: $20.00

 

 

 

As mentioned above, there were actually two versions of the album.  The original US release was a four track, single LP collection.  Several years later the European version featuring six extended tracks was released  in the States as a double album set.  Whether you needed an extra side featuring  a 20 minute version of 'Glad/Freedom Rider' and Chris Wood's 'Tragic Magic' was a personal decision. 

 

For anyone interested, the extended, two album set featured the following track listing:

 

"On the Road" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Glad/Freedom Rider (instrumental)   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 20:35   rating: *** stars

I liked these two Traffic songs as much as fan, but I'd argue that unless you had an inexplicable desire to hear way too much Chris Woods sax (run through some sort of effects package to sound like a wah-wah guitar, listening to the extended versions of these tunes more than once in your lifetime was probably unnecessary.

 

(side 2)

1.) Tragic Magic (instrumental)   (Chris Wood) - 8:39   rating: ** stars

'A track off "Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory", 'Tragic Magic' was notable as the only Chris Wood solo composition to appear on a Traffic album.  It was also the second "bonus" track  to appear on the extended double LP.  Wood wrote it so it shouldn't come as a surprise to discover the focus was on his sax playing.  Mildly funky, if you really didn't need to sit through the full eight minutes to get the drift.

2.) (Sometimes I Feel) So Uninspired    (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 10:31   rating: *** stars

A pretty ballad that was simply blugeoned to death by the extended arrangement, '(Sometimes I Feel) So Uninspired' once again displayed Winwood's frequently overlooked talents on lead guitar - this may have been one of his prettiest and most impressive performances.  

 

(side 3)

2.) Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood)  - 6:47   rating: *** stars

Highlighted by an extended blazing Winwood lead guitar solo, 'Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory' at least found the band showcasing their rock credentials.  Thing is, it would have been better as a four minute excursion rather than a six and a half minute epic. 

2.) Light Up or Leave Me Alone   (Jim Capaldi) - 10:45   rating: **** stars

After three extended jazz-tinged numbers, Capaldi's rollicking 'Light Up or Leave Me Alone' came as a minor shock.  Yeah, his voice wasn't anywhere near as good as Winwood. but he brought a much needed sense of fun to the proceedings - the whole band seemed relieved to cut loose for a change - check out Winwood's stunning  playing on this one.  Again, it would have been even better if cut down to say five minutes (just deleting the extended band introductions would have helped), rather than ten minute plus version, but this was still the album highlight for me. 

 

(side 4)

1.) The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys   (Jim Capaldi - Stevie Winwood) - 17:47   rating: *** stars

I can't say that 'The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys' was ever a personal favorite and stretching it out to epic proportions didn't do much to change my opinion.  Each member was basically given a shot at the spotlight which meant you were forced to endure extensive jazzy sax soloing from Wood and way too much of Beckett and Winwood's quasi-jazzy keyboard meanderings.  That said, the band started to gell towards the end of the song (if anyone was still listening), and Winwood sounded fantastic on the song.

 

 

 

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