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Traffic - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys (1971)

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Vintage, Feb 9, 2010.

  1. Vintage

    Vintage Vintage Rocker

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    The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys
    Traffic


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    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 woolly 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. The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys will forever be the quintessential Traffic album.
     
  2. gabriel cash

    gabriel cash Senior Member

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    Re: Traffic ~ The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    mediocre album. far below john barleycorn must die. but the title track has a great jam that may have inspired war's "the world is a ghetto"
     
  3. joe

    joe Senior Member

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    Re: Traffic ~ The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    I have to disagree. I think it's the best Traffic Mk. II album. Thier s/t album is thier best IMO. It's too bad Dave Mason and Steve Winwood couldn't work with each other. Both talented musicians.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2011
  4. DaKillerWolf

    DaKillerWolf Cosmic Time Warp Warrior

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    Re: Traffic ~ The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    I love the album myself .Nice review
     
  5. gabriel cash

    gabriel cash Senior Member

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    Re: Traffic ~ The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    i find it dull. shootout at the fantasy factory is better IMO. tragic magic has energy, this album is lethargic. again except for the great title track. but yeah the 2nd s/t album is their best
     
  6. DaKillerWolf

    DaKillerWolf Cosmic Time Warp Warrior

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    Re: Traffic ~ The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

    In your opinion perhaps but I dare say your opinion is far off base on this :D
     
  7. recgord27

    recgord27 Walking down a dusty road

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    Loved Traffic back in the day and I still occasionally play this album. Disagree with the comment that it was dull. Maybe laid-back or ambient even, but not dull
     
  8. BikerDude

    BikerDude Dude

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    I don't think there is a traffic album that I don't love.
    This is great.
    I thought it was very interesting in the movie "Muscle Shoals" when they talked about recording Shootout at the Fantasy factory at that studio. Apparently Traffic was a band that came in with nothing planned at all. No songs nothing. They just twiddled and recorded everything and built from scratch. The southern guys weren't used to that but conceded that it worked. I thought it was interesting to hear about the process.
     
  9. Dave78

    Dave78 Dave's not here, man

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    I like Low Spark... a little bit more than John Barleycorn..., but both are excellent albums. The title track itself is a classic (well, to be fair... "Glad" is also a classic) but I think there is better musicianship overall throughout the songs on Low Spark. I don't know if Chris Wood has anything to do with that or not, but to me it feels like he does. Plus the album has a much brighter and slicker production value/quality than that of John Barleycorn... which, as Bill Murray would say, is nice. But... to each, his/her own.
     
  10. joker1961

    joker1961 Mad Frog

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    @Vader great come back lol.. @BikerDude firstly respect on your reply I agree with most of it but imho this is a great album worthy of "JBMD" totally is an awesome group!!!!:grinthumb
     

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