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Traffic - Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.80 | 167 ratings

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3 stars The undisputed core of Traffic was Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood but almost every album they put out had a different rhythm section. So, while the quality remained top notch, there was rarely any continuity of style from one to another. This LP, recorded in Jamaica, is no exception. Joining the band was bassist David Hood and drummer Roger Hawkins, both from the studios of Muscle Shoals, Alabama where Capaldi had recorded his solo album with their help. There's very little progressive folk on this one but that's not surprising since they had been gradually veering away from it for some time.

"Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory" is an upbeat rocker with percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah, Hood and Hawkins creating an excellent groove for the others to ride in. But, as on other Traffic efforts, Winwood plays a lot of electric guitar on this song and his ability on the instrument has never really impressed me much. His voice doesn't seem as powerful, either, and maybe that's because he was still recovering from a long, energy-sapping bout with peritonitis at the time. Wood's flute is in there somewhere but for some reason it's buried deep in the mix and the song comes off as being rather colorless to me. "Roll Right Stones" is next and the singer tells you that even though he's got the "space age before my eyes" and mankind's technological advances amaze him, the rocks that surrounded his ancient ancestors are still here with us today. (I didn't say it was profound, I'm just telling you what I heard.) It's a soulful tune with an intricate arrangement, mixing piano and organ effectively as Hood and Hawkins guide things smoothly and tightly underneath. You keep waiting for Chris to cut loose but every time he gets a shot at injecting some adrenaline with his saxophone he sounds tentative as if he's not ready to play (or something). At a whopping 13:40 in length it might have benefited from some judicious editing, but one of the enduring traits of this group has always been their tendency to stretch their songs with improvised jams and that's what happens here. Somewhere round about the halfway point they really find the song's pulse and Hawkins steps up, throwing in some exciting fills on his drums and showing that he was a worthy replacement for the exemplary Jim Gordon.

"Evening Blue" has a full acoustic guitar foundation and Steve's vocal is back to its usual charismatic proficiency, ruefully emoting the sad line "If I had a lover whose heart was true/I wouldn't be alone in this evening blue." Once again Wood has a chance to steal the show on his sax but he still sounds timid. Yet he shines brightly on his "Tragic Magic," a slow funk instrumental that really elevates the overall mood at this juncture. It starts by developing a cool, smoky atmosphere, then the music continually builds up till it reaches the hook featuring a sharp, clean horn section. It's a great track as Chris finally unleashes some playful, satisfying solos throughout the tune. "(Sometimes I feel so) Uninspired" is a bluesy, gospel-tinged song that I have always enjoyed. Here Winwood and Capaldi have written a tune that perfectly describes a feeling that affects all artists at one time or another in their lives. It's not depression, burnout or fatigue. It's not laziness, futility or frustration. It's exactly what they say it is. A disabling lack of inspiration. If there's a weakness in the delivery it lies in Steve's decision to play another guitar lead. I'm convinced that one of his stirring Hammond organ rides would have been a lot more emotional and memorable.

Kudos have to go out to Tony Wright for providing the terrific cover illustration. It's a classic. As for the album, it was very successful. It reached #6 on the charts but I don't think it's as good as "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys." Of course, that LP was bolstered mightily by the eternal bliss of its title tune while this one just didn't have a song that so completely characterized the album in the same way. But it still has the undeniable and unmistakable aura that only Traffic could create and for that reason alone it is still superior to the vast majority of albums released in 1973. 3.4 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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