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Traffic - Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory CD (album) cover

SHOOT OUT AT THE FANTASY FACTORY

Traffic

 

Eclectic Prog

3.78 | 106 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars When I discovered Traffic back in the mid-seventies (thanks to FM radio) I, like many young American Midwesterners, learned of the band through their radio hit "The Low Spark of the High-Heeled Boys" which was still getting pretty regular airplay in 1975 or so. Truth be told I thought they were Derek and the Dominoes at first, but eventually that was sorted out and I checked out a couple of their other albums including this one because it was pretty easy to find at a time when imports were pricey and usually had to be special-ordered (this one was released in the U.S. even before it became available in the UK to my knowledge).

Well I didn't understand then, and I don't understand now, why this became the band's most popular record in the U.S. Other than "Tragic Magic" there is very little of the jazzy folk sound that made the band's first few records so appealing and even the better traits of the group (Winwood's vocals and guitar, Wood's blowing and Rebop Kwaku Baah's percuission) seem to have been reduced to smooth studio sheen and tastefully yet somewhat boringly spread thin across the other four tracks.

The only song worth special attention other than "Tragic Magic" is "(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired", whose middle section of piano, sax and hand percussion actually does sound a tad bit inspired despite the title. Winwood's vocals are too polished at this point to remain appealing to progressive music fans, but the song as a whole is worth the seven minutes or so of your life you'll invest listening to it.

As for the rest of the songs, the title track starts off well enough but the weird tempo shifts are clunky and come off a bit cheesy and inauthentic for my tastes. And "Roll Right Stones" takes a great guitar riff and vocal passage too far for too long to keep the attention of most listeners. I suspect this one was extended to give some length to the album and to avoid having to include filler tracks, but in the end it turns out to sound like one anyway.

But "Tragic Magic", the only Chris Wood-penned tune on the album, saves this record from being a total loss. The band enlisted the famed Alabaman Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section to provide a backdrop, with Jimmy Johnson's clarinet supplanting Wood's saxophone for the lead wind piece and providing a stellar accent to some exceptional piano from Winwood. The tempo shift to a controlled-jam boogie midway is more southern U.S. R&B than anything Traffic ever did before or after, and the net result is a tight rhythm and blues instrumental with just enough of a jazzy intonation to set it apart from the rest of the album and most anything else on the radio at the time except maybe some of Bob Seger's early stuff. A great song, if not exactly prototypical Traffic.

The shift in sound on this album began with the closing number on 'Low Spark' and continued to the group's final studio album 'When the Eagle Flies' a year later. The band undoubtedly also benefited by recording in Jamaica, as the percussion mixes are all quite good and clearly enunciated, especially on the last two songs. For fans of the band's early music this may be too much of a stretch for them to be comfortable with, but for those of us who discovered Traffic after they were disbanded and gone this one is a very decent album that is attached to fond memories. In the end though it can't be saved by one great and one or two decent tracks, so two stars out of five are really what it should be rated at. Mildly recommended if you are a fan of the band and if you haven't heard it yet, but not worth going too far out of your way to find.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |

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