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Traffic - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.06 | 313 ratings

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3 stars This and quite possibly the following album are the only reason Traffic's even featured on PA, I surmise. However, if you actually purchase "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" in hopes of hearing the former folk and psychedelic pop band suddenly hit up some prog influences you will be sorely disappointed. The only element of prog that they managed to snatch from the likes of Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, ELP etc. etc. etc. is the elongated song lengths and that was clearly a deadly mistake.

The sad truth is NONE of these songs are multi-part, or demonstrative of powerful instrument prowess, two factors that make prog such a lovable, interesting, and gripping genre for me. More or less, every song on here is either a simple ballad or rocker that is unhealthily fattened up by some of the most mind numbingly dull guitar or organ jams that I can even imagine. Steve Winwood proves to be a very undynamic and rambly soloist when handed the task of filling up space because the band can't give a damn and just write more songs.

Weird enough, I like all of the actual "song" parts on this album. It's a shame that the band didn't simply write more cute little three minutes songs because I like what I hear when it comes to the melodies. In fact, the shorties ("Hidden Treasure", "Rock and Roll Stew", and "Light up or Leave Me Alone") on here are all nice. "Hidden Treasure" contrary to what I said above, features a great Jethro Tull influence (Hey, any song with half-folkie, half-classically influenced flute playing cannot help but be compared to Tull in my mind) and makes for an excellent mystical folk ballad. "Rock & Roll Stew", a rocker that draws from some funk influences appeals to me with an engaging, slightly jagged chorus. And my personal fave "Light Up or Leave Me Alone" is another enticing rocker with an almost Cream stylization, a hard rocking riff and get this, it also has actually written instrumental sections that are quite entertaining and engaging. WTF?! On a Traffic record no less! I'm impressed! (I'm kidding, Traffic fanboys.)

As for the longies, they also have their moments but their 7 minute running times are completely superfluous and devoid of reason. The title track manages to putter and jerk around for 11 minute and speaking of the aforementioned "High Heeled Boys", the melody actually sounds like it could have written by the king of queens, Elton John. Oh and that isn't a bad thing either, in his prime Mr. Dwight was eons better at writing prog epics then Traffic themselves. Winwood could never hope to write "Funeral for a Friend", nuff said. The last two epics would and could have also been perfectly enjoyable endeavors if stripped of the padded jamming that nearly engulfs them. "Many a Mile to Freedom" has a catchy and quite in the "classic rock" vein electric piano riff along with some soulful Winwood vocals that warmly croon out a cozy melody. "Rainmaker" is a welcomed return to the Tull stylistics of "Hidden Treasure" and Chris Wood adds some ethereal flute lines that are quite 'rainy' indeed.

Bleh, never have such good melodies been so marred by such lousy boredom. When Winwood mutters "a few more miles to freedom", I can't help but agree. The current popularity of prog in 1971 was not a good influence for these guys because it really clouded their judgment on what is exceptable and what is just flat-out boring. And on their next album, they totally threw out short songs in favor for even longer jams...oh goodness. I'd rather be stuck on one of those rush hour bottleneck traffic jam on a freeway in Washington D.C than listen to Traffic jam. Despite some good points on here, don't expect me to pick "Fantasy Factory" up anytime soon. Ugh.

Album Grade: C+

LionRocker | 3/5 |


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