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Traffic - On The Road CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.10 | 91 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Traffic jam (Note to self: must try harder!)

Just two years after "Welcome to the canteen", Traffic released "On the road", another live album. The time gap between the albums may be relatively short, but in the interim the band had released two studio albums which represented a major shift in their direction. Both "The low spark of high healed boys" and the then current album "Shootout at the fantasy factory" saw the band moving away from their pop and folk influences, while leaning much more towards jazz and fusion.

While those jazz/fusion influences were kept in check on the studio albums, here they are allowed to come to the fore, stifling all else. My heading above may seem somewhat corny (OK it is corny), but it describes what we have here perfectly. Many therefore feel that this album was disappointing, and failed to represent the band well enough. I tend to go along with that opinion. I cannot help but be reminded when listening to "On the road" of the hope you like our new direction part of the film "This is Spinal Tap". Here though, there is really no excuse, as the line up is still focused on the Winwood/Wood/Capaldi trio. The rest of the seven man stage show is essentially that which recorded "Shootout at the Fantasy factory".

On paper, the track listing is promising, including as it does "The low spark of high healed boys", "Freedom rider", etc. The versions here are however significantly extended and rather unstructured, with lengthy improvisations. The opening medley of "Glad" and "Freedom rider" (these two tracks ran together on the "John Barleycorn" album, and were always performed live as a single piece) for example becomes a 21 minute monster, while the title track from "Low spark of high healed boys" runs to some 18 minutes.

Normally, such extensions are to be applauded, but here the objective appears to be to drag the songs out without any real imagination. Chris Wood tends to dominate things far more on this album than he does on any other. While he was undoubtedly a talented musician, his relaxed jazz style simply serves to render lacklustre, songs which we have grown to love in their original form. His directionless noodling on "Low spark. . ." for example completely destroys the song for me.

The three tracks at the core of the album, do actually have more of a rock orientation. Ironically, it is "(Sometimes I feel so) Uninspired" which is the most inspired performance here. In this case, the band actually make good use of the 10 minutes afforded to the song to develop it into a fine guitar driven rock number. The title track from "Shootout at the fantasy factory" is also relatively lacking in indulgence, but Capaldi's "Light up or leave me alone" becomes a real trudge, the band introductions simply prolonging the suffering.

In all, not Traffic's finest hour by any means. If you are new to the band, please do not judge them by this decidedly sub-par offering, they have created much better than this.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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