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

THE LOW SPARK OF HIGH HEELED BOYS

Traffic

 

Eclectic Prog

4.06 | 313 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys is a very good album and the equal to its predecessor, John Barleycorn Must Die. In fact, I'd say it's nearly John Barleycorn Must Die II.

The first incarnation of Traffic had two viable lead vocalists, guitarist Dave Mason and keyboardist Steve Winwood. But when the group reformed for John Barleycorn, it was comprised only of Winwood (who also played guitar and bass), multi-instrumentalist Chris Wood, and drummer Jim Capaldi. Confusingly, when the band doubled in size for The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, two of the new members, Jim Gordon and Rebop Kwaku Baah, were drummers/percussionists. Rounding out the six-piece was bassist Ric Grech. So Traffic had three members dedicated to percussion, but no full-time guitarist.

Of the six compositions here, the four strongest are the Winwood-Capaldi compositions, all of which are sung by Winwood. Whereas Winwood did most of the singing on John Barleycorn, Capaldi sings lead on two songs here, "Rock & Roll Stew," written by Grech and Gordon, and "Light Up or Leave Me Alone," written by Capaldi himself. Both sound a bit out of place, but not because of Capaldi's vocals. "Rock & Roll Stew" is a good album-oriented rock song, reminding me a little of the Hollies, while "Light Up" sounds like the Doors, post-Morrison. Other than those two, the closest Traffic comes to a rocker here is the title song, featuring some surprisingly good lead guitar work by Winwood.

Despite the band's psychedelic proto-prog beginnings and its frequent jazziness, the fairest classification of Traffic as a prog-rock act "progressive folk." Indeed, half of The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys is comprised of three excellent folk-rock songs, "Hidden Treasure," "Many a Mile to Freedom," and "Rainmaker." Each is pastoral but not sing-song, and each balances the group's guitar-rock orientation with colorful chords and the judicious use of Wood's flute and Baah's congas.

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys represents Traffic at their best, so I'd recommend it to anyone whose interest in the band has been piqued by having heard a song or two of theirs on the radio. Fans of prog-folk will also probably find plenty to enjoy here.

patrickq | 4/5 |

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