Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Traffic: The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

Back to our Atypical Tuesday feature of unusual album packaging. Two weeks ago, I featured Grand Funk Railroad’s “E Pluribus Funk” that was shaped like a coin. Today, we travel back to 1971 when a six-sided die cut cover when combined with the album’s artwork gave the visual impression that the cover was actually a cube.

The band would repeat the effect with their next album, “Shoot out at the Fantasy Factory.”  Although the LP did not have a high charting single release, “Low Spark” did quite well charted at #7 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart.

Traffic’s sixth LP “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” is, in my opinion, one of their best albums. It features a reconstituted lineup of Traffic that was introduced on the preceding album, “Welcome to the Canteen.” It doesn’t feature Dave Mason, however, as he again left the band shortly after the previous tour and would never again return to the band.

By the recording of “Low Spark,” Traffic had grown from its core membership of Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood with the additions of bassists Ric Grech, drummer Jim Gordon, and percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baaha.

This allowed for a number of things to occur, but most importantly the band could replicate on stage much of what they recorded. It took Winwood off of the bass, as if he still didn’t have too much to do playing guitar and keys. Capaldi moved out from the drum kit to a more visual role with vocals and percussion. The Latin percussion of Rebop added a new flavor to a band with an already mature sound.

“The Low Spark of High Heeled” boys features Capaldi on lead vocals on two cuts: “Rock & Roll Stew” and today’s feature “Light Up and Leave Me Alone.” Capaldi was the sole author of this cut. Even though he is prominently featured as the lead vocalist, Winwood still contributes greatly to this song with what appears to be double tracked rhythm guitars, electric piano, a killer lead guitar, and perhaps more that I’m missing. He also is using a wah-wah pedal on one of the guitar tracks and on the electric piano. Good stuff from one of my all time favorite bands – Traffic.

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