ILPS 9180 The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Produced by Steve Winwood
Released on November 1971
US CHART POSITION #7 . . . GOLD RECORD (2/7/72), PLATINUM (3/22/96)
Find it at GEMM
ILPS 9180 cover
[high resolution photo]
 

T he album cover notwithstanding, Traffic didn’t cut any corners on their followup to John Barleycorn. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys follows the same design: six tracks that wrap psychedelic/rock/folk sounds together into a rich musical landscape. The difference is a saturation in sound versus the dry Barleycorn, possible now that Traffic’s recent tour had left them swelled to a sextet. Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood are still responsible for the bulk of the music, including such classics as the title track and the similar-sounding “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone.” On the 12-minute title track especially, Traffic was mesmerizing. It’s hard to say why; the music isn’t any more complicated or catchy than Chicago, but it has an unspoken stillness that commands attention. (Astute listeners may find a parallel between this track and David Bowie’s “Sweet Thing.”) Also popular is the funked up “Rock & Roll Stew,” another psychedelic cut that’s aged remarkably well, this time written by new members Rick Grech and Jim Gordon. It’s an atypical track for Traffic, but a great way to shake off some of the dust. The remaining songs are uniformly excellent, belonging to the same school as Barleycorn’s other bits. The pronounced folkiness of “Rainmaker” suggests the rustic school of Tull, while the bittersweet “Hidden Treasure” and “Many A Mile To Freedom” serve the same purpose as a “Freedom Rider” or “Stranger To Himself.” While the arrangements are richer, don’t expect a linear increase in complexity over Barleycorn; as Canteen showed, more players doesn’t necessarily equal more music. The percussion of Reebop Kwaku Baah is an added dimension, but Grech and Gordon don’t anything that a Winwood or Capaldi couldn’t have multitracked. Still, this is the richer album, trippy and vibrant where Barleycorn had a pronounced, brittle folkiness. If their last studio album went down smooth, you’ll get an even bigger charge out of Low Spark.

ILPS 9180 back cover ILPS 9180 inner sleeve
ILPS 9180 back cover ILPS 9180 inner sleeve

TRACK LISTING

  1. HIDDEN TREASURE    4:16
  2. THE LOW SPARK OF HIGH-HEELED BOYS    12:10
  3. LIGHT UP OR LEAVE ME ALONE    (Jim Capaldi)    5:00
  4. ROCK & ROLL STEW    (Rick Grech/Jim Gordon)    4:29
  5. MANY A MILE TO FREEDOM    7:30
  6. RAINMAKER    7:39

    CD reissue bonus track
  7. ROCK & ROLL STEW PARTS 1 & 2 (SINGLE VERSION)    (Rick Grech/Jim Gordon)

    All songs written by Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi unless noted

CREDITS

JIM CAPALDI --
JIM GORDON --
RICK GRECH --
REEBOP KWAKU BAAH --
STEVE WINWOOD --
CHRIS WOOD --
Brian Humphries -- engineer
Tony Wright -- cover design
Richard Polak -- photography

return to TRAFFIC discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
UK/ISR November 1971 Island LP ILPS 9180  
US November 1971 Island LP SW 9306 diecut gatefold cover
AUS'L 1971 Island LP SIL 934 388  
BRA   Island LP 6047 224  
CAN 1971 Polydor LP 2334 026 diecut cover, inner sleeve
FRA 1971 Island LP 6396 010  
GER/SPA 1971 Island LP 85 807IT  
JPN 1972 Island LP AML1-1010  
ARG 1973 Island LP 5744  
US September 1986 Island LP/CS 90026  
US November 1987 Island CD 90026  
UK 1987 Island LP ILPM 9180  
US   Island LP ILPS 9180 diecut cover, inner sleeve
US December 1994 Mobile Fidelity LP/CD MFSL-1-209/UDCD-609 original master recording
US   Island LP/CD/CS 842 779  
JPN 2000 Island CDX UICY-9275 w. bonus track
US March 19, 2002 Island CDX 548 827 digital remaster w. bonus track

 

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