It’s another early rise and shine for a fast paced bike ride tomorrow morning so after cutting the lawn this evening, I’m onto making dinner before hitting the sack nice and early. Am I living the life or what? Anyway, while prepping our tomato and cucumber salad (and sipping at a Brimstone Brewing ‘Sinister Minister IPA‘), HRH and I are listening to one last record, ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys‘ album by Traffic.
This was another album recently gifted to us by Uncle Lance which is awesome, because this is certainly the album by the band that I still needed for my collection.
Uncle Lance is good that way.
Before I really got into Traffic, I remember once spending a hot and sweaty evening chipping paint in a friends kitchen while I was apartment sitting and the near 12 minute long title track of this album came on the radio. It was awesome. I loved it. And as a result, I began to delve more seriously into discovering other music and albums by the band. Now, I have a good majority of them in my collection and, yes, I completely dig them all.
Released in 1971, and as with other Traffic albums, ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ featured different forms and offshoots of rock including jazz rock, progressive rock, as well as good ‘ol rock and roll.
Let it never be said that l’il Stevie Winwood and co. are not diverse.
This album marked the commercial and artistic apex of the second coming of the band, which had commenced in 1970 with ‘John Barleycorn Must Die‘. The trio that made the album had been augmented by three others (Ric Grech, Jim Gordon, and “Reebop” Kwaku Baah) in the interim, though apparently these session featured varying combinations of these musicians, plus some guests. But where their previous albums had grown out of sessions for a Stevie Winwood solo album and retained that focus, ‘Low Spark‘ pointedly contained changes of pace from his unusual contributions of midtempo, introspective jam tunes.
‘Rock & Roll Stew‘ was an uptempo treatise on life on the road, while Jim Capaldi’s ‘Light Up Or Leave Me Alone‘ was another more aggressive number with an unusually emphatic Capaldi volcal that perked things up on Side Two. The other four tracks were Winwood/Capaldi compositions more in the band’s familiar style. ‘Hidden Treasure‘ and ‘Rainmaker‘ bookended the disc with acoustic treatments of nature themes that were particularly concerned with water, and ‘Many a Mile to Freedom‘ also employed water imagery. But the standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business.
The band had only just fulfilled a contractual commitment by releasing the live album ‘Welcome to the Canteen‘ (also on my “To Get” list before I’m 100% satisfied with my Traffic catalog), and they had in their past the embarrassing ‘Last Exit‘ album thrown together as a commercial stopgap during a temporary breakup in 1969. But that anger had proven inspirational, and ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys‘ was one of Traffic’s greatest songs as well as its longest so far. The result was an album that quickly went gold (and eventually platinum) in the U.S., where the group toured frequently.
Oh, and I would remiss to not mention something about the Simply the Tits cover for this album either because, c’mon, that shit is trippy, right?
And I don’t mean for Stevie’s heat-packin’, skin tight pink jeans on the back cover either.