TRAFFIC — The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (review)

TRAFFIC — The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys album cover Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
aglasshouse
Traffic's 1971 release of the oddly named The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys gives off an air of great stylistic qualities, and has deservingly been noted as the band's greatest achievement. Unlike Gentle Giant, another well known band of the eclectic progressive genre, Traffic's music tends to slow-dance over the line of folk rock, jazz, and of course eclectic rock. ,Low Spark b has many odd structures, which become very prominent as the album progresses. I found myself loving the album despite its thorough lack of tracks. Medieval sounding bard music slips in (much like Gentle Giant did) quite often. In the opening track 'Hidden Treasure', with soothing sounds that bring you sights of far off places and a subtle air of adventure. Although I found the track to be the only one I can't particularly listen to over again, mostly due to being so bland in light of the rest of its brethren. However, the track's slow tell-tale lyrics and minor progression is simply a lead into the eleven minute eponymous piece that is described as the center of the entire album. 'The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys' is a track that seems much shorter than it actually is, mostly due to it's enjoyable yet sometimes repetitive nature. But smooth jazz it is so I won't delve too deep into it.

One small, mostly unnoticeable problem I had with Low Spark was the seemingly indecisive way Traffic chose the structure of the tracks. With every song there is a different listen, aside from a small similarity between the title track's climax and the straight up rocker of 'Rock & Roll Stew', but even then the latter being much more aggressive takes away any prior similarities that you'd hear while scrolling through the tracks. In my opinion, a variegated line up of tracks qualifies as an album that never gives you a dull moment.

On the point of the rockier tracks, the most distinguished being 'Rock & Roll Stew' and 'Light Up Or Leave Me Alone'. Having never been a fan of soft rock pretending to be greater than it is, the former of the two I've found to enjoy much more often. 'Light Up', especially during the later parts however does bring to the table alot of Who-like rocking, but because of this seems like a song stuck in the 60's. Enjoyable, yes of course, but not something I come back to very often. 'Rock & Roll Stew', living up to it's name, brings a great deal of mixed rock soup including some excellent funk. Combine that with the great vocals from Winwood and you have quite the delicious stew!

The slower tracks that the album retains are 'Many a Mile to Freedom' and 'Rainmaker'. The former sort of takes elements from the rest of the album, combining 'Hidden Treasure'-like softness and the subtle yet quietened rocking of 'Rock & Roll Stew'. This makes up for quite an adventure, especially one that I can sit through for seven and a half minutes and not complain about. 'Rainmaker' is perhaps my favorite song off of the album, being the one that first appealed to me while scrolling through the tracks. It bears a haunting melody and lyrics of a farmer reminiscing of his crops' unfortunate fate from drought. The theme of the song most likely derives to the tale of John Barleycorn told in the prior album, but I feel like this song takes the cake for most complex and best-sounding.

In an overall sense, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys is an album that goes very under appreciated in the world of the general music population, and unjustly so. If you haven't thoroughly heard or never heard this album at all, then I think you should find the vinyl and give it a spin. It is quite enjoyable. 4/5 rounded to 5.
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