Talk From The Rock Room: Put the Boot In: Traffic – Live in Fort Worth 1974 - 'Done With Reality'

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Put the Boot In: Traffic – Live in Fort Worth 1974 - 'Done With Reality'

Spinning today in the ‘rock room’ is a newly circulating (I believe) audience recording from the final ‘Traffic’ tour in 1974. This recording hails from the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texasand is a brisk and groovy listen with all instruments balanced and up front.  This recording comes from a first generation reel with perfect ambiance and sonic’s. It is the ‘rock room’s’ humble opinion that this October 12th, 1974 recording could pass for a professional recording with the exception of some audience chatter. Within two weeks of this particular ‘Traffic’ tour the band would conclude and ‘Traffic’ would be no more. The concert is a well-developed cross-section of the group’s career with a number of new songs intermingled with fan favorites. This is another ‘stripped down’ version of the band reflecting their 1970 performances with the normal triplicate of Winwood, Capaldi and Wood joined by Rosco Gee on bass guitar. Light as a seed travelling on the breeze, the band navigates the concert deftly and leaves behind memories of an amazing band.

The 1974 tour is an odd duck. While there are a number of ‘Traffic’ recordings for the collector to enjoy. Most available tapes are BBC recordings or field tapes from their early days. In recent times, tapes recorded by enterprising audience members have started to seep through the cracks. Tapes from London and Manchester from the Spring, Reading in the Summer and this one from the Fall show a band who has reinvented themselves regardless of how close to the end. With the release of When the Eagle Flies, ‘Traffic’ stripped away the band additions of Roger Hawkins and David Hood on drums and bass respectively who had toured with the band throughout 1972-1973 and returned to the powerful triad of Winwood, Capaldi and Wood, but with Rosco Gee on bass to allow for easier instrument swapping between Wood and Winwood. This is a tight, light band ready to play and the ‘rock room’ is thankful for a first generation audience tape like the one we are going to review.

Like can be deduced from an excitable female fan caught on the circulating tape, ‘let’s get down!’ The band responds in kind and begins the show with a slick extended instrumental jam. The concert begins with this lead in instrumental that lets the players warm up and slides into a sleek groove with Winwood taking a crispy guitar solo spot. Wood takes up residence at the piano stool, with Capaldi and Gee making up the rhythm section respectively. Once a danceable foundation has been set, Wood moves to sax and Winwood to Rhodes as the band develops a super funky syncopated lead in into the opening ‘Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory’.  Note: There is a small cut on the tape in this spot.

‘Shootout’ features a dual keyboard attack with Wood lending a quivering Moog drone and Winwood a spongy Fender Rhodes dressing. Capaldi is endlessly creative on the kit with a number of rhythmic shifts, while Wood moves to flute for the outro jam. A wonderfully extended and unique opening track that sets the standard high for the rest of the evening.

An introduction of Rosco Gee prefaces a high tempo version of ‘Empty Pages’. Winwood sings a siren song and is in stunning voice. There is another dual keyboard attack in the arrangement here. I can hear some amplifier issues during the song but it seems that by the conclusion the crew gets them sussed out. Winwood’s first solo spot with the Rhodes is an ornate scrawl across the blank background of the songs arrangement.  Top notch stuff.

‘Empty Pages’ segues into the spectral pulse of ‘Graveyard People’ from the just released When the Eagle Flies record. ‘Graveyard People’ lyrically is a complex dissertation of the psychology of those folks who cannot see past the end of their own nose. A slippery sax solo by Chris Wood closes the gate and leaves a misty beam of moonlight on a unique song pairing and wonderfully played duo from the early and late era of ‘Traffic’. A 'rock room' must hear.

Following an impressive introductory series of jammed out cuts, the crowd responds to a down and dirty reading of ‘Pearly Queen’ hailing from ‘Traffic’s’ 1968 self-titled second LP.  One of the most delectable guitar licks in rock history is played here by Winwood and propelled by a classic groove. The song builds to a peak that the band collaboratively holds up and inspects under the stage lights for all in attendance to see. An underrated player of six strings, Winwood shreds this one to strips.

Capaldi, speaks from the stage and asks the crowd to sing along and if they don’t, they’ll get a ‘kick in the ass’. ‘Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring’, follows,  a long time opener for the band is played here in a grooving reading,  the pendulum swinging between rock and roll. Winwood hits the note vocally, while Wood honks and squawks his way on some blurry horn. I can feel the momentum swing on the first generation tape, as the crowd swings with the intensity of the band. 

Another new for the time song follows with ‘Walking in the Wind’ which elicits a walk along an unnamed ridge in the highlands. This song was released as a single at the time. The crowd responds with hoots and hollers as Capaldi locks down a rubber band snap of a rhythm with brisk accents. Winwood plays acoustic piano over Gee's skipping bass line. Cool, calm and collected the groove blows my hair back in a room with no open windows. As the title implies the arrangement is spacious and the recording breathes with the music. One of the 'rock room's favorites in the 'Traffic' discography.

A short acoustic based interlude follows with the sought after ‘John Barleycorn’ played from a special place where one finds the angel’s share. The crowd is silent and each instrument is discernable on the field recording. Capaldi invests himself in the hand percussion as well as the harmonized vocals during the song’s final verses.  Wood steps up to take a few perfect flute recitations that leave the crowd in a boozy stupor with their respective ‘nut brown bowls’ and brandy.

’40,000 Headmen’, gets a hearty approval from the crowd as it too is played with a woody sensibility. Introduced by Capaldi who returns to drums, he remarks to the crowd, ‘You just gotta stand up and keep going no matter the odds’. ’40,000’ drifts beautifully with Chris Wood’s flute spot eliciting screams from the crowd.  Winwood free forms vocally while Capaldi and Wood deftly answer each other’s parts, before taking his own turn in having a conversation with Wood.

Following a bit of chill, a series of four songs from the current, When the Eagle Flies album are played for the final stretch of the concert. All but the song ‘Memories of a Rock n Rolla’ from the new album would be played on this evening. Beginning the run with ‘Love’, the band exposes the crowd to their current direction and new songwriting experiments. 'Something New’, which was the albums’ opener comes next and is a joyous celebration of the conclusion of a relationship. Catchy enough to be placed as the LP’s opener, here the song feels like it’s been a part of the catalog forever. Classic cut.

The sparse arrangement and ecologically relevant lyrics of ‘When the Eagle Flies’, the title track of the last ‘Traffic’ album speaks of a day of reckoning and judgement when an eagle flies and clears the earth for its next life or phase. The performance features Winwood with accompaniment on bass by Gee. A message not so passé’ and ‘hippy’ anymore and packaged here in an intimate stony soul arrangement.

In the ‘rock room’s opinion one of the finest late era ‘Traffic’ songs, cut from the same detailed cloth as ‘Low Spark’, is ‘Dream Gerrard’. On this final ‘Traffic’ tour the song stretched out to lengths reaching twenty minutes. This version is around twelve minutes. Based around Chris Wood’s oblique central mantra, Winwood on piano and Wood on sax navigate distorted faces, strange mists and a disorienting groove. Around eight minutes in Gee takes a bass solo with rhythmic accompaniment by Capaldi. Gee brushes by the circular melody while taking off on varying melodic paths. The band repeats the central riff and returns to the song proper bringing the song and set to a conclusion.

The tape captures the arena imploring the band to return to the stage for more. The band responds in kind for a double encore of two ‘Traffic’ classics. The first, ‘Heaven Is in Your Mind’ hails from ‘Traffic’s debut LP, Mr. Fantasy, a hallucinatory tale and groovy sound. Wood takes a lascivious horn break and the end of the track and the band conjures the best part of the trip.  Finishing off the evening is a slow and steady ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ that travels the side streets and familiar avenues for a crushing reading to end the night.

The first break finds Winwood torching his Moog for a series of sonic solar flashes that aggressively enter the ear. Wood saunters over to what sounds like the Rhodes to support Stevie’s soloing. The band find finds their way back to the song’s warm palpitation for verse two. Following the verse, Capaldi picks up the tempo for a warm syrupy jam with syncopated Winwood Rhodes and the moan of Wood’s alien saxophone. Again, in what has been a theme for the concert Stevie and Chris are listening intently to one another. Winwood, returns to sing the final verse and with that the concert has reached its conclusion. The crowd roars and after thanking the assembled, Capaldi (I think) says, ‘We sincerely hope Muhammed Ali beats George Forman on the 29th’.

Like previously stated, ‘Traffic’s’ 1974 tour is a worthy chapter of their varied and important and musical career form 1967-1974. In spite of lineup changes and usual politics, the core of Capaldi, Winwood and Wood never wavered in their vision nor their love to create new music. While the band dissipated the connection between the players lasted a lifetime. The concert recorded in Fort Worth, Texas on October 12, 1974 is right where the traffic started to back up, but until the end of the road every night was a chance to renew their connections and play the music they created together.



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