Awe­some mu­sic from the ar­chives – ‘When the Ea­gle Flies’ by Traf­fic

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS - Donal Di­neen

It’s easy see why Traf­fic’s eight and fi­nal al­bum had its de­trac­tors. The mood is re­lent­lessly down­beat. There are no at­tempts to con­trive the kind of joyous aban­don they had on pre­vi­ous out­ings. Signs that the fi­nal cur­tain was im­mi­nent are wo­ven into its fab­ric. Per­cus­sion­ist Re­bop Kwaku Baah was fired dur­ing record­ing. Sax­o­phon­ist Chris Wood was feel­ing the ef­fects of his on­go­ing bat­tles in the chem­i­cal war­zone and Ste­vie Win­wood was suf­fer­ing from re­cur­ring prob­lems from peri­toni­tis.

De­spite all this a strangely beau­ti­ful sound emerges. The band’s ten­dency to com­pose their songs on top of shuf­fling rhythms dec­o­rated with jazzy im­pro­vi­sa­tions was al­ways ev­i­dent but here it finds its true ex­pres­sion and it’s an oddly com­pelling de­light.

The warmth in new re­cruit Rosko Gee’s bass play­ing is an an­ti­dote to the in­escapable gloom of the re­cur­ring mi­nor keys. His slow burn­ing grooves and Jim Ca­paldi’s brushed drum beats are solid foun­da­tions. Win­wood em­bel­lishes the sad­ness with many dif­fer­ent kinds of blue. His in­ter­weav­ing key­board sounds are flush with in­no­va­tion. The com­bi­na­tion of moog and mel­lotron with new fan­gled syn­the­sizer washes are ex­am­ples of early light from the on­com­ing dawn of elec­tronic mu­sic.

And then there’s Dream Ger­rard. This epic cen­ter­piece is a free verse lyri­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion with Viv Stan­shall based on the 19th-cen­tury French poet Ger­ard de Ner­val’s spec­u­la­tions on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween dreams and re­al­ity. Win­wood’s soul-stir­ring voice is tran­scen­dent as the melody soars on waves of grace­ful in­stru­men­ta­tion. The reverie reaches a crescendo be­fore slowly dis­si­pat­ing into an ex­tended epi­logue of dis­tended strings and dark­ness.

Rarely do dreams so elo­quently die.

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