[Review] Traffic: Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory (1973)

A hit-or-miss followup that lacks the creative spark of their last two records.

Kronomyth 7.0: Sometimes I feel so uninspired too.

Traffic followed a pair of brilliant records (John Barleycorn, Low Spark) with a paradox. Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory looked like its inspired predecessor down to its diecut corners, but this is a doppelganger: a pale image of what it purports to be. Tales From Topographic Oceans and A Day At The Races left me similarly nonplussed. The tantalizing artwork and proximity to the band’s creative peak bespoke great wonders, but countless forays into the black grooves only left me wondering what I was missing.

Now, I will tell you that dismissing these anomalies as artistic airballs is a mistake. The product of Fantasy Factory isn’t so far removed from what Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi have been peddling all along. If the songs here seem like three-note vamps extended beyond their logical limits, wasn’t that always the case? Remove the chorus from “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” and what’s left sounds a lot like “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired.” And don’t forget their 9-minute version of “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

The truth is that Fantasy Factory isn’t a complete failure any more than Topographic Oceans or Races. There are pleasant passages to be found here, from “Roll Right Stones” (my personal favorite on the album) to “Evening Blues” and even Chris Wood’s instrumental “Tragic Magic.” The title track is also interesting (although poorly mixed), featuring some of Winwood’s most aggressive guitar playing and a percussive performance from Rebop that is mesmerizing at times. Maybe the people at Mobile Fidelity knew something we didn’t, since I’ll bet this album sounds much better in a good mix with a nice pair of headphones.

Read more Traffic reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory (6:04)
A2. Roll Right Stones (13:40)
B1. Evening Blues (5:00)
B2. Tragic Magic (Chris Wood) (4:07)
B3. (Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired (10:01)

All songs written by Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi unless noted.

Original CD Version
1. Shoot Out At the Fantasy Factory (6:02)
2. Roll Right Stones (11:47)
3. Evening Blue (5:17)
4. Tragic Magic (6:41)
5. (Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired (7:24)

The Players

Rebop Kwaku Baah (percussion), Jim Capaldi (percussion, backing vocals on A2), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), Steve Winwood (lead and backing vocals, guitar, piano, organ), Chris Wood (saxophone, flute) with Barry Beckett (keyboards on B2), Jimmy Johnson (clarinet on B2). Produced by Steve Winwood; engineered by Jerry Masters & Steve Melton.

The Pictures

Cover illustration by Tony Wright. Photography by Tommy Wright.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in January 1973* in the UK (Island, ILPS-9224), US (Island SW/8XW-9323), Argentina (Island, 5787), Australia (Island, SIL-934841), France (Island, 9336 024), Germany (Island, 86640-IT) and Japan (Island, ILS-80202); reached #6 on the US charts (RIAA certified gold album). Original elpee featured die-cut cover. (*First appears in 1/27/73 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on cassette in the US (Island, M5 9224).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Island, 20S-98).
  3. Re-issue don elpee in the 1980s in the UK (Island, ILPS-9224 on blue label).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1987 in the UK (Island, ILPM-9224).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1988 in the US (Island, 90027).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Island, 842 781).
  7. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1996 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD-669).
  8. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2007 in Japan (Universal, UICY-9276).
  9. Re-released on super high material compact disc in 2008 in Japan (Universal, UICY-93647).

Arcana

  • Some versions credit Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi as the producers.
  • After the album’s initial release, Steve Winwood submitted edited versions of “Roll Right Stones” and “Uninspired” to the label, and these versions were used for subsequent releases.

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