Traffic: When The Eagle Flies (1974)

Kronomyth 9.0: …THE TURKEY TROTS. This is the end of Traffic but you’ll get no tears from me. The band had been in a slow state of decline ever since Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory, and Jim Capaldi had been hedging his bets against the imminent and inevitable ennui that eventually overtakes all Steve Winwood enterprises with solo albums that are at least as interesting as this. Winwood had already given his pro tempore rhythm section the cold shoalder, hired Jamaican bassist Rosko Gee, fired Ghanaian percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah and sought a new songwriting partner in Viv Stanshall. The writing was on the wall, and When The Eagle Flies is that writing set to music. Some critics have heard in this album a return to form, others a retreat into formlessness, and I would tell you that any distinction between this and Shoot Out is splitting hairs. Both are pretty good albums from a band that has released some great ones; neither adds one iota to what was accomplished on John Barleycorn and Low Spark. The opening “Something New” and “Walking In The Wind” are succinct songs, yes, but no moreso than “Empty Pages” or “Light Up And Leave Me Alone” and not nearly as memorable. For fans of the band’s extended works, there is also a collaboration with Bonzo Dog Band’s Stanshall inspired by 19th century French poetry, “Dream Gerrard.” But the album dissipates at the end as if the band were literally fading away in its waning minutes. In remastered form and with repeated listenings, When The Eagle Flies isn’t a bad ride at all. There is some experimentation with synthesizers to commend it and exceptional playing from all (Jim Capaldi in particular impresses). What it doesn’t do is soar, and that makes it a disappointing swan song in my eyes.

The Songs
A1. Something New (3:15)
A2. Dream Gerrard (Steve Winwood/Viv Stanshall) (11:03)
A3. Graveyard People (6:05)
B1. Walking In The Wind (6:48)
B2. Memories of A Rock N’ Rolla (4:50)
B3. Love (3:20)
B4. When The Eagle Flies (4:24)

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

The Players
Jim Capaldi (drums, percussion, harmony vocals on track 5), Rosko Gee (bass), Steve Winwood (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Chris Wood (flute, saxophone) with Rebop Kwaku Baah (percussion on tracks 3 & 7). Produced by Chris Blackwell and Traffic; engineered by Brian Humphries and Nobby.

Did You Know?

  • According to a 1992 interview, Viv Stanshall wrote “Dream Gerrard” after reading the 19th century poet Gérard de Nerval (Gérard Labrunie). And, no, I have no idea where the second R came from.
  • The Chris Wood instrumental, “Moonchild Vulcan,” was recorded for this album but didn’t make the final cut. It later appeared as the first track and titular inspiration for a posthumous compilation of material released in 2008, Vulcan, that Wood had been working on at the time of his death in 1983.
  • Rebop was fired during the album sessions for his erratic stage behavior, which included falling asleep on stage and insisting on singing. He appears on two tracks on WTEF as well as the aforementioned Chris Wood recording.

The Plastic
Released on elpee and 8-track on September 1974 in the UK (Island, ILPS-9273), US (Island, 7E-1020), Australia and New Zealand (Island, L-35307), Brazil (Phonogram, 410044), Canada (Asylum, 7ES-1020), Germany (Island, 88334XOT), Italy (Island, ILPS-19273), Japan (Island, ILS-80059), Mexico (Island, LA-016) and the Netherlands (Island, 88334 IT); reached #31 on the UK charts and # 9 on the US charts (RIAA certified gold record on November 5, 1974). Original elpee featured lyrics innersleeve. Sleeve design by Martin Hughes. Re-released on elpee in 1977 in Argentina (Island, 5116) with lyrics innersleeve. Re-released on CD in the UK (Island, IMCD-142), in 1988 in Germany (Polygram International, 846 154) and in Russia (Kankard, TRCD-009). Re-released on digitally remastered CD in 200 in Japan (Island, UICY-9278 limited edition to 5,000 copies) and on May 20, 2003 in the US (Island, 548 826).

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