Traffic’s classic 1971 album The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys has been released in a new Dolby Atmos edition. It’s the first album by the groundbreaking band to be available in this form, in a mix created by Richard Whittaker with Steve Winwood and James Towler, supported by the estates of Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood.
The new mix was released last Friday (25), one day shy of the 51st anniversary of the LP’s first appearance. The spatial-audio soundscape can be enjoyed immersively with a Dolby ATMOS speaker system or by using regular headphones. Whittaker posted: “It was an honour to mix one of my all time favourite albums in Dolby Atmos/Spatial Audio. Forensically mixed from the original analogue multi-tracks all the way up to this incredible and faithful immersive experience.”
The album, Traffic’s fifth studio set, has sold more than a million copies worldwide in its lifetime and retains its reputation as a landmark of genre-crossing, experimental progressive music. It reached No.7 in the US, where it went gold in 1972, with platinum certification following in 1996. The memorable cover art, by Tony Wright, is in the Permanent Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Billboard’s review of the LP on its 1971 release declared: “This is Traffic’s first album for Island Records” – they had appeared on the label in the UK since their 1967 debut, but not in the US – “and also their first album of all new material in nearly two years. Although their line-up is ever changing the basic nucleus of Winwood, Capaldi and Wood remains the same and provides the group with its unity. This is probably their best LP to date in its fluidness and subtlety.”
Low Spark… featured an expanded version of Traffic including drummer Rebop Kwaku Baah, Jim Gordon on drums, and Ric Grech on bass, alongside the core group of Winwood, Capaldi, and Wood. Capaldi, for the first time, sang lead vocals on two songs, “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” and “Rock & Roll Stew.”
“Jim wanted to sing,” Winwood said, as quoted in a Trouser Press article in 1981. “He was writing more complete songs and I think he felt he couldn’t play drums and sing as well as he wanted. So we got Jim Gordon in to play drums. We went into the studio fairly soon after adding Grech, Gordon, and Reebop.
“We stuck to our principle of drawing on a cross-section of different kinds of music, but by then it seemed the longer you work at collaborating on writing, the harder it is to do. You have to compromise and let people do their own thing, so the teamwork mainly came in arranging. The additional three people had quite a good effect on that.”
Stream The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys in Dolby Atmos.