Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory

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After two exemplary releases, Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory marked a fall-off in quality for Traffic. The problems lay in both composition and performance. Beginning with the title track, based on a guitar riff reminiscent of the recent Deep Purple hit "Smoke on the Water," and continuing through the lengthy "Roll Right Stones," the folkish ballad "Evening Blue," reed player Chris Wood's instrumental "Tragic Magic," and the uncertain self-help song "(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired," the material was far from the group's best. Lyricist Jim Capaldi was co-credited with Steve Winwood as the album's producer, and he may have contributed to the cleaner mix that made his words easier to understand. Easier, that is, in the technical sense, since the musing about a sort of minor-league Stonehenge "Roll Right Stones" didn't do much with the image, and, though it struggled for a more positive outlook, "(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired" seemed to come out on the side of despair. Winwood's music seemed to recycle his own ideas when it didn't borrow from others. Meanwhile, the rhythm section had been replaced by Muscle Shoals studio aces David Hood and Roger Hawkins, who proved proficient but not as kinetic as their predecessors, so that the playing often seemed mechanical. Capaldi sang no songs here, and Wood's flute and saxophone, so often the flavoring of Traffic songs, were largely absent. What was left was a competent, if perfunctory effort in the band's familiar style. They had built up enough of a following through touring that the album was a commercial success, but it sounds like an imitation of earlier triumphs.

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