Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Artist: Traffic
Album: On the RoadLabel: IslandCatalog: SW 9336Year: 1973Designer: Ann BorthwickArtist: Ann Borthwick
Photographer: not applicable

I'm not entirely sure why, but Traffic's "On the Road" was one of the first album covers to make a major impact on me. It may have something to do with the fact I was 14 when the album was released and just beginning to grasp just how big and diverse the rock and roll universe was (a concept I'm still working on forty years later). It might also be due to the fact one of my older neighborhood friends had a copy of the album, so I was familiar with it.

The album itself isn't all that great - original a single live album set, then expanded to a double, set that takes some of Traffic's duller compositions and stretches them out to almost mind-numbing lengths. Does anyone really need a 15:10 version of 'The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys'?   How about a 10:45 versuib if Jim Capaldi's 'Light Up Or Leave Me Alone'?  I like the songs, but seriously, these live versions just went on and on and on ...   

As mentioned, the cover art has a distinctive '70s feel - very linear; all sharp angles and bright primary colors showing a collage of a seemingly empty and endless freeway.  Its easy to picture this adorning some Krautrock jazz-rock fusion album.

All of those criticisms aside,the album boasted Ann Borthwick's uber-'70s artwork. Nothing more than speculation on my part, but I'm guessing Borthwick's modernist images of a freeway were a nod to the fact the album had been recorded during a 1972 German tour.  Common sense tells you Stevie Winwood and company probably spent more than their share of time on a bus traveling the German autobahns, so the album image may have had some resonance with the band.

And what about artist Borthwick?  Well, in spite of having spent hours trying to find out something about the artist, but she remains a complete mystery to me.  I've checked Traffic related websites, art oriented websites, etc.  I literally have not been able to find a single reference to her.  Perhaps that wasn't her real name?  I'm sure someone out there as the story ...  drop me a line.



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