John Barleycorn Must Die - Island 1970

Tracks: Tracks: 1. Glad / 2. Freedom Rider / 3. Empty Pages / 4. Stranger to Himself / 5. John Barleycorn / 6. Every Motherīs Son / 7. I Just Want to Know / 8. Sitting Here Thinking of My Love / 9. Backstage and Introduction / 10. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring / 11. Glad


"John Barleycorn" was Traffic's first album after Stevie Winwood's time with Blind Faith. The album is far more jazz-oriented than their previous albums, though songs like "Medicated Goo" ( from "Last Exit" ) had indicated which direction their music might take.

Originally Stevie had intended a solo album, but his old Traffic friends Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood soon came by, and Traffic was practically re-formed. Guitarist Dave Mason never rejoined the band, but made a short re-visit for the "Welcome to the Canteen" album.

The title track, which got some radio-play here in Denmark at the time of the album's original release, was the song that made me buy the album back in 1970. This is an old traditional folk-song, beautifully arranged by Stevie. The early 1970's was the time when folk-rock was at its highest.

The opening instrumental "Glad" is almost pure jazz, and though I'm not by far a fan of the that particular music-style, there is an optimism in the track that (at times) hits even me.

"Freedom Rider" and "Stranger to Himself" are the closest Traffic gets to their old sound; both outstanding songs.

Another favourite is "Empty Pages". The slow but majestic "Every Mother's Son" closed the original album. So apart from "Glad", I find all songs here among Traffic's greatest, and the album as a whole is a clear five star album.

The bonus-tracks are interesting; but I think it's a shame to put the unfinished demo "I Just Want You to Know" in the listing as track 4. The song might have developed into a great song, but at this stage (with no finished lyrics ) it is, at best, interesting. The other outtake "Sitting Here Thinking of My Love" is much better and sounds more finished.

The three final tracks come from a projected 1970 live album, which unfortunately has not yet been released.

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