Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die
My first Traffic album was “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” It became an instant favorite, and I couldn’t imagine this band doing any better. Years later I heard “John Barleycorn Must Die,” and realized that they had indeed topped my old love.
“John Barleycorn Must Die” was not even supposed to be a Traffic album. The band had supposedly broken up even before Steve Winwood joined Eric Clapton in Blind Faith. Steve was actually preparing to record a solo album, and asked his former Traffic Partner Jim Capaldi to help. As things went on they brought in Chris Wood. Well, since the core was there, how could they not call it Traffic?
This was the beginning of Traffic’s second phase so don’t look for the hippy stuff here. Not to say the sentiment isn’t there, but it’s actually an all out music-fest.
“Glad” opens with a serious piano crunch, to let you know they aren’t fooling around. The ensuing instrumental jam backs up that statement.
“Freedom Rider” has great melancholy sax, and some serious flute (the piano isn’t bad either). Once again jamming until a fever pitch is reached, and then just falls down out of sheer exhaustion.
“Empty Pages” is a groovy soul number, with enough organ to keep us proggers happy. The vocals (as you would expect) are stellar. Stevie does like his soul.
The next one is an odd combination of blues, country, and rock. Thus it is aptly titled “Stranger to Himself.”
The title track is one of the best adaptations of classic folk you will ever hear.
“Every Mothers Son” is a drawn out epic, and that is the only problem. It just goes on a bit too long. It doesn’t sound like it was a completely finished concept, so they had to fill it out. The ending also leaves a bit to be desired. It is a fadeout, and a pretty poor one at that. Otherwise, another great tune.
This is a near perfect album. A classic by anyone’s definition, and should be sought out.
Jim Capaldi – drums, percussion, vocals
Steve Winwood – guitar, organ, piano, percussion, vocals
Chris Wood – saxophone, flute, organ, electric saxophone, percussion