TRAFFIC — John Barleycorn Must Die (review)

TRAFFIC — John Barleycorn Must Die album cover Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
(fourth in a serie of ten)

4.5 stars really. Originally intended as a Stevie Winwood solo album , this got quickly renamed Traffic and are we ever glad they had that brilliant idea. JBMD must be seen as a transition album "par excellence" as one can really feel the two Traffic phases still present but slowly melting together. The psychy songs are ever so close to the progressive ones. Among these prog tracks are three irresistible masterpieces: Glad and Freedom Rider with their infectious grooves and very judicious breaks - both are invariably linked together (separate tracks but very short time space in between) to the point that even in concert they were successive numbers - and I have never heard these two tracks played separately on the radio. Those two tracks announce the following three albums among which the almost perfect Low Sparks and Shootout - full of great interplay between gifted musicians and superbly peaceful and happy music bringing spine-tingling and goose bumps.

However the other real masterpiece is the stupendous title track - a traditional number rearranged into a poignant and deeply oppressive climate - with superb acoustic guitar parts mixed with Wood's fabulous flute parts and Capaldi's great percussions. Mind-blowing and Stevie will never sing this beautifully again - he will certainly try and succeed but never this brilliantly. Every Mother's Son although good does not stand a chance after such song.

The rest of the tracks on the original album were more psyched (like their first 2 LPs) in more of a 60's manner of writing the music. The bonus tracks (from track 8 on) are a plus for fans but can hardly bring more to the album as a whole.
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