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Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die CD (album) cover

JOHN BARLEYCORN MUST DIE

Traffic

 

Eclectic Prog

3.87 | 222 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Arsillus
4 stars Steve Winwood originally planned this album to be a solo album, but it soon turned into another Traffic album. "John Barleycorn Must Die" is a stylistic change from the band's previous more psychedelic work to more jazz influenced. The band was just a trio now, but the music sounded better and more powerful than ever. The album begins with "Glad", a rollicking jazzy instrumental that dutifully reflects its title. Winwood's organ and piano fills in the space and drives everything along while Chris Wood lays down some mean saxophone lines before the song gradually winds down to an end. A somber saxophone/piano duet opens "Freedom Rider" before the song propels into a jazzy rock tune and Winwood's passionate vocals. The middle section of the song features a good flute line before the song goes back to repeat the main theme. "Empty Pages" is a bouncy organ driven song with a groovy percussion beat.

Side two is more folk influenced than the previous songs. "Stranger To Himself" is more guitar-driven. A folky/jazzy acoustic guitar and piano providing the foundation of the song with blistering electric guitar solos over it all. The next song, the band's rendition of the traditional "John Barleycorn" seems to get the most attention of anything from this album. This is a soft, folky acoustic piece accented by flutes and tambourines with a great vocal performance by Winwood. "John Barleycorn" is really a brilliant reworking of the traditional song. It's a very calm in atmosphere, but the lyrics give it an eerie, unsettling edge. The album closes with the epic "Every Mother's Son". It is a very energetic and passionate song, dominated by the organ and piano but also with more electric guitar, all from Winwood. The whole song has a bluesy/gospel feel to it thanks to another great vocal performance from Winwood.

Everything is performed very well and a couple of the songs have some great arrangements, but I really feel the production is kind of weak and really doesn't let a lot of the energy on this album shine. In any case, this is a great album.

Standout songs: "Glad", "John Barleycorn"

Arsillus | 4/5 |

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