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Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.90 | 311 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
4 stars John Barleycorn Must Die is a solid album because of the quality music, diversity of instrumentation and influences, and historical importance. This album is a collection of very well-done and entertaining songs, and not by any means a concept album where the music is linked by stylistic or conceptual themes. To be honest, I had never appreciated Traffic's innovation or influence on other bands, but once I finally encountered this album, I began to understand. Here's a brief synopsis of this captivating combination of jazz, folk, and rock:

Glad, Freedom Rider. Two songs on paper, but one in spirit. Glad is one of the liveliest album openers out there, with a bouncy piano line, tasteful drumming, and a nice sax groove. After grabbing your attention with this catchy combo, the boys keep up the tempo with an inspired jam led by some electric sax improv. This dies down into a contemplative bit that perfectly sets up the opening sax line to Freedom Rider. This is a catchy tune highlighted by a restrained flute solo and moderate build for the conclusion. Great stuff!

Empty Pages, Stranger to Himself. Traffic is moving from jazz to rock with these tracks, but they are well executed, catchy, and of course made unique by Stevie Winwood's raw, heartfelt vocals. Empty Pages features the organ/keyboard combo, while Stranger to Himself emphasizes the guitar: nothing virtuosic here but groovy and memorable.

John Barleycorn. And out of nowhere, we have a great folk song. Here Traffic have accomplished a great deal: a haunting and melancholy tune, nice flute and vocal harmonies, and most importantly, borrowing folklore to present a tale that can be interpreted in many symbolic levels. Depending on who you are, John Barleycorn can represent a poor grain whose fate is to be tortured in alcohol production, an alcoholic amongst teetotalers, or the Messiah himself. Very progressive indeed.

Every Mother's Son. A laid-back, groovy piece to finish out the album. Very nice work on the keys and vocals by Winwood. This definitely will leave you with a nice aftertaste for the album.

Overall, just a well-done album. Not overly ambitious, virtuosic, or pompous, these guys have simply laid down six very enjoyable tunes that complement each other quite nicely. My favorite piece by Traffic.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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