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on March 31, 2009
After another line-up of Traffic split in 1969, Steve Winwood played with the Blind Faith. After that, early in 1970, he planned to record a solo album. Yet, seeking musical partners tuned in the same way as himself, was a bit uneasy. That's why he gratefully accepted co-operation of his old Traffic friends, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi, and after all the album, John Barleycorn Must Die, was issued under the Traffic heading.
The trio (S. W. - keyb, g, bg, perc, voc; C. W. - keyb, saxs, fl, perc; J. C. - ds) was in a wonderful shape that year. The 6 original tracks are a tremendous blend of various musical styles and influences, yet holding perfectly together on one album. The majority of tracks (4-7 min each) allows space for solo improvisations. The instrumental opener ("Glad") starts off with a rhythmic piano and woodwind riff, which might be, by current categorization, assigned even to funky jazz-rock. However, the composition spreads into sax and then keybord improvisations, the piano in the end sounding nearly like a classical one, almost impressionistic style. Track 2 ("Freedom Rider") begins with a sax motif (which might have been an inspiration for the sax jingle of the TV series on Hercule Poirot :-). A lovely flute solo is featured as well. In track 3 ("Empty Pages"), a melodic folk-like tune, Winwood's vocal (commonly somewhat strangled) sounds, especially in the refrain, almost like Phil Collins. Probably no guitars are employed in these 2 compositions (tracks 2 & 3). In contrast, one of the additional tracks that were included into this remastered reissue (track 4 - "I Just Want You to Know"), is a short tune based on vocal harmonies and then it features a lovely guitar solo. Track 6 is the outstanding title composition - an English folk ballad, "John Barleycorn Must Die." As noted on the cover, the first record of this song appeared in 1465 in the age of James 1st. It is said to be about "the effort of people to give up the alcohol distilled from barley." Track 7 ("Every Mothers Son") has appeared on some compilations of progressive rock of the time. It features a catchy legato guitar figure and later, this composition transforms into folk-rock'n'blues keyboard improvisations, with perfect, time-to-time even exalted Winwood's singing (of course, Winwood is no Freddie Mercury, but his voice is very functional and suitable for this kind of music). Tracks 7 & 8 were recorded only be 2 people - Winwood played everything except for drums.
The sound of this remaster is quite nice; to me, only the additional track 4 sounds somehow flatter. The 2 bonus tracks are very pleasing (the total time of the extended issue is no more than 39:31 min), and depite that in general, I quite dislike spreading the added material in between the original one, on this album, it is quite feasible (the extra material being track 4 and the last track 8): in case you don't have the original recording in your ears, you would not recognize the E.T." among the old material. The cover is the original - very decent. It is an older painting provided by the English Folk Dance & Song Society; it depicts a faggot of barley(?).
Whom to recommend this music: to anyone who likes the progressive rock music with lots of improvisation of the turn of 1960's and 1970's. If you like Clapton, Blind Faith etc., and the British folk, you won't be dissapointed. This record is superb, 5 stars.
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on March 1, 2014
I grew up in the mid 60's and Traffic was always one of groups I liked. I'm Fifty Four and still a Rock and Roller.. I really like the song John Barleycorn Must Die, because I quite drinking about 19 years ago and there's been more than one song that basically says it's impossible to stop drinking till you die.. (John Barleycorn Must Die is one of them) so even thou the song has a good melody I also use it to Inspirer me to not give in and Stay Sober.. and prove the song Dead Wrong..
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on August 14, 2013
This was a GREAT record when it came out, and it still is. Their second album, "Traffic" was very good, BUT the first truly GREAT Traffic album is Barleycorn. Dave Mason had finally made up his mind and left the group for good. Winwood, Capaldi, and Wood came back together and made the monster, John Barleycorn Must Die. The earlier music, in my opinion, was far more "experimental" during the flower power late 60's. There was much good music there, but on Barleycorn, Traffic focused on Rhythym and Blues AND Folk Rock too. To me, this is Traffic. This album and then Low Spark, and Shootout. Smart music. One of the greatest records of the early 70's. Thanks. Johnny P
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on May 30, 2014
This is a truly classic album by a great group. I'm "upgrading" to CD. I've had this as both a record album and as a cassette. Can't wait to hear the bonus tracks they put onto the CD. Generally I don't care for live recordings, but Traffic recordings (Canteen and Road) were done well without the typical audience clapping and cheering that can be so annoying. I have the Smiling Phases Box but now I will have JBMD in it's entirety again
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on November 20, 2011
I bought this CD because I found that the opening chords of Glad kept popping into my head. I own the LP but haven't played it for decades, because I no longer own an LP player.

Listening to the music again after all this time brought back to me just how talented Traffic were and how understated their style of music was. Where other bands would have been tempted to crash your ears with heavy guitars Traffic used flutes and subtle shifts in tempo to draw you slowly towards the climax of each song.

The folk-influenced track John Barleycorn Must Die is the stand out for its understated gentility and just plain weirdness of its lyrics.

As usual with these compilations the extra, "previously unreleased" tracks were previously unreleased for a very good reason. But the live tracks, which were originally put together for a live LP that never got past the planning stage, are not a waste of money.
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on March 28, 2017
Bought it for Glad.
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on March 31, 2017
CLASSIC
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on May 4, 2000
This is one of the best offerings by the band named Traffic, with the re-mastering of this import version the music is even clearer and more to what one would think the band was trying to get out to the public. The re-mastering here doesn't have the usual harsh tinny/bright sound that has ruined many remastered efforts, not just by this bands but many many others.
Included on this reissue is an extra track not on the original vinyl called "Sittin' here thinkin' of my Love". Also included is a selection of two live songs from the Fillmore East recorded in 1970 after the fall of Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Air Force which included Rick Grech on bass which actually fills out the sound much better than previous live offerings wherein the band had toured prior with only organ/flute/drums. This gives the listener/fan an oppurtunity to hear the band as a four piece prior to the Low spark/Shoot out ensembles of six to eight members, definently an added pleasure rather than an effort to get more "product" to the buying public.
Overall the time taken to re-master the album, give detailed liner notes and also include the original gatefold sleeve inner picture of the band as a three piece as well as other pics of the period are just fantastic. This version is highly recommended to all Traffic fans and even more so to the newly initiated listeners.
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on October 10, 2007
This was begun as a solo record for Steve Winwood to be entitled: "Mad Shadows". Steve had completed two tracks: "Stranger To Himself" & "Every Mother's Son." All the instruments {including drums} were played by Steve. There is more than one story, but, my favorite is that Steve just missed working with Jim & Chris, and after producer, Guy Stevens departed after the first sessions for this project, (returning to working with: "Mott The Hoople"), Traffic was very much alive once more.

Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi had grown as musicians since the break-up of Traffic in early 1969 and this record in it's maturity shows how different their music now was from the 67-69 edition of this great group.

"Glad", with it's jazz/funk groove leaves no doubt that this new music was developed from a jam. But, this is very polished & refined BUT not overdone (as was commom for music of 1970) Steve's, organ and piano just sparkle in the mix featured here, and the flutes & saxophones really make this piece grow into something special. "Freedom Rider" also benefits from the fine sax by Chris (his phasing and that certain note that he 'bends'). "Empty Pages" closed the first side of the LP, and it's the closest thing here to classic Traffic, on this album, this was the track that received the most plays on the FM stations of this era. A bonus track comes next called: "I Just Want To Know." This track is almost a 'throwaway' and it should not dropped intp the middle of the original record as it really messes with the flow of the music. This should have been tacked on at the end of the CD.

Side Two begins with: "Stranger To Himself", and this is a strong rock number with some fine guitar work from Steve. "Stranger" would have made a great addition to the "Blind Faith" album, but it sure is a great addition found here. The title track is the main reason this Record was tagged with this being Traffic's folk-rock album, but I find Traffic's arrangement of this Traditional tune more modern than the versions that you are going to find as recorded by Fairport Convention and/or Jethro Tull. The closer of the original record was: "Every Mother's Son" and it's another fine rocker with a great guitar solo by Steve, that you will find on the fade-out.

This Deluxe Edition has more bonus tracks located at the end of the disc. "Sittin' Here Thinking of my Love" is a studio track that missed inclusion on The original record, it's O.K. but because of time limitations back in 1970's record albums, this one has remained in it's tape tin until now. But, that's not all...At the end we get a taste of what was to been released as: "Traffic, Live November 1970" with a live: "Glad" "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring" and my personal favorite of the bunch: "Backstage & Introduction"...While Bill Graham is introducing the band and the light show, they casn be heard standing in the wings having a VERY INTERESTING conversation, and all of this is included because someone was carrying a tape recorder and captured this golden moment in time for all of us to witness. It is a great little peak into the rock world of 1970 and this is indeed, quite a find!

I'll wager right here that: "John Barleycorn" will see it's next re-issue as a Deluxe 2 CD Set as was already done with the: "Blind Faith" album with more of the Filmore East tapes included. I've only been waiting 36 years to hear that one!
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on May 25, 2006
In many respects, this is the first "true" Traffic album. It began as a solo Steve Winwood effort; Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi were brought in mid-way to lend support. This was always the Traffic paradigm, Winwood was the genius, the creative center, and all other participants were collaborators. Somebody somewhere started the crazy rumor that Dave Mason, participant on Traffic's first three albums, was working on a peer level with Winwood - which is rather like saying that Ringo was working on a peer level with John Lennon. Barleycorn is the first post-Mason Traffic effort, and as such, shows just how much his cutesy coffee-house folkiness prevented Winwood from taking the group where it was inevitably headed - into jazzy, R&B, blue-eyed English rock & soul.

From the opening bars of Glad, a track that carries you jubilantly for 7:00, it's clear that this is a very different Traffic. Winwood's keyboard playing on Glad is as tasty as anything he's ever done. From there it's on to Freedom Rider, which picks up the pace and intensity, great writing and singing. With Empty pages comes a tough, deliberate funk - excellent drumming and Winwood singing right out of his head. (Unlike the original album, this CD then mysteriously includes a bit of litter called I Just Want You To Know - a dumb mistake.) By the time you hit Stranger To Himself you're down so deep in a funky groove that England is the last thing on your mind, Detroit in summertime would be more like it.

Then comes the anomaly. The title track, now something of an institution, is completely out of place. It's lovely and memorable, but feels like an uninvited guest at a party. The original closer, Every Mother's Son, delivers the trademark anthem quality of many Winwood compositions, haunting singing, yearning, reaching. This CD then provides another bit of litter, Sittin' Here Thinkin' Of My Love, which Winwood had composed for the original album. Cooler heads prevailed back then, and you can choose to pretend it doesn't exist. Chris Wood really shines on this album, on flute and sax, it is surely one of his most lucid performances. Capaldi is perfect on drums and should have left well enough alone, his attempted transformation into rock star singer was embarrassing. But in the final analysis, of course, this is the vehicle where every aspect of Winwood's genius is allowed to dazzle; writing, singing, keyboards, guitar, he does everything well. Were you to own only one Traffic CD it would be a coin toss between this and Low Spark.
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