John Barleycorn Must Die

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John Barleycorn Must Die
Traffic-John Barleycorn Must Die (album cover).jpg
Studio album by Traffic
Released July 1, 1970
Recorded February–April 1970
Studio Island Studios and Olympic Studios, London
Genre
Length 35:06
Label UK: Island
US: United Artists
Canada: Polydor
Producer Chris Blackwell, Steve Winwood, Guy Stevens
Traffic chronology
Last Exit
(1969)Last Exit1969
John Barleycorn Must Die
(1970)
Welcome to the Canteen
(1971)Welcome to the Canteen1971
Singles from John Barleycorn Must Die
  1. "Empty Pages"
    Released: July 1, 1970 (US only)

John Barleycorn Must Die is the fourth studio album by English rock band Traffic, released in 1970 on Island Records in the United Kingdom, and United Artists in the United States, catalogue UAS 5504. It peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200, making it their highest charting album in the US,[1] and has been certified a gold record by the RIAA. In addition, the single "Empty Pages" spent eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 74.[2] The album was marginally less successful in the UK, reaching number 11 on the UK Albums Chart.[3]

Background and content[edit]

In late 1968, Traffic disbanded, guitarist Dave Mason having left the group for the second time prior to the completion of the Traffic album. In 1969, Steve Winwood joined the supergroup Blind Faith, while drummer/lyricist Jim Capaldi and woodwinds player Chris Wood turned to session work. Wood and Winwood also joined Blind Faith's drummer Ginger Baker in his post-Blind Faith group Ginger Baker's Air Force for their first album, Ginger Baker's Air Force (1970).[4]

At the beginning of 1970, after the demise of Blind Faith, the band having lasted barely six months, Winwood returned to the studio ostensibly to make his first solo album, originally to be titled Mad Shadows. He recorded two tracks with producer Guy Stevens, "Stranger to Himself" and "Every Mother's Son", but yearned for like-minded musicians to accompany. Inviting Wood and Capaldi to join him, Winwood's solo album became the reunion of Traffic, and a re-launch of the band's career.[5] Mad Shadows would go on to be the title of Mott the Hoople's second album, also produced by Guy Stevens.

As did most of their albums, it featured influences from jazz and blues, but the version of the traditional English folk tune "John Barleycorn" also showed the musicians attending to the same strains of modern interpretations of traditional folk music as contemporary British bands Pentangle and Fairport Convention.

It was reissued for compact disc in the UK on 1 November 1999, with five bonus tracks, including three recorded in concert from the Fillmore East in New York City. In the US, the remastered reissue of 27 February 2001 included only the two studio bonus tracks.

Steve Winwood oversaw a deluxe edition version that was released on 15 March 2011,[6] featuring the original studio album, digitally remastered on disc one, plus a second disc of bonus material including more of the Fillmore East concert with alternate mixes and versions of album tracks.

Cover[edit]

The original LP release of the album had the front cover design on a background consisting of a photograph of burlap. Later LP copies had the design on a grey background. The cover is displayed prominently during a party scene in the 1971 movie by Dario Argento, 4 Mosche di Velluto Grigio.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[7]
Robert ChristgauC+[8]

Retrospective reviews of the album have been mixed. AllMusic criticised the vocal sections as "excuses for Winwood to exercise his expressive voice as punctuation to the extended instrumental sections", but made note of how the album took the band's jazz/rock leanings beyond mere jamming.[7] Robert Christgau's review dismissed the album for lacking Dave Mason, whom he saw as the only member of the group with any talent.[8]

Track listing and personnel[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)PersonnelLength
1."Glad"Steve Winwood6:59
2."Freedom Rider"Winwood, Jim Capaldi6:20
3."Empty Pages"Winwood, Capaldi4:47
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)PersonnelLength
4."Stranger to Himself"Winwood, Capaldi4:02
5."John Barleycorn (Must Die)"traditional; arranged by Winwood6:20
6."Every Mother's Son"Winwood, Capaldi7:05
Total length:35:06

Previously unreleased studio bonus tracks 4. ("I Just Want You To Know") and 8. ("Sittin' Here Thinkin' of My Love") appear to be demos left over from when Winwood was still planning to make this a solo album (titled Mad Shadows). Recorded on 18/19 November at the Fillmore East, the live tracks comprise what was to have been side one of a concert Traffic album, Live November 70 (ILPS 9142), presumably shelved in favour of Welcome to the Canteen.

Island Records 314 548 541-2, also includes the previously unreleased tracks "I Just Want You to Know" and "Sittin' Here Thinkin' of My Love".

Tracks 4-10 recorded on 18–19 November 1970 at the Fillmore East.

Technical personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Billboard 200 - Traffic". Retrieved September 19, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Empty Pages" Chart History, Billboard.com. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  3. ^ Traffic in the UK Charts Archived 20 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine., The Official Charts. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  4. ^ Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, editors. The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock. New York: Harmony Books, 1977, p. 234.
  5. ^ John Barleycorn Must Die, 1999 reissue Island Records IMCD 266 546499-2, liner notes p. 3.
  6. ^ Progressive Rock with a Capital P. – www.PopMatters.com.
  7. ^ a b AllMusic: Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die (1970) album review by William Ruhlmann
  8. ^ a b Robert Christgau review

External links[edit]