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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

John Barleycorn Must Die

Traffic

1970

John Barleycorn Must Die

Album Summary

John Barleycorn Must Die is the fourth studio album by English rock band Traffic, released in 1970 as Island ILPS 9116 in the United Kingdom, United Artists UAS 5504 in the United States, and as Polydor 2334 013 in Canada. It marked the band's comeback after a brief disbandment, and peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200, making it their highest-charting album in the US, 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. The album was marginally less successful in the UK, reaching number 11 on the UK Albums Chart.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.15

Votes

5738

Genres

  • Rock
  • Blues
  • Country
  • Folk
  • Hard Rock
  • Psychedelic Rock
Reviews
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Thu Apr 29 2021
1

Come on. How many more albums 70s lads from Birmingham with long hair and a love for overblown organ solos must we listen to before we get some albums by some other genre of musician up in this junket?

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Wed Feb 03 2021
4

Listening to this album makes me want to scour Craigslist for an organ, attempt to play it at a few jams, then abandon it a couple months later—much like my criminally-brief stint with the trombone. Digging the layers. Never considered how unifying of a force the humble flute can be. Jazz, rock, Middle English folklore. There's no genre those delicate winds can't touch. Occasionally getting some Steely Dan vibes, Traffic's definitely dipping their toes in the jazzy side of rock here. Steve Winwood has some pipes. Wasn't sure who John Barleycorn was or why he had to die so I did a little research. Turns out he's a character from an old English folktale, circa 15th(?) century. Much like Rasputin some centuries later, the song chronicles the many varied and brutal methods by which the townsfolk and the nobility kill and grind John Barleycorn up, only for him to return once more in the spring—the anthropomorphized body of the crops he farms. Though it's not by a giant penis that he provides pleasure but the alcohol fermented from his barleycorn carrion. The album certainly cycles through deaths and rebirths and is a fitting tribute to this folk hero of intoxication. The flute really ties the room together.

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Thu Apr 29 2021
2

A techincally competent and well-adjusted blend of post-psych jamming and blues with enough levity to keep the scourge of sincerity-via-roots-music at bay. In the context of this book, yet another one scoring high for inoffenive listenability and low for musical evisceration, spiritual edification, intellectual expansiveness or any other good form of "challenging".

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Wed Feb 17 2021
5

This album started out on a high note and went on to reach an even higher note. It’s like a weird combination of jazz and folk. Some songs are some great jazz fusion, while others sound straight off a Jethro Tull album. Thoroughly enjoyed. Favorite Track(s): “Glad,” “Freedom Rider,” and “John Barleycorn”

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Sat Feb 20 2021
5

Traffic is a perfect blend of piano, organ and R&B sound. This is a real defining album for future sounds.

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Mon Oct 19 2020
4

somehow i have never seen this band mentioned anywhere before i will forget the whole album within the next 5 days but it was good

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Sun May 09 2021
3

SO glad I found this album! A few really great tracks that will be in my regular rotation more often. I can definitely see where a look on interesting bands in the 70's took some inspiration but at the same time the combination of the keys, flute, and saxophone make this something completely unique from anything else.

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Wed Jun 15 2022
3

Who names their band Traffic? Everyone hates Traffic. Maybe Traffic in 1970 existed in some existential academic journal as something that might happen if too many people got cars and tried to go someplace all at once, but today Traffic is real and it's miserable. Green Day, now there's a band who has a name that is nearly future proof. In another 10 years, people will think to themselves, "remember photosynthesis?" Or, "remember when there were these green things called trees and plants that grew food on them?" Ten years may be too far into the future, but you get my point, someday soon, we'll all be wishing there was more Green Day. My parents used to listen to Traffic while smoking a joint after dinner. But whatever, that's beside the point. These guys smell like a bunch of dirty hippies and the name of this album is weird. Isn't Barleycorn a euphemism for alcohol? Anyhow, I guess it's a good thing that they broke up, because the world can only handle one band that sound like Chicago. Though I do have a secret crush on Steve Winwood, and more specifically j his song 'Valerie,' this album didn't didn't make much of an impression on me and I was thankful it was only 34 mins.

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Sun Apr 25 2021
5

Jazz-Rock. didnt know my body needed this. holy shit that sax. AND THAT VOICE. Freedom rider is amazing. Very replay-able for background or vibing

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Mon Oct 25 2021
5

I didn’t expect this at all. Imagined it would be more like Fairport Convention, but actually a huge mix. Really enjoyed it.

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Thu Nov 11 2021
5

Epic! Sounds from my childhood that I never knew the source of. Groovy.

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Fri Feb 05 2021
4

Chill 70s rock

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Wed Feb 17 2021
4

I quite enjoyed a lot of this album, even if it was one of those were all the songs slightly blended together in my mind. Not always a bad thing however

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Fri Feb 12 2021
4

Good should listen again

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Thu Mar 25 2021
4

Not my favorite style of music but I enjoyed it

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Fri Jul 29 2022
2

It was just instrumental, nice chill music to put in the background but I didn't listen to the full album

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Mon Feb 15 2021
1

Wow. This made me want to have lamb chops for breakfast. I can't remember a thing about it.

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Thu Jan 28 2021
5

Excelente descoberta. Destaque para vocais e flautas. Músicas que mais gostei: Freedom Rider e John Barleycorn

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Fri Jan 29 2021
5

Really good, a mix of a lot of styles. My favorite might be the instrumental first track

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Fri Feb 05 2021
5

Good Vibes to start. I ended up leaving this on repeat all day. Great Record

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Thu Jan 28 2021
5

Fone: hd 599 Música predileta: Empty Pages Baixo sensacional, piano muito gostoso, vocal masculino super agradável, mas a cereja do bolo é a flauta

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Thu Apr 29 2021
5

Huge

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Wed May 12 2021
5

This I liked! Funky 70-s rock

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Wed Oct 13 2021
5

Some true jams on this album

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Wed Dec 15 2021
5

I still remember the first time I heard this when I was in high school. I've always thought it was great, and it opened the door to all of Traffic's great music.

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Sat Jan 15 2022
5

Batteries running low. A 20 year old water heater. My step-kids’ biological father. Yes, now I remember why I deleted so many tracks from this recording on my iPod. It’s not that 'John Barleycorn Must Die' is a bad LP. It just gets a little tedious. ‘Course, these were the days of extended jams. So, I’m willing to make allowance for that. And Steve Windwood is a mega talented instrumentalist, as well as a good vocalist, at least when he’s not slightly off-key, which is unfortunately often. (Flat or sharp, I can never quite tell.) Jim Capaldi is a great drummer, and Chris Wood gives them that nice jazzy sound with his sax and flute. I was 11 when this recording was released, but didn’t discover it until High School. The title track was the big seller in my day, that whole resurgent honoring of the ancient pagan ways among British musicians. (By the way, it’s interesting to note how many of Windwood’s musical colleagues were raised Anglican, but ultimately rejected Christianity in favor of practicing all of the eastern religious traditions, extraterrestrial veneration, and their own native paganism. Don’t blame this entirely on LSD, either. But this is another subject for another time.) But the title track is not really representative of Traffic’s usual sound. I remember thinking how unique the whole jazz/blues/rock vibe was that Traffic had going on. And it really ‘sparked’ on their next LP. This one, though, for me, is lacking a little flint. (Funny, too, how some LPs from that same period still seem to resonate with this listener- 'In The Court Of The Crimson King,' ie- while others no longer do.) It’s one of those grey, snowy days today in Colorado that typically puts me in the mood for something a little soulful, a little mellow. Theoretically, 'John Barleycorn' should do the job, but it seems to now be on the dole, at least for me. Maybe a nice glass of mead might help?

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Thu Feb 17 2022
5

There were three men came out of the West Their fortunes for to try And these three men made a solemn vow John Barleycorn must die.

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Fri Mar 04 2022
5

Sweet tunes

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Fri Mar 04 2022
5

Amazing album set. Added to the regular rotation.

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Fri Apr 08 2022
5

I enjoyed this record, great combination of blues, with piano and guitar tracks. The songs were all excellent, as to be expected from this group. A very tight, nice album that was pleasant to hear.

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Fri Apr 15 2022
5

muy jazzer oaleatorio me gustó

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Wed May 04 2022
5

Freedom Rider just went boom it’s so good. I was not expecting such an outstanding intro from what I heard the song before. Honestly solid frickin album

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Sun May 08 2022
5

Thats just a fucking jam

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Sun May 08 2022
5

This album is IMMACULATE. God I friggin love Traffic, and not that beep beep honk honk stuff! I'm talkin' ROCKEMROLL!

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Tue Jun 07 2022
5

Savršen spoj proga, folk i jazz rocka.

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Mon Jun 20 2022
5

I think Traffic gets overlooked frequently when it comes to 70s blues rock. They draw much more influence from jazz than the typical popular groups of the time, and it really works for them. The opening track is just fantastic, such a great instrumental jam. After that, there are seamless transitions into the following songs, and the album does not slow down. The incorporation of the organ, guitar, bass, saxophone, piano and percussion are all done so well. This is Traffic's fourth installment as a group, and it may be their peak (Mr. Fantasy is excellent as well, especially for a debut album). No complaints here, this is an excellent album with exceptionally talented personnel and an ahead-of-the-curve sound, they were not afraid to experiment and I think it inspired a lot of bands through the years. Fave tracks: Glad, Freedom Rider, John Barleycorn

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Fri Jun 24 2022
5

Love this album, the organ sounds in it are some of the best to come out of the 60s. Beautiful recording.

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Mon Jul 11 2022
5

Less well known than later 70s bands, but these guys already invented many of the elements.

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Mon Aug 08 2022
5

Already own this album and listen to it regularly. A go to for some solid classic rock. Love it

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Fri Aug 26 2022
5

I haven’t listened to Traffic before that I recall, at least nothing off this album. I really loved the organ, flute and sax heavy songs! Felt very groovy like I was driving out of a 70s movie.

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Fri Aug 26 2022
5

There's something about Traffic that just makes all my chakras line up or something. They just feel good to me. I like their tunes, their instrumentation, and the yearning quality of Winwood's voice. Good good good.

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Sun Sep 04 2022
5

Expected to see Mr Fantasy instead of JB Must Die, and hadn't listened to the latter album for a long time - turned out to be great (5 star songs except the first one).

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Wed Oct 12 2022
5

Love it, one of the best discovery from the 1001 since a while !

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Wed Oct 12 2022
5

Great folk with proggy-jazz vibes that are just too good to be ignored.

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Thu Oct 13 2022
5

requires a second listen maybe a third but enjoyable all the time

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Wed Nov 09 2022
5

Awesome album musically. So many bases covered--I love it. Favorite track: Glad

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Mon Jan 23 2023
5

Love love love. Might have to get this on vinyl.

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Wed Sep 16 2020
4

Very jazzy, love the instrumental opening track

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Wed Dec 09 2020
4

Underrated tunes on this album

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Thu Jan 28 2021
4

muito, muito bom! Vários sons em harmonia, lindeza

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Tue Feb 09 2021
4

Nicht gut für einen Workout geeignet. Die Orgel gibt dem ganzen einen besonderen Flair, auch wenn ich es dadurch nicht jederzeit ertragen würde. Gefällt mir aber sehr gut! Viele stimmige bodenständige Soloeinlagen und ein stimmige Stimme. John Barleycorn hat es mir angetan. Zuerst dachte ich es sei ein Outlaw-Western-Ding, aber dann waren immer mehr Leute involviert, Reincarnation und einige der „Bestrafungen“, die ich verstanden hatte, waren sehr brutal. Was ist da los? Nachdem ich die Lyrics gelesen habe, geht es höchstwahrscheinlich um Alkohol, vielleicht der Wunsch nach Abstinenz? Lustige Reise!

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Wed Jul 21 2021
4

Really enjoyed it. Nice and relaxing album

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Thu Jul 01 2021
4

this was decent, bopped it all day

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Wed Jul 21 2021
4

Really nice album, enjoyed this a lot

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Thu Jan 14 2021
4

Favorites: John Barleycorn (Must Die), I Just Want You to Know Glad: Effectively conveys the mood it describes, quite jazzy, a bit too long - 0.25 Freedom Rider: Flutes, piano, and sax all make for an interesting jazzy composition - 0.75 Empty Pages: CCR meets soul - 1 I Just Want to Know: really good, wish it was longer - 1 Stranger to Himself: Eagles “desperado” meets soul, guitar kills it - 1 John Barleycorn: very folk rock - 1 Every Mother’s Son: Good, but too long - 0.25 Sittin Here Thinkin’ of My Love: Love the bass guitar in this song - 0.75 Total: 6/8

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Fri Apr 02 2021
4

Pretty good album by this good band!

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Wed Jun 02 2021
4

Fun! Great 60s/70s vibes here too. I can imagine this being the soundtrack to a movie set in NYC in the 70s.

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Tue Mar 02 2021
4

Not a bad album.

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Fri Feb 05 2021
4

No comments

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Fri Jan 22 2021
4

Pretty dope

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Wed Jan 27 2021
4

Funky.

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Tue Mar 16 2021
4

Always loved this record. Got a lot of elements of what I love from rock from this era.

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Thu Jan 28 2021
4

Oh yeah, I can listen to this. This jazz flute-ing, guitar riffing, hippy rock is my jam.

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Fri Apr 02 2021
4

ok

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Thu Feb 11 2021
4

Toques de jazz y de folk. Muy buen disco aunque cuesta entrar

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Wed Apr 07 2021
4

lekkere muziek. Waar om vaker naar te luisteren

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Wed Jun 02 2021
4

.

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Wed Feb 24 2021
4

Love Traffic and this is my favorite.

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Fri Feb 12 2021
4

meh. not bad, but is been too long. i dont really remember it.

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Fri Apr 02 2021
4

Short but good. Nice find

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Thu Apr 22 2021
4

Nice mix of rock and folk, pretty short album, but Empty Pages and John Barleycorn are good songs.

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Thu Apr 01 2021
4

Pretty solid folk rock sound. I like Steve Winwood.

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Mon Apr 05 2021
4

Good

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Wed Jun 30 2021
4

A refreshingly brilliant album, wonderful songwriting and musicianship and Steve Winwood’s vocals are just lovely. Will revisit this and explore more of their catalog

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Mon Apr 26 2021
4

"John Barleycorn Must Die" is the fourth studio album by Traffic -- released in 1970. It is described as progressive/folk/jazz rock. There are 6 songs on this album, 2 of which are about 4 minutes long, and the rest around 6 or 7 minutes, which I believe means each track will tell a story. And who is John Barleycorn? He is "a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky," derived from an English folk song. Intriguing... This album opens with "Glad," a jazzy, pianoy, upbeat instrumental song. Lots of saxophone, organ, and piano going on here. This track is the only instrumental on the album, a great primer for this LP. Track number 2, "Freedom Rider," opens with more piano and saxophone, leading to Steve Winwood's smooth, high-tenor vocals, as he sings about cool things like lightning and motorcycles. Ride on, baby! The third track, "Empty Pages," features more piano and organ work, with a popping bass guitar and jazzy percussion. Winwood goes on about the woes of writer's block: "Staring at empty pages Centered 'round the same old plot Staring at empty pages Flowing along in the ages" A true joy (/s) of any writer's life! "Stranger to Himself" is track number 4, and is the shortest on the album at 4 minutes and 2 seconds. This track is poppy and has a really fun guitar/piano solo (duo?). Perhaps I'm projecting a bit onto this song, but the lyrics really strike a chord with and I feel compelled to lay the entire (short) set of words here: [Verse 1] Struggling with confusion, disillusionment too Can turn a man into a shadow, crying out from pain [Chorus] Through his nightmare vision, he sees nothing, only well Blind with the beggar's mind, he's but a stranger He's but a stranger to himself [Verse 2] Suspended from a rope inside a bucket down a hole His hands are torn and bloodied from the scratching at his soul I really dig it. Track 5, the titular "John Barleycorn (Must Die)" features a soothing acoustic guitar paired with Winwood's voice as he sings us the tale of 3 men who make an agreement that John Barleycorn must die. This is a cover song and it's quite fun. There is some great flute and tambourine work going on here. "Every Mother's Son" is the closing track on this album, and at 7 minutes and 5 seconds, it's the longest. More piano and organ work build this song up, with an electric guitar vibing with Winwood's vocals: "I'm a traveling soul and every mother's son Although I'm getting tired I've got to travel on Can you please help, my god? Can you please help, my god? Can you please help, my god? I think it's only fair" ...Did I write this? This album was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoy the little stories Traffic tells within their folklore, and the instrumentation is very easy-listening. Their lyrics are familiar and relatable, and Winwood's Ray Charles-inspired vocals are truly enjoyable. Nice work! Favorite track: Stranger to Himself Honorable mention: Every Mother's Son

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Thu Jun 10 2021
4

Nicely progresses from jazzy smooth jam session to rock/jazz fusion with organ looming to acoustic folk storytelling. Empty Pages, glad, every mother’s son.

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Thu May 06 2021
4

Good

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Tue Jun 08 2021
4

Pretty good bluesy rock album. Gets better towards the end.

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Tue Jun 01 2021
4

I liked this album quite a lot. I had heard of Traffic but I’m not sure I’d ever actually listened closely to any of their music. My favorite parts were the jazz improv parts of “Glad” and “Freedom Rider”, and honestly after “Glad” I was disappointed to hear Steve Winwood’s voice, which to me personally is the weakest part of the whole thing. If I could do half stars this would be 3.5 but since I can’t I’m rounding up to 4 in this case. Would listen to more jazz-rock in the future.

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Fri Jul 16 2021
4

Good rock and roll. I like this band.

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Mon May 24 2021
4

Short and sweet

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Mon May 24 2021
4

Nice length of album, some songs a bit repetitive but overall a fun listen

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Fri Jul 16 2021
4

some chill guitar vibes no?

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Mon Jun 28 2021
4

-first song started off really strong and original -became sort of regular 70's rock -still very good

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Mon Jul 26 2021
4

7/10

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Sat Jul 31 2021
4

4/5 Nice album, good sound

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Sun Aug 15 2021
4

My dad had been telling me to listen to this band for YEARS. Kinda like a rootsy prog rock band. Pretty cool!

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Fri Aug 20 2021
4

Pleasant country/folk jams. (7/10) Favorite Tracks : Freedom Rider

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Fri Aug 20 2021
4

Nice but not more

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Wed Sep 08 2021
4

This album has a whole lot of genre-bending, which is even more impressive when you consider that it only has 6 tracks. Each song stakes out a slightly different corner in the jazz-blues-prog rock-English folk tapestry that is Traffic. Good stuff. Best track: Every Mother's Son

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Thu Sep 16 2021
4

Funky!

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Fri Sep 17 2021
4

😎

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Sun Sep 19 2021
4

There are some albums that, like Electric Ladyland or Remain in Light, if someone tried to tell they were lame, I'd say \"Sorry, bro, you're just wrong. Get the wax out of your ears.\" John Barleycorn Must Die is not one of those. JBMD is a little hard for me to review dispassionately because it was one of my favorite albums when I was ten years old. I still like it, but I'm willing to admit to its shortcomings. Conceptually, I think it's fantastic. Gone is the psychedelia of the first two albums and in it's place is a sophisticated mixture of R&B, pop, rock, jazz, folk, and even a little avant guarde. You'd think that would be a mess, but the group manages to combine these genres seamlessly. That's largely due to excellent songwriting and canny arrangements. And that's where the group successfully hides its most glaring weakness--these musicians are not technically that great, which is a problem when you're trying to incorporate jazz or avant guarde, both of which require a high level of skill to be successful. They get around that with tightly written sections with minimal free playing, just enough to get the feeling of jazz and avant guarde. As an older listener, I can tell when they're faking it, and I'm both amused and tolerant. Others might be less generous about the vamping and weak solos. But to me, the most important thing is that they got the feel right. That's better than a great jazz player trying to play rock or R&B and getting the feel wrong, for example Joe Farrell and his album Upon This Rock.

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Fri Sep 24 2021
4

Weiß gar nicht, wie ich das hier einordnen soll. Big Band Soul Folk?! Aber unterschätze sie nicht, denn wenn der Gang mal rausgenommen, offenbart sich eine hypnotische, ja jazzig-fieberträumende Schönheit. In diesem Zusammenhang werde ich auch immer wieder ungläubig die totale Run Time checken, denn 34 Minuten dehnen sich, krümmen sich zu etwas längerem, aber zur Abwechslung mal im positiven Sinne. Als hätten die Songs und Instrumental Tracks eine Tiefe, die eine 5 Minuten Einheit locker bläht, ausstaffiert, ausfüllt. Schöne Entdeckung eines Kleinods, das vom Genre wohl gar nicht ganz meins ist. 3.7

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Sun Sep 26 2021
4

4.5

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Sun Sep 26 2021
4

Not a bad track on the album. Great musicianship vocals and lyrics.

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Tue Sep 28 2021
4

This was close to getting the 0 to 5 star treatment.

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Tue Sep 28 2021
4

Really enjoyable electric rock, spanning multiple styles from folk to blues with a hint of psychedelic in there. The weakest track is probably the title one, as I don't think they nail folk properly, but the rest more than makes up for it.

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Sun Oct 10 2021
4

You know how sometimes you forget about artists and albums. How much you enjoy them or it? Case in point Traffic and their wonderful album; John Barleycorn Must Die. Was anyone else quite sounding like Traffic in the 70s, with their jazzy vibe ? Sax sometimes taking the part of guitar like on album opener, Glad. And of course the title track is just gorgeous - what a beautiful melody. I love this album and I'm happy the 1001 albums led me back to give it alisten...(I actually listened twice). 4 stars

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Wed Oct 13 2021
4

not exactly a high point for winwood or traffic so it's another weird addition to this book. this album was winwood trying to figure out what to do after blind faith broke up so he went off to write a solo album that somehow turned into a traffic album minus their guitarist. most of the better tracks on the album just seem like the byproduct of a bunch of weed and acid and just having a great time jamming, and i'm here for that. then there's the weird dabbling with american folk rock that doesn't really click. weird album made weirdly but a real good jam

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