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

John Barleycorn Must Die

Traffic

1970

Buy At Rough Trade
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

11678

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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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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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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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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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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Tue Nov 15 2022
1

I think Steve Winwood might be my musical nemesis.

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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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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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Thu Mar 25 2021
4

Not my favorite style of music but I enjoyed it

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Sun Jan 07 2024
3

Quirky freeform jazzy organ and folk rock sounds with random pan flutes thrown into the mix….don’t hate it but don’t love it either. Steve Wnwood’s soulful vocals are a high point.

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Wed Jan 10 2024
3

Old music. Good, but after a few songs, I started tuning out.

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Thu Jan 11 2024
3

Nothing inherently wrong with this record, the first and *probably* the best of Traffic's discography post-Dave Mason's departure. With their modal jazz flourishes foretelling Steely Dan's later explorations during the seventies, "Glad" and "Freedom Riders" are great cuts. Steve Winwood's piano improvisation (?) at the end of the first track is surely a dreamy moment, thanks its use of eastern-sounding scales. And the title-track (a cover of a traditional tune) is very evocative as well. Not sure this rock record is material for an "essential albums" list, though. I don't really understand why "Empty Pages" was picked as as a single for the album, for instance--even if said single seemed to have helped Traffic reach a certain success across the pond. Maybe the more "middle of the road" nature of that song can explain such success. But it's not one that aged specifically well, in my humble and honest opinion. Besides--and speaking of singles--selecting a Traffic record that has none of their wonderful staple songs "Mr. Fantasy" (from the album of the same name) and "Feelin' Alright?" (from *Traffic*), seems like overkill a little. *John Barleycorn Must Die* is just a nice "little" record--certainly more *cohesive* than the relatively topsy-turvy affairs that the two first Traffic LPs were--hence why it ends up on a list like this--and yet also devoid of the striking pop highlights also found in *Mr. Fantasy* and *Traffic*, unfortunately. Formal perfection is not *always* the key that opens the door of an essential album. Sometimes, a little imperfections here and there can be forgotten when a bunch of poignant hits surge from a tracklist. To conclude, *John Barleycorn Must Die* suffers from being mostly a "transitional record". And since this is a transition which ultimately lead to a phase of Steve Winwood's career that became increasingly *cheesy* as the years went by, it might be as easy to single it out as it is easy to dismiss it. And this for very similar reasons, ironically. Indeed, Winwood's music slowly became ridiculous from 1970 onwards, up to the point when his cheesy antics became utterly *unbearable* during the late seventies / early eighties. Had his (and Traffic's) next steps been as memorable as Steely Dan's *Pretzel Logic* or *Aja*, people might have remembered it the way some olks still remember *Countdown To Ecstasy* today. By the way, terrible Winwood solo album *Arc Of A Diver* is in Dimery's list as well, astonishingly. And as said, things got even worse than that in the following years. Evidence enough that anything related to Steve Winwood in the 1001 Albums book must be taken with a grain of salt. At least *John Barleycorn Must Die* still clearly avoided such later horrors, and I'm glad about that. But that's not a sufficient reason to include the album in my own finite list, very sadly. 3/5 for the purposes of this list of "essential albums". Which translates to a 8/10 grade for more general purposes (5+3).

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Fri Jan 26 2024
3

After listening to John Barleycorn Must Die, I don't really have much to say about it. Its a purely fine album that doesn't really stand out in any meaningful way, neither good or bad. The songs were okay and didn't go on for too long which is nice. But beyond that, I don't really have anything else to say. Best Song: Freedom Rider Worst Song: Glad

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Fri Jan 26 2024
3

This is a fun 1970s Album. The engineering could be better but there is charm in its sound. Favorite track, John Barleycorn

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Fri Jan 26 2024
3

This is all the best and worst of multi instrument experimental stuff. The title track has feelings of early Genesis. This is kind of interesting in some ways but it doesn't get me that excited.

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Sun Jan 28 2024
3

Nothing special, short but sweet

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Sun Mar 03 2024
3

Light rock misic with soothing vocals. Interesting and folksy. Not bad, but will not listen again.

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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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Tue Jan 02 2024
2

Yet another bland 70s' British LP, this time with a bit of organ to hopefully (but not successfully) distinguish it from the glut of other albums of its kind on this list. Technically well-executed, but ultimately forgettable - listened to it yesterday afternoon and can't really remember any melodies or tracks worth remembering over my morning coffee.

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Wed Jan 03 2024
2

Hm I don’t know how to rate this. It was just not interesting at all. Some songs where nice but most of it was very boring.

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Fri Jan 19 2024
2

Not bad. Some good late night camp fire stuff.

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Mon Jan 22 2024
2

This is a lot of Steve Winwood. For some, this would be a draw. For me, it is the opposite.

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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 11 2024
1

Definitely did not like this album. Not my style.

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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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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

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

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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Tue Feb 14 2023
5

The rule in 1970 was ‘there are no rules’ This album is a fusion of Jazz, Rock and English Folk Steve Winwood’s vocals and keyboard stand out in front of sax and flutes in jams that flow. This is an album you can listen to at any volume and you get it The title track is a gruesome progressive, English folk tale, made all the more so by its mellow, low key rendition.

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Thu Mar 16 2023
5

Just an outstanding album full of incredibly composed music. Cannot get enough of the instrumentals here. Favorite track: Stranger to Himself

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Thu Apr 13 2023
5

Listen to the instrumental pieces. I had this LP and played it over and over again. Masters!!!! Piano, flute, sax, guitar, drums and vocals....everything blended to make some great enduring sounds.

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Tue May 02 2023
5

What a fantastic listen. Steve Winwood is truly a genius, and his instrumental and vocal expertise is highly evident all across the album. That being said (and not knowing much about traffic), I was pleasantly surprised by the impact of Capaldi and Wood on the overall sound. Winwood is still the star tho

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Tue May 16 2023
5

Listened to the "Remastered" version. To me, sometimes the mixing was harsh (flutes or woodwind instruments were too loud vs rest of band). Guitar portions of songs like the title track and Freedom Rider were excellent. I really enjoyed this album.

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Thu May 18 2023
5

Dad got me into Cream at a young age, as well as Clapton's various side projects, so I've always been a fan of Steve Winwood. Still never really checked out Traffic, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how strong an album this is. Everyone plays their heart out, and the music fits perfectly in my wheelhouse. Favorite tracks: "Glad", "Freedom Rider"

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Wed Jun 14 2023
5

I haven’t heard this album in a long time. It’s still great. My dad is a big Traffic fan and this album and “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” were albums that got played a lot in the house growing up. A little bit country with a lot of jazzy spirit in the extended jams. Joyful music. The title track has a fun premise. It’s a folk song about farmers slashing down John Barleycorn and harvesting him. But in the end, John Barleycorn gets the last laugh because he’s turned into beer and brandy, and overpowers the farmers by getting them drunk. Now they can’t do anything without a little alcohol.

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Fri Aug 11 2023
5

After the barrage of Eric Clapton's music, I wondered when we'd get to some Steve Winwood — and here we are. I owned this album a while back, not sure why it's not still in my collection, because this is excellent. Another where I wavered between 4–5, and a 4 only came into consideration because there were moments where I though Steve Winwood was stretching himself beyond his "pleasant" vocal range and it got a little hairy. But really, that's a picky point on an album that includes ancient folk, jazz, and rock in an equal doses and all of it sounds like it totally belongs together.

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Thu Oct 05 2023
5

Great album-Glad is one of my favorite tracks. Traffic, despite being in the Hall of Fame, is underrated.

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Fri Oct 27 2023
5

Peak morning drive music for the opening track. Flute solos are epic. I feel like it starts stronger than it finishes though... Honestly my favorite album yet though.

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Fri Oct 27 2023
5

i was into this shit fr. liked the funk/blues influences, instrumentals hit just right. gonna round up to 5 bc i loved all of it except the title track

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Fri Oct 27 2023
5

Incredible album, John barleycorn is a transcendental song

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Fri Oct 27 2023
5

Really enjoyed this, especially John Barleycorn

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Fri Nov 03 2023
5

Fantastic album. Will definitely listen to this again.

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Sun Nov 19 2023
5

Great album. My favourite by Traffic for sure. This was in heavy rotation in the 90's when I was listening to lots of 70's classic rock. Albums like this check all the boxes for me.

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Sun Dec 31 2023
5

I didn’t think I was going to give this five stars but the brevity of this album helped it. A nice quick bit of fusion of rock, folk and jazz while staying firmly in the rock camp.

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Fri Jan 05 2024
5

Love it! Cool mix of folk, rock, jazz, organ, synths cool vocals from Steve Winwood - I like his voice a lot. Dad says listen to "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys"

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Sun Jan 07 2024
5

Fantastic album by a band that infused Jazz into rock.

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Sun Jan 14 2024
5

Very funky honestly. I can imagine this being a soundtrack for RDR or similar games.

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Wed Jan 31 2024
5

amazing songs, great winwood vocals and capaldi, wood and mason bringing up the music damn what a band

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Sat Mar 02 2024
5

Winwood & Mason. I really enjoyed hearing this album. Once I owned it so it was like visiting an old friend.

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Thu Mar 07 2024
5

Another one that has some definite nostalgia factor as I've heard this many times over the years. It's good, very good

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Sun May 19 2024
5

Very unique and quit enjoyable. After listening to the album the only thing to do is to listen again.

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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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