Traffic John Barleycorn Must Die

Traffic John Barleycorn Must Die
In histories of '60s and '70s rock, star-studded English band Traffic are often underestimated. Their adventurous, delightfully atmospheric sound stands the test of time way better than many of their contemporaries, as this superb reissue confirms. Originally released in 1970, John Barleycorn Must Die featured just six songs. They appear here in remastered form, while a bonus CD will delight fans. Recorded live at the Fillmore East, it features alternate versions of some of the tracks, alongside some earlier Traffic gems, including the playfully psychedelic "Medicated Goo." This disc proves the band could shine in a live setting as well. The core of Traffic's sound is the soulful vocals and organ playing of Stevie Winwood, arguably the greatest ever white English soul singer. This album, in fact, started out as Winwood's first solo release, following the demise of Blind Faith. With the addition of Traffic stalwarts Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, it became a group effort, and their instrumental empathy is on full display. Wood shines on sax and flute, while Capaldi's poetic lyrics, precise drumming and strong vocal harmonies are key assets. The title track is a six-and-a-half-minute tour de force. An old English folk ballad, its lengthy narrative is delivered amidst dreamy musical accompaniment. When is the last time you heard the usually twee flute used this effectively? John Barleycorn actually became their most commercially successful album, ranking alongside later trippy classic The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys as Traffic's finest. If this album were released for the first time today, it'd likely be hailed as a fresh-sounding art-rock masterpiece. Do yourself a favour and check it out. (Universal)