Sunday, March 27, 2011

Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die Deluxe Edition (Universal, 2011)

When the rock ‘n’ roll band Traffic broke up for the first time in the late-1960’s in the wake of Dave Mason’s departure, keyboardist, guitarist and singer Steve Winwood began a solo project. When he needed help on the songs, he called upon his old mates, multi-instrumentalist Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi on drums and vocals for help. Soon a fully formed Traffic project had begun. With this configuration, the band was delve much deeper into jazz and folk forms that offered them more freedom than found in a traditional rock’n’ roll band. The opening track “Glad” bears this out building a jazzy riff and then morphing into the piano laden pop song “Freedom Rider.” The title track “John Barleycorn Must Die” is the centerpiece of the album and a fascinating update of an old British folktale, centered around a slow building riff and Winwood’s soulful vocals. The second disc of the deluxe edition contains some alternate takes and mixes of songs from the original album, but the real treat is several live tracks recorded at the Fillmore that allow the band to stretch out nicely in a live setting. After playing some of their earlier poppier material to hook the audience, the disc concludes with an excellent version of the “Glad/Freedom Rider” medley incorporating some nice sax riffing. This was a well done reissue, certain to appeal to fans of the band and those interested at music that exists at the intersection of rock, pop and jazz. All three instrumentalists were open minded and worked together well to craft and excellent, now expanded album. John Barleycorn Must Die (Deluxe Edition) - amazon.com

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