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John Barleycorn Must Die to be re-issued - Win a signed Steve Winwood guitar scratch plate

Steve Winwood, Scratch Pad

Story by Jack Foley

JOHN Barleycorn Must Die is the Traffic album that almost never was but which is now commonly regarded as their definitive work.

By 1970, still only 22, Steve Winwood had already served time at the heart of The Spencer Davis Group, as a founder member of Traffic, and with the supergroup Blind Faith.

What started out as Steve Winwood’s solo debut, originally to be called Mad Shadows (a title later filched by Mott The Hoople), John Barleycorn Must Die became Traffic’s third and most fully realised studio album.

Originally a project where Steve Winwood planned to play every instrument himself, he began recording in the Autumn of 1969.

Then, after taking time out in January 1970 to participate in Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Winwood returned to his solo album in February.

The next piece to be committed to tape was Glad, a jazz influenced instrumental based upon a piano part that Winwood had been toying with for some time.

With the input of Jim Capaldi’s drumming and Chris Wood’s saxophone, the piece took upon a new lease of life. “It was obvious to all of us that we should really give Traffic another go,” said Winwood soon after.

Songs like Glad and Freedom Rider reflect Winwood’s time with Blind Faith, more improvised, jazzier and more expansive than anything on Traffic’s earlier albums.

The real surprise package, however, was the inclusion of the acoustic, seventeenth century traditional folk song John Barleycorn Must Die.

John Barleycorn Must Die was the album that Traffic had always threatened to make and where they truly fulfilled their promise.

It was released in July 1970 and was a Top Five album in America, easily their most successful album there, reaching No. 11 in the UK.

In support of the album, Traffic toured America where their shows at the Fillmore East, New York, on November 18 and 19 were taped. A scheduled Live – November 70 album, mixed down from the Fillmore East, was never released.

These much bootlegged recordings are now officially released for the first time on Disc Two of this new deluxe edition along with alternate takes of John Barleycorn Must Die, Stranger To Himself and Every Mother’s Son.

John Barleycorn Must Die set a template for a rejuvenated Traffic which, with an expanded and fluctuating line up, continued to record and tour successfully, making their final appearance at the Reading Festival in August 1974.

The remastered 2-disc album, John Barleycorn Must Die is released on February 28, 2011 thanks to UMC/Island Records.

Win a signed Steve Winwood guitar scratch plate

To celebrate the release of the remastered John Barleycorn Must Die on February 28, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win a signed Steve Winwood guitar scratch plate. Simply answer the following question…

Q. What was the original name of John Barleycorn Must Die going to be?

Simply send the answer to John Barleycorn Must Die competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Track listing:

Disc 1: The original album remastered

  1. Glad ( 6:59 )
  2. Freedom Rider ( 5:30 )
  3. Empty Pages ( 4:34 )
  4. Stranger To Himself ( 3:57 )
  5. John Barleycorn Must Die ( 6:27 )
  6. Every Mother’s Son ( 7:08 )

Disc 2: Alternative takes and live (previously unreleased)

  1. Stranger To Himself – Alternate mix ( 4:10 )
  2. John Barleycorn Must Die – First version ( 5:10 )
  3. Every Mother’s Son – Alternate mix ( 7:01 )
  4. Back Stage and Introduction ( 1:44 )
  5. Medicated Goo – Live ( 4:38 )
  6. Empty Pages – Live ( 5:03 )
  7. Forty Thousand Headmen – Live ( 4:50 )
  8. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring ? – Live ( 5:21 ) *
  9. Every Mother’s Son – Live ( 7:08 )
  10. Glad / Freedom Rider – Live ( 14:40 )

  1. great info

    Tony Ryan    Feb 8    #