This was the fourth album from the UK group Traffic but the first without guitarist Dave Mason. In his departure, and after some side projects, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, and Jim Capaldi put together this album which was released in 1970. Critics were a bit hard on this album noting Mason’s absence, but it sold well both in the US and the UK , eventually going gold. Most of the record is very jazz/blues oriented with the exception of the title track, which was a nod to the rising influence of bands like Fairport Convention on the UK scene.
“John Barleycorn” (Round 164) is an English folk song dating back to the Age of James I. The earliest copy is from the 1400’s. There is also around 140 versions of the tune according to the back cover. On the surface, it seems like a pretty nasty song. Three men have decided that John Barleycorn must die. He is mowed down and left in the sun to dry. He is then cut down at his knees, rolled into a cart, smashed between stones ground up. The songs concludes that many men can’t function without the death of John Barleycorn and that his blood is consumed by many from all walks of life.
Pretty gruesome until you realize that John Barleycorn is not actually a person and is instead barley and malt, the main ingredients in beer and whiskey. The song in fact is a description of the harvest of these cereal crops and the production of alcohol. It remains popular today and versions as shown above exist in both minor and major tones.
Good record. Satisfactory.