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This review is from: John Barleycorn Must Die (Audio CD)
Released after Winwood, Capaldi & Wood had been - to use a phrase from the era which became proverbial - "getting it together at their cottage in the country", this is a 1970 LP that has not only stood the test of time but, to my ears, sounds even more majestic than it did back then when I was a mere stripling of nineteen (and only two years younger than Winwood).
It helps that this remastered single CD with five extra tracks (I`m not reviewing the 2-CD Deluxe ed.) sounds so natural. It hasn't been tinkered with too much, thank goodness. It always sounded fine, and still does.
The opening instrumental Glad is just that, a joyous piano-led mid-tempo jaunt composed by Winwood alone - all the other tracks being co-written with other members of the band. A great way to begin an album.
There isn't a dud song here, the title track and Empty Pages standouts for me. But the most overwhelming is Every Mother's Son, on which Winwood's forceful voice is at its most commanding. It's a stunning track.
Traffic weren't the only band to retreat to a country cottage to unwind, smoke some happy baccy, and refocus their energies. Led Zep were wont to do the same (accompanied by Roy Harper) and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Fairport Convention had a rustic bolt-hole somewhere too. I mention the latter as this album is like an only slightly rockier companion piece to Fairport's much-lauded Liege & Leif, and Traffic's masterwork by no means suffers by comparison - far from it.
The extra tracks complement the original ones well, especially I Just Want You To Know, and the live Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring.
The closing live version of Glad is an extended jam (with the addition of bassist Ric Grech) and is perfectly OK, though hardly essential, and not a patch on the tighter studio recording.
This was always a lovable record, with Jim Capaldi's potent drumming, the sadly late Chris Wood's woodwinds a brilliant highlight, and Steve Winwood's vocals, as well as his keyboard and guitar work, thrilling and exactly right.
Timeless music that defies genres. Highly recommended.