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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Traffic - "John Barleycorn Must Die" (Island Records, 1970) [key tracks: Glad, Stranger To Himself]
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"There were three men came out of the west, their fortunes for to try. And these three men made a solemn vow; John Barleycorn must die! They've plowed, they've sown, they've harrowed him in, threw clods upon his head. And these three men made a solemn vow; John Barleycorn was dead."
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As I sit and stare at a pile of records, most of which need sleeves, all of which are incredible musical milestones in my life, I cannot decide what to photograph. I have been looking at the pile for an hour. Four new Anthrax LPs, a modern classic Melvins set (that I accidentally defaced opening...thanks for nothing lazy Ebay seller), a southern rock hidden gem, and the usual cast of stoner rock and alternative masterpieces. I have an embarrassment of riches. So today, I am going the safe route, and using one of my "backup" plans. Behold, Traffic.
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Carl's Favorite Songs - #32 - Karma Police by Radiohead
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As hinted at above, I need to save excitement and hyperbole for the coming months of posts. I wish all of you would just start coming over to my house and get the adoration and reviews in person. It would be easier on this man with his limited vocabulary. But much like my fingers need a preemptive pause before the onslaught of posts, my ears needed a break from extreme metal, avaunt-garde post punk, and blunting stoner rock. Traffic perfectly fits that groove. A jazzy, bluesy, rock outfit featuring Steve Winwood (who has a fantastic voice despite his questionable solo milk-toast-pop 80's hits) and a lot of flute. Not that they are Jethro Tull, or even progressive. Instead, they are musicians. Pure and simple. The compositions are very technical, and enjoyable. Think of early and mid era Fleetwood Mac, but enjoyable. For anyone who enjoys rock and roll, Traffic is a no brainer.
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The standout track is the title cut, an arrangement of an old folk song about, well, you decide. The controversy is that it is a call to alcohol abstinence, others say it was a literal reading of a murder done to benefit the community, yet a few retain that it has to do with the nature of business (the big guy pushing out the little guy). Closet whisky fans, like myself, prefer to see it as a call to enjoy as much uisce beatha as possible before Johnny is killed.
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Some trivia about this burlap-sack-themed LP; it was originally intended as a Winwood solo LP, but as the compositions grew more interesting and varied in genre (hippy psychedelic folk jazz pop prog hard rock), members of Traffic started signing on one by one. Soon it was a fully realized Traffic project. Go figure. So put it on, let it spin, and toss one back. Rest up honey, you'll need your strength for the coming storm of vinyl. Don't worry (hic), I'll be here to guide you. Me and John (hic).
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Horns up.
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1 comment:

eye-bee said...

Although "Low Sparks" was undoubtably their best album as a whole, but one track stands here as an uncanny glimps into the future. Listen closely to "Empty Pages" and you'll hear the Steve Winwood that made a boatload of money in the 80's.

HouseOfWax
Detroit