A superlative album. It’s actually a toss-up for me between this album and ‘Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ as to which is Traffic’s best recording, but it really doesn’t matter. I’ll take both. Anyway, it is quite ballsy that a rock band of Traffic’s stature should title their album and include a 6.5 minute long version of a 16th century song — an allegory on the cultivation of barley and it alcoholic after-effects. Yet, it works; in fact, I prefer this version of John Barleycorn to that of Martin Carthy, Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span, it is that good. But most of the album is far more jazzier than folky, a compliment to the diversity of Traffic. ‘Glad’ is exactly what its title implies: a joyous and jazzy romp with one of the nicest piano sequences in rock ‘n’ roll. ‘Glad’ segues seamlessly into ‘Freedom Rider’ another bit of jazz fusion, and an excellent vocal bookend to the instrumental ‘Glad’. ‘Empty Pages’ presents Traffic at its most…ummm…’Trafficesque’. It is a quintessential Traffic tune.
And this is the quintessential Traffic album: compositionally diverse, catchy riffing and a musical virtuousity that one does not find in the later ages of rock. As a matter of fact, an argument can be made that this type of album can no longer be made, due to the reliance on strict genre-defining output and the lack of musical diversification in the current crop of rock musicians. I hate the wanking 21st century. —Dark Elf