The Music Fix outlines its genesis:
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 album, 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.Two songs from the LP have featured here as Sunday music videos:
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. 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 18th and 19th 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 of John Barleycorn along with alternate takes of ‘John Barleycorn Must Die‘, ‘Stranger To Himself’ and ‘Every Mother‘s Son‘.
extended interview with him on the Eagle 96.9 site.