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Barclay James  Harvest - XII CD (album) cover

XII

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

3.57 | 105 ratings

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GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I have always had a fondness for BJH, though I've also had major issues with their music aswell. Amidst some outstanding tracks I've experienced a sense of the same-ness in sound. The tracks blend together, not in the epic style where tracks flow in and out of each other, more in a bland way. Sorry. I wish I could feel differently but I don't. The only album I thoroughly enjoy is this one, XII.

Towards the end of the 1970's the sound changed, not only when BJH is concerned. Some bands smoothed out, resulting in a more pop- and radio friendly sound. This is by no means bad. The late 70's, early 80's spawned some really engaging and inspired albums. BJH was never the hardest of rock bands. They never, as far as I am aware, made the earth shake or ear drums to shatter. They were always a sort of gentle, folky prog band. Pastoral, is maybe a fair judgement. So, XII is really no big turn in sound, unless you consider the instrumentation and approach to somewhat more modern textures. The sound could be described as the preface to the more synthezised sounds of the 80's, before the technology made it all truly possible.

XII contains songs of really high quality, making the album solid in a way not many albums in their discography can boast. The englishness is there, which for me is a delight. "In search of England" is a great, enormously rewarding track, combining the sounds of british history from the early 1900's to the late 70's. The decline of the Empire, the economic hardships of the times and the onslaught of punk makes the song both nostalgic and contemporary in a way that makes me think of the albums Kinks made (like Arthus) based on the same themes: the search for the soul of Britain and the ever changing world. I find it hauntingly beautiful and pastoral, sad but not depressing. The lyrics I have not examined, not really. My interpretation is based on sounds and feeling only. Maybe that will suffice.

The album is varied and offers a selection of soundscapes and emotions, from the hard rock of "Turning in circles" via the celtic sounding "The closed shop", the pop of "Sip of wine", the pastoral "In search of England" and the prog of "Science ficition: Nova Lepidoptera". All in all a magnificent album. Worthy, varied and highly listenable. Maybe, just maybe it is their greatest hour and that is not such a small feat, a decade (or so) into their existance.

GruvanDahlman | 4/5 |

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