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Barclay James  Harvest - John Lees' Barclay James Harvest: North CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.07 | 55 ratings

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Theo Verstrael
4 stars It was a long wait .. but a rewarding one!! After 14 years and turbulent developments, with the tragic deaths of founder members Mel Pritchard and Woolly Wolstenholme to whose memories 'North' is dedicated, the John Lees' version of BJH return with a glorious album that is full of great melodies, variation and craftmanship. And although this album is quite different from their latest studio album 'Nexus' in the sense that 'North' contains only new songs collectively written by the whole band, it sounds so familiar BJH in some songs. But in other most certainly not! 'Ancient waves' was already played live for a while but it has grown. The mellow intro is new and makes this ballad dealing with man's insanity in going to (the Iraq) war almost vintage BJH, with a great melody, good lyrics and some very nice guitar playing. The same is true for the title track, inspired by their surroundings and containing a melody that sticks to your memory immediately. It is sung both by Lees and Fletcher, who turns out to be an excellent vocalist. The extended coda of that song in the form of a spoken poem by Lees is very appropiate, very loving to the region they reside and also quite new for this band. But what's new? BJH has always done what they thought was best, no matter what was modern at the time. So now they record a Steely Dan-like track ('In wonderland'), a blues track ('The real deal') and a full brass band track with Lees' son John jr. on the cornet ('On top of the world'). The last one is absolutely beautiful, almost haunting and so tasteful, the first mentioned are less my cup of tea. Yet there is one outstanding track, dedicated to the sorely missed Wooly Wolstenholme: 'On leave'. It is this combination of a great vocal melody, beautiful keyboards by Jez Smith who turns out to be an excellent addition to the band, soaring guitar by Lees, a nice break to return to the central theme, classic BJH. And it lasts for more than 9 minutes which was quite unusual for the band.

There is only one conclusion to draw: 'North' is a very convincing, very tasteful and beautiful album for John Lees and his band. The listener is the great winner because BJH is back again! Hopefully this band will produce many more of these great musical moments in the near future!

Theo Verstrael | 4/5 |


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