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


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.06 | 55 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars The best Barclay James Harvest album in three decades, yet still not all that good!

Released in 2013, North is the first proper studio album to be released under the name of John Lees' Barclay James Harvest. (1999's Nexus was a mixture of original material and re-recordings of classic Barclay James Harvest songs; and besides it was released under the alternative name of "Barclay James Harvest Through The Eyes Of John Lees".) Before he passed away in 2010, Woolly Wolstenholme was involved in this version of the band (which can be seen on the very good live DVD Legacy - Live At The Shepherd's Bush Empire released in 2007). The John Lees' Barclay James Harvest moniker is thus more appropriate than it was when it started as John Lees is now the only original member of Barclay James Harvest involved. (Les Holroyd has his own version of the band called Barclay James Harvest Featuring Les Holroyd, which included the fourth original member Mel Pritchard before he passed away.)

Nonetheless, North is a full-fledged Barclay James Harvest album in sound and appearance and is indeed the best studio album that (any version of) the band has produced in a long, long time. Almost all the songs bear the trademark Barclay James Harvest sound embodied in the voice and guitar sound of John Lees. The opening track If You Were Here Now does however not have this sound and I wonder if it is not bass player Craig Fletcher who sings lead here (?). It is a rather weak song which does not leave a good impression.

The album continues with Ancient Waves which was previously familiar to me from the live album Live In Concert At Metropolis Studios, London. This is one out of three good songs on this album, the other two being the title track and On Leave. The latter is the longest track on the album which leaves room for some tasteful guitar and keyboard work. These three songs easily rank among the best songs that the band has produced since the 1970's. Unfortunately the album as a whole is not up to that standard.

Unreservedly Yours was released as a single to promote this album. It has a rather standard, Beatles- esque melody and failed to leave any lasting impressions. On Top Of The World is a decent symphonic ballad which is pleasant enough, but again hardly impressive. Is it Fletcher singing again?

The real embarrassments of the album have not yet been mentioned however. In Wonderland is an absolute miss, especially the lyrics are cringe-worthy implicitly criticising the age of information technology by urging us to switch our phones off making the band appear like some old Luddites. With lines like "Facebook, YouTube, you loose" and "Schmetterlings for brains" this is best avoided by contemporary beings. The Real Deal is another weak track, a dull, middle of the road rocker.

With some strong moments, some decent moments, and some really weak moments, North could certainly have been a lot better than it is. If you are a fan of the band, by all means check this out, but for most people this is far from essential.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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