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Various Artists (Label Samplers) - A Breath Of Fresh Air: A Harvest Records Anthology/ 1969-1974 CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Label Samplers)


Various Genres

4.02 | 4 ratings

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Dick Heath
Special Collaborator
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars At last Harvest Records & EMI have realised competitive records labels have already issued some excellent compilations from their vaults, covering music from 1965 to 1974, and done something about it. As a further compliment to those other 5 separated 3 CD boxsets (issued by Decca, Island, Castle, Vertigo, Liberty-UA), each having good to excellent liner notes, here Harvest's. Minor moan: like EMI's Liberty/UA issue again the parent company haven't stretched to a nice cardboard box, instead serving this up in a horrible polystyrene compact snap-box - but I'll forgive them as the box holds many musical pleasure and memories, plus a few new ones to me. BTW Harvest issued a 4 CD box set 'Harvest Festival' covering much more of its history with a book(let), less than 10 years at the 40 quid plus price. In addition Harvest issued a double LP set similar titled 'Picnic: A Breath Of Fresh Air', 37 years ago (i.e. approximately 3 years after the founding of the label) - very few of the tracks found on that album are featured here.

I've thought hard and I can't think that any Harvest signings from the first 5 years of the label's existence have been omitted.Therefore we are presented with a variety of musical styles which happily fell under the joint headings of underground/progessive music circa 1970 -however, now and only with a lot of wangling would all slot under a bloated definition of 'progressive rock'. Hence some excellent folk from the Collins sisters, Michael Chapman and Roy Harper. Proto-gothic/agiprop pops up several times from Edgar Broughton - but I'm not sure of the choice of Broughton's 'Evil' to open the whole - there are better tunes on 'Wasa Wasa'. The avant blues rock of Pete Brown (Jack Bruce's lyricist) comes up several times. The blossoming heavy rock of Deep Purple or Quatermass. The beautiful weirdness of The Third Ear Band, Ron Geesin, Kevin Ayers, (a personal hurray for the inclusion of 'Song From The Bottom Of A Well'), and Syd Barrett at the edge of mental collapse. However, we are happily given the full whack of Babe Ruth's Tamla inspired 'Wells Fargo', with the faux Junior Wells sax break. There is Roy Wood's ELO, before they they became Mr Lynn's -and to remind of where ELO came from there is the Move. And I'm thinking: is that Jan Akkermann track with Pete Banks? And then you'll find a few bands the bands time almost forgot -e.g. Forest, Spontaneous Combustion, Bombadil (hey I have this track as a single!). The choice of Floyd is good - for me. And then there is Marc Almond!

This is as good but no better than any one of the excellent 5 compilations from the period already mentioned above and listed in the archives.

May I suggest if the pennies stretch: buy all 6 sets, with the 18 CDs in total, covering a very very good cross section of British rock music in its development and blossoming,and get a real bargain at less than a 100 quid - while the duplication across the sets is almost zero.

Dick Heath | 4/5 |


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