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Roy Harper - Roy Harper & Jimmy Page: Whatever Happened To Jugula ? CD (album) cover


Roy Harper


Prog Folk

3.78 | 30 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars "We're not just spirits disappearing."

Whatever Happened to Jugula?, or just Jugula, as Roy Harper has now retitled the album for the 21st century, is one of those rare alchemical albums that's the result of odd circumstances putting desperate musicians together.

To say that Roy Harper has heady friends is almost an understatement with David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Ian Anderson, and even Pete Townsend, as contributors to Harper's albums over the years, as well as being sincere fans of Harper and his work.

This particular album features the reunion of Jimmy Page as a guest artist in an expanded roll as collaborator, as Page was recovering from heroin addiction at the time, as well as trying to get his bum in gear and move on from the demise of Led Zeppelin. Harper was in a slump after leaving EMI records and found himself with a deal on the Beggar's Banquet label. With both Harper and Page rejuvenated, Jugula is assisted by Harper's long time studio contributors, the great Tony Franklin on fretless bass and Steve Broughton on drums, with studio engineer Nik Green contributing deft keyboards to the record as well.

The album's first track Nineteen Eighty Fourish (actually listed on the album sleeve as Nineteen Forty Eightish as an inside joke from Harper) is a mighty opener as subtle but unmistakable Dooms Day sounding synths swirl around Harper's brash sounding Ovation acoustic strums as Roy delivers the first of many heartfelt of the album's great vocal deliveries. The song is now a period piece about the never ending nuclear arms threat of the 1980's but still seems to ring clear as a metaphor for the current world's dire situations. The song is punctuated by caustic electric guitar phrases and shapes from Page (that are not imitative of David Gilmour but would be quite at home on both Pink Floyd's Animals and The Wall albums) before the both Harper and Page do their now familiar acoustic guitar interplay near the song's coda. Page is back in top form and is now experimenting with the harrowing electric guitar tones and styles that would dominate the songs of his group The Firm that was shorty to come.

The spoken word poem Bad Speech is just what the name implies, and would have sounded ostentatious if the piece did not segue into the album's, and perhaps Harper's, best ever song titled Hope. With a hypnotic guitar riff written by none other than David Gilmour, and played by Harper's talented son Nick (with guitar effects lent to him by Gilmour), the song is nothing short of Harper's own album crowner like Comfortably Numb is for Floyd's The Wall album. Hope is not even remotely similar to Comfortably Numb, but every bit as emotive and evocative due a wonderfully powerful vocal by Harper, along with a stellar musical delivery by all those previously mentioned. It's one of Harper's must profound moments on record as well as being one of his best progressive rock songs ever recorded.

Hangman and Elizabeth return to the acoustic/electric guitar formula of Nineteen Eighty Fourish without sounding derivative. More spurts of Page electric guitar pyrotechnics dot both songs as Nik Green continues to add subtle but atmospheric synths to both songs. Dealing with both capital punishment and the need for universal understanding, both songs succeed due to harper's sincere vocal delivery.

Both songs are followed by the acoustic guitar dominated song titled Frozen Moment in which Harper poetically states the feeling that over comes someone when they realize, in the second, that a love relationship has ended. Page and Harper's chilling arpeggios combined with icy synths from Green easily nail the song. It's another of the album's and Harper's recorded highlights.

Twentieth Century Man-Beast is a straight acoustic song played by both Harper and Page and is highlighted by Harper's great vocal range that never wavers into shrill extremes.

As is his his want, and modus operandi, Harper ends the album anticlimactically with the throwaway singsong Advertisement, which, I suppose, is Harper's answer to Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women Numbers 12 And 35, as the song's chorus is a corny refrain of 'Man, I'm really stoned, yes I'm really stoned" and the cliched drink/drug bravado that goes along with such a tune. The song's music is actually quite catchy despite it's trite subject matter.

Jugula maintains Harper's string of meticulous studio recordings that commenced with his tenure as an Abby Road Studio's recorded EMI artist, and is quite detailed and dynamic for an album recorded in the eighties.

Owing to the album's silly closing track and the feeling of sameness that pervades three of the album's songs, despite the song's numerous time changes and guitar breaks, four stars is a reasonable rating for Jugula.

Whenever I hear the age old gripe that there's not any good Prog Rock music around and the person is unfamiliar with Roy Harper's work, I always play Jugula for them. And I'm still amazed when the person exclaims "Why didn't I know about this?", which is usually followed by a deep laugh and broad smile from yours truly.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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