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Barclay James  Harvest - Octoberon CD (album) cover

OCTOBERON

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

3.75 | 171 ratings

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febus
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
3 stars TROUBLE IN PARADISE

OCTOBERON is widely considered as one of the best BJH releases by BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, but i guess i will be in the minority on this one. I bought the LP back then with big expectations and never really cared for it. 30 years later, i bought the re- mastered CD version and had hoped for the light to finally appear, but sadly to no success.

EVERYONE IS EVERYBODY ELSE and TIME HONOURED GHOSTS had some kind of musical unity driving the whole albums in the same direction even if some songs could be Beatles-esque and others had a west coast flavor. With OCTOBERON, you run from insipid ballads to grandiose prog arrangements to pseudo hard-rock tune , not forgetting a big attempt at a commercial single; You can find music for every taste on this LP.

The problems lies on the shoulder of the 2 main song writers showing the first signs of their respective Achille's heals that will sometimes alter the quality of their future recordings. LES HOLROYD is well known for writing beautiful haunting ballads like NEGATIVE EARTH or JONATHAN, but he also will be remembered coming out with non-descript dull songs. Not that they are bad, no it's just empty, build out of nothing. The perfect example here is the opener WHEN THE WORLD GOES ON, a ballad with absolutely NO melody. Just stop the song on your system and try to sing or whistle something after that! Unpossible!!! A song build out of emptyness coated by a TON of syrup!! Yes, the orchestra is back on this one, i guess the financial debts of the band have been paid at this time. Oh god! how ovewhelming are those orchestra arrangements can be!! And you would think 3 or 4 minutes of this agonizing syrupy track would be enough?? Mind you, you are treated for a 6'27'' torture.

LES HOLROYD is not the only culprit here, JOHN LEES also has his own Achille's heal. He thinks that occasionally, he can compose some good hard-rock tunes. I love JOHN LEES for all what he has done with this band, hie epics. his great symphonic ballads, his lyrics and of course his great voice but when he decides to look for a good strong guitar riff , i prefer run the other way. Thanks god, he hasn't tried to follow that direction many times but you will find a few turkeys this kind throughout the career of the band.

The disaster here is POLK STREET RAG , a song that definitely doesn't fit the artistic personality of the author. Those poor guitar riffs don't sound natural at all, it's like JOHN LEES is forcing himself to produce something catchy, but it just doesn't work.

ROCK N ROLL STAR would be issued as a single, but not this version as Polydor will use a live rendition of this track which would sound more energetic and more upbeat . Not a bad song, this is well sung by HOLROYD with a lot of Californian influences once again,just a kind of song BJH will produce a lot in the future always pleasant , if not mind blowing!

WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME has been allowed one song, the superb RA, the most proggish moment of the album as it it sounds as a return to the grandiose sound of the old Harvest times. 7 mns of sheer happiness with a great melody, a wonderful symphonic athmosphere. one of the highlight of OCTOBERON !

The 2 other highlights are the 2 other JOHN LEES tracks very different from each other. MAY DAY is another very prog mini- symphony with a magnificent , yes pompous intro, but so good. John Lees comes up with another great melody sung with force and conviction, yet still melodic sliced by surprising strong guitar breaks followed by a more surprising appearnce of a whole choir to end the song. Oh ! such a picture perfect of good old quaint England!

The other beauty of OCTOBERON is the closer SUICIDE which as the title indicates is not a funny song, but a slow- tempo haunting melody, one of the best JOHN LEES would come up during his career. IT has a sad athmosphere, a very poignant song, John' voice delivers with his heart out! Sad ending as well when the music stops, the record don't! you are '' treated'' to the sounds of the last moments of the life of the poor man before he decided to ''jump'' for good.

So to keep it short, half of the album is very good keeping up with the high standarts set by the 2 precedent albums, but a few mishaps mostly by HOLROYD and a big one from LEES make OCTOBERON just an average record going in to many different directions.

3 STARS.

febus | 3/5 |

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