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Barclay James  Harvest - XII CD (album) cover

XII

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

3.57 | 105 ratings

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febus
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
3 stars GOODBYE AND THANKS FOR EVERYTHING, WOOLY!

''XII'' is often considered as the last ''classic'' album of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, mostly for the reason that this is the last album with keyboardist WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME on board before his departure. I see it more as the first album of a new BJH trying to go mainstream and reach the charts. Yes, WOOLY comes up with....2 songs on XII both of them very good like the haunting IN SEARCH OF ENGLAND very reminiscent of the old symphonic BJH sound. This song sounds like a wonderful testament on the legacy of this great mellotron-master, leaving a big hole behind him before coming back in the band through the eyes of JOHN LEES...2 decades later. Time flies!

LES HOLROYD and JOHN LEES are not apologetic about simplifying their sound, getting rid of a lot of prog elements from the past, turning more in a pop-rock/AOR direction. But don't forget we are already in 1978 now and everybody else was in the same ship back then trying to stay relevant in a new musical world.I am not one to bash these drastic transformations as long as the music or melodies are still of great quality.To the contrary of certain prog elitists, i still think being mainsteam and making good songs are NOT incompatible!

Yes, there are quite a few good songs to be found on ''XII''. Besides the aforementioned PROCOL HARUM-sounding IN SEARCH OF ENGLAND and the other WOOLY song HARBOUR keeping memories of the past, LEES and HOLROYD come back to us with more ''modern'' songs, though a few of them bear the same quality as some from their old days.

HOLROYD penned one of his most beautiful ballad ever BERLIN which would become a live staple . the bassist songs are often a hit or miss affair, but when LES hits, he hits very high and he did with BERLIN.The rest of his tracks are definitely the most commercial ones like TURNING IN CIRCLES or SIP OF WINE, sort of light mid-tempo rockers, not very original but as always well played and tastefully arranged. GIVING IT UP is another of those LES ballads but not as good as BERLIN, kind of unimaginative and so syrupy!

JOHN LEES also tries to get a'' hit'' with the opener LOVING IS EASY with its corny chorus. Not my favorite song of JOHN LEES, far from it, but his guitar licks sound great and save the song from complete disaster! but who i am to say anything bad about LOVING IS EASY as indeed this song would chart eventually!

Things are not really going better with the ''rocker' A TALE OF TWO SIXTIES a tribute to JOHN's musical heroes of his youth! I guess he is a man of tributes after TITLES from TIME OF HONOURED GHOSTS, a song showing his admiration for the BEATLES or POOR MAN'S MOODY BLUES on GONE TO EARTH..

However, John LEES shows us he hasn't lost it either with 3 great tracks:THE CLOSED SHOP, a ballad typical of him with a strong vocal performance and absolutely great arrangements, maybe this is a fute or keyboards i don't know for sure, but what i do know it sounds very good. NOVA LEPIDOPTERA is a spacey suave ballad that will become another BJH ''classic'' still on their live repertoire more than 25 years later. THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO won't get this honor but this is still a beautiful ballad, with some nice haunting parts like when a delicate harmonica comes playing in the background over an acoustic guitar.Somehow west-coast influenced and a good way to close the album.

This is not the greatest album BJH would produce but it is still a decent one .JOHN LEES still composes good to great songs which can still surprise us LES HOLROYD songs on the other hand start to sound too predictable, a tendency which will be confirmed in the future, sadly.WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME would depart soon as his prog songs were rejected, the band wanting to cut the ties to its symphonic roots.

3 STARS.

febus | 3/5 |

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