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Roy Harper - The Unknown Soldier CD (album) cover

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

Roy Harper

 

Prog Folk

3.03 | 16 ratings

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SteveG
3 stars Trapped in time.

A common occurrence for many albums recorded in the late seventies, and practically all of the eighties, for a number of reasons that include a trend to bend toward the current pop styles of the day, instrumentation, recording technics and record company interference in order to promote a more 'attractive' product to their consumers.

The Unknown Soldier is one of Harper's slickest sounding albums that veers away from straight up prog folk and finds an array of musical styles that at times incorporate a distinctive Floydian influence on three of album's best songs, The Flycatcher, You and a reworked version, of his co-written song with David Gilmour, titled Short And Sweet from Gilmour's first solo album.

They are among the best tracks on the album with The Flycatcher displaying an eerie violin accompaniment written by David Bedford, while special guest Gilmour graces You with his majestic guitar. You is also a duet with the incomparable Kate Bush, another long time friend and fan of Harper. Short And Sweet features the caustic six chord opening riff found on the Gilmour version, but Roy's rearrangement features a galloping bass line and dramatic swirling strings in the song's instrumental middle section that gives the song an epic feel that Gilmour's version only hinted at.

Harper is a great vocalist and handles all of the vocals, usually overdubbed in the choruses, extremely well and is quite actually another instrument on this album.

Where the album starts to go flat is with the songs Playing Games, First Thing In The Morning, and Ten Years Ago which employ new wave-ish Yamaha synths that are supplemented with Gilmour like guitar from Andy Roberts. This is acceptable ear candy to me, but where the album really fails is that it's totally solo acoustic title track sounds like one of Harper's known for throwaway pieces and lacks the gravitas of either a song that connotes such serious subject matter, or frankly, as a song used for an album title track. This is stark contrast to album's chilling cover photo of a real skeleton taken at a war memorial site in France.

Anyone familiar with the ways of Roy Harper will know that Roy has a sweet spot for this album based on the extensive babbling liner notes that he wrote for the CD reissue. The only other album to receive this level of attention was the Dream Society released in 1998. The Unknown Soldier was an album that, I guess, Roy consciously made to be either a hit or to at least sound contemporary. He failed at achieving guess number one, but this album's style of music and sound production ensure that he achieved guess number two. 3.5 stars as it's still a worthy early period Harper album that fans should own.

SteveG | 3/5 |

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