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Roy Harper - Folkjokeopus CD (album) cover

FOLKJOKEOPUS

Roy Harper

 

Prog Folk

3.72 | 44 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Folkjokeopus is probably Harper's most schizophrenic piece, alternating between campy, drugged-up music hall and the haunting all-encompassing completeness that would characterise his work from here on. Two of the pieces on it are completely unmissable, most of the others are fair to good, a couple are kinda regrettable.

Let's start with the good, One For All is a devastating flatpicking guitar piece wrapped around a gloriously spacey lyric. Probably Harper's finest performance with the technique, the Celto-Arabic hammer-ons and pull- offs taking on a significance on different plane to the notes themselves, intercut with thundering chords. McGoohan's Blues is a 20 minute stream of consciousness howl over a thundering acoustic Am riff, along with the scalar interludes of Harper's early work and a beautiful major(ish) resolution featuring a little more of a band. The vocal is just extraordinary, natural, almost conversational, uniquely English, full of the high twang and ethereal notes typical of Harper's later 70s work. The lyrics are simply a masterwork, the moral thundering fourteeners of a Kipling turned into an immaculate skewering of the way of life the form implies.

And the village is making its Sunday collection in church The church wobbles 'twixt hell and heaven's crumbling perch Unnoticed the money box loudly endorses the shame As the world that Christ fought is supported by using his name

Every verse is this good.

The rest of the album never really hits the same giddy heights; She's The One has its moments and a great bass part but as a whole piece, the ill-advised high notes, slightly befuddled lyrics and tone never really come together. Composer of Life and In The Time of Water are a bit dinky but not unpleasant as a venture into oriental instrumentation, which I don't think Harper ever really revisited. The opening Sergeant Sunshine is probably the most Dylan-esque of Harper's pieces but nonetheless very fine, in a slightly odd timing with beautiful female vocals over the top and some extraordinary rhymes ('joins the endless next last waltz/says he loves his liver salts'). Exercising Some Control is a campy Noel Coward type affair based on a great pun but it's the giggly stoner and not the cerebral mystic at work. Manana is definitely an inexplicable comedown after McGoohan's Blues blows everything out of the park. There's something to it but I'm not really sure what it is.

Overall, this is probably the most sophomoric of all sophomore albums with the gems and inconsistencies and slight uncertainty about direction really exaggerated from Harper's rather good debut but Christ alive the highs are some of the highlights of Roy Harper's career and the whole English singer-songwriter scene from the time. I can't really give the end product as many stars as those pieces deserve but seriously give One For All and McGoohan's Blues a listen. The storm was gathering here.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |

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