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Barclay James  Harvest - Gone To Earth CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.36 | 182 ratings

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3 stars With "Octoberon" being a modest success in America and the group solidifying their base in Europe, they moved swiftly to capitalize by releasing "Gone to Earth" only about three quarters of a year later. While not as strong and deep as its predecessor, it contained the major song that the group needed to really hit the big time on the continent. Otherwise this is a somewhat schizophrenic effort, although the cover of the original LP was uniformly beautiful and unique. My review is based on this 1977 release.

The song that anchored the album, and appeared to motivate the group to rush out the release, was the opener "Hymn", an uplifting and beautiful Lees song built on a simple 12 string guitar riff. Building within it are trademark harmonies and the atmospheric keyboards of Woolly Wolstenholme. The main verse is repeated several times at the end to solidify the experience. I knew fans of modern 80s music, with no particular religious inclination, who knew nothing of BJH except this tune, and loved it. That is not so much an endorsement as an affirmation of the song's ability to dissolve cultural barriers in music. In Germany the album became a massive hit, largely on the strength of "Hymn".

The rest of side 1 is excellent as well. "Love is Like a Violin" is a placid almost contemplative tune with a surprisingly boisterous chorus. Again, the spacey element is exploited to perfection. The surprise here is "Friend of Mine", which shows a rarely seen country rock side to the group propelled by Holroyd. It is remarkably effective and, after the initial shock and several listens, actually works well in the surroundings of the more progressive numbers. The original side 1 is concluded with the ode to "Nights in White Satin" called "Poor Man's Moody Blues". When I first heard it I did not figure out the connection until the instrumental break after side 2. It is a lovely and languid reconfiguration of the Moody Blues song.

Unfortunately, Side 2 is very uneven and mostly on the negative side. "Hard Hearted Woman" is relatively catchy but shows Les Holroyd's increasing tendency to write simplistic poppy songs even if the arrangements are good. "Spirit on the Water" is an environmental protest song with a great verse, but the chorus and instrumental breaks are lacking intensity. It is somewhat salvaged by more ethereal harmonies as the song concludes. The rest of the side features the gamut of group styles executed halfheartedly with no glue to hold them together. These include a Lees rocker, a swollen Wolstenholme epic, and an unctuous Holroyd closer.

If side one soars, side two is stuck on Earth, and shows BJH succumbing to lazy songwriting and arranging, as well as a complete loss of focus. Nonetheless, enough great material is present to make this one worth getting for anyone into this brand of melodic and easy listening progressive rock.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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