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Barclay James  Harvest - Live Tapes CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.73 | 75 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars If "Live Tapes" can never match "Live" (1974) for sheer verve, potency, progressiveness, it more than compensates with a sparkling production and, it must be admitted, more varied and engaging material. The tracks, other than "Mockingbird", are drawn from the band's most consistent period, and it shows in the breadth of what they were able to accomplish. My review is unfortunately based on the original LP, and I just noticed that one of my favourites, "Hymn for the Children", is a bonus track on the CD re-release.

Continuing with analog terminology, side 1 features 3 of their best known songs in rejuvenating versions. "Child of the Universe" is ushered in by technical drum rolls, and fades out to lovely Wolstenholme keys and Lees guitars. "Rock 'n Roll Star" is pumped up live without sounding raunchy, while "Poor Man's Moody Blues" features some new ideas and a great ending. Speaking of which, all three of these songs terminate concisely and decisively, which is refreshing for a live album. What I cannot understand is why the rest of the album reverts to the long drawn out endings that were the staple of 70s rock.

The next biggest highlights are delivered courtesy of John Lees, with emotional versions of two of his ballads, "One Night" and "Suicide". The first is enhanced by some brilliant guitar work that goes well beyond anything heard in the studio offering, while John Lees' wordless accompaniment in Suicide magnifies and solidifies the great sadness of the theme. Such touches show that the band was inventive in their own way, and the insertion of "Hymn" as finale further adds to the broad sweep of the material. Indeed it is the only tune in which acoustic guitar is played, because no electric guitar is called for. Les Holroyd delivers two superior versions in "Jonathan" and "Taking me Higher", but both are such mediocre songs to begin with that the end result is just good. He does play some incredible bass licks during "For No One".

"Live Tapes" works as a great summation of the mid 70s period of BJH for fans or newcomers. In this case, unlike its older sister, a lot of great material had to be passed up, as these Polydor years produced so many fine songs, so I would still recommend acquiring the albums from which the songs are sourced.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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