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Barclay James  Harvest - Octoberon CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.77 | 258 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Please for God's sake let me cover my ears

The reason for my reviewing hiatus was this sudden urge to get more Barclay James Harvest before moving on. Not wanting to order from the web, I searched the stores in search of some pre- Time Honoured Ghosts material. Couldn't find any. Therefore I settled for Octoberon, an album which turns out it's one of the bands most well regarded efforts. And I can't figure out why.

The album opens with The World Goes On, a track reminiscent of some of the mellower work on Time Honoured Ghosts, but which appears to have been given a Do They Know Its Christmas treatment 8 years before Bob Geldof even thought of that. Terribly dull vocals, cheesy orchestrations and a guitar that, no matter how hard it tries, just can't save this track. Yuck. May Day is a nice improvement over the first track, even though the Steve Harley-like vocals cause a bit of a bad impression at first. Great keyboard and guitar work in the chorus, providing a very uplifting atmosphere, something that was quite lacking on the first track. After the first section, we are interrupted by an awesome interlude of fiery guitar riffs and blasting keyboard bursts. The songs returns to the initial formula, a bit faster, and complemented with a fuzz guitar solo, before resuming cruise speed. Three minutes into the end, an operatic choir kicks in, this time with the correct orchestral arrangements. Verdi would be pleased. Percussion and a synth give it a bit of punch towards the end, but nothing to be upset about. Symphonic Rock bliss. Ra comes next, introduced by a spacey keyboard passage and. a Bonanza-style guitar lick? Okay. Gosh, this is great keyboard work. A spacey slide guitar complements the song as the soothing and quite adequate vocals enter the scene. Great harmonies. Slow build-up into the excellent instrumental chorus. This structure repeats itself one more time, this time with more emphasis on the guitar solo of the chorus. The track then ends in the same keyboard-driven atmosphere that opened it. So, Side One is up. A stinker opener and two awesome tracks. Side Two (or second half for the CD generation) is opened by Rock n'Roll Star, a funky piece of symphonic rock, slightly reminding me of In My Life from the previous album, mostly due to the guitar work. Absolutely stunning chorus, again featuring excellent vocal harmonies. Love the guitar solo.

This is where things get nasty once more. Polk Street Rag is a crappy excuse for a rocker (and I'm not even talking about the theme - once more, I couldn't give a rat's ass about the lyrical content of Prog albums). This is BJH clearly trying to chart in America with a piece that would probably be better treated in the hands of some Southern Rock band. The only high point is the guitar solo towards the end, an unusual case of technicality over substance. Believe in Me is just to wimpy for me to enjoy - and I DO like the mellower side of BJH. Occasional glimpses of musical brilliance, once again coming from the guitar, but the vocals are simply horrible. Oh well. A final track with a title like Suicide? usually has you jumping with anticipation - but after hearing what preceded it, I knew I has going to get the über-mellow treatment. From the first notes this song is a musical wrist-slasher. The concept is interesting enough, and the sound effects in the end summing up the whole song are really well done - but couldn't they do a better work musically? Sure it does convey a feeling of despair, and the arrangements are top notch - every instrument in the right place at the right time - but apart from the ending (after the elevator and before the fall), it is just too dreary and weepy and sobby. A pity.

Some of the incredible arrangements on this album might be of extreme interest to any prog-lover. But the album is simply too uneven, and the ending (the last three songs) is completely unrewarding. I would be tempted into stretching my rating up to four stars, but that's the rating I gave their previous album, and there is no way this album is as good as Time Honoured Ghosts in my book.

Kotro | 3/5 |


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