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Roy Harper - Lifemask CD (album) cover


Roy Harper


Prog Folk

3.69 | 43 ratings

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3 stars Harper's 1973 studio album is often considered one of his early essential as it directly follows his celebrated Stormcock album released in 1971. While staying with the long winded folk formula of Stormcock on this album's centerpiece, titled "The Lord's Prayer", old Roy took his first tentative steps into full blown prog rock by subtlety adding bass and drum accompaniment to several tracks in what sounds like a half-hearted exercise. Specifically on the opening track "Highway Blues", which often comes off better in concert with just Roy's acoustic guitar as accompaniment. The same treatment is also added to "The Lord's Prayer". Psychedelic treatments to Roy's backing vocals also helps to keep up the interest and tension of this long verbose song that starts off with a spoken poem introduction. That "The Lord's Prayer" is still fascinating to me some four decades after first hearing it can only be credited to Harper's impassioned vocals and Jimmy Page's tasty guitar leads that punctuate the song. Indeed, it is worthy to be the album's centerpiece and album closer. Equally sublime is "South Africa" which is a love song to the country that is unique in it's delivery and doesn't come off as pretentious, no matter how much Roy wears his anti-apartheid passion on his sleeves.

Less successful are "Northern Island", "Little Lady" and "Bank of the Dead", which take most of the album's first side. Concerning these, Harper fails to maintain his sense of sincerity and interest so the songs come off as either trite or plodding. I personally find that Lifemask follows both Flat, Broke Berserk, from 1970, and Stormcock not only chronologically and in also being successful artistically. However, I can't imagine listening one of these albums without the other two, so I would have to agree that even with it's faults Lifemask is also another early Harper essential. So, 3 stars for this album the song's that work.

SteveG | 3/5 |


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