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Barclay James  Harvest - Once Again CD (album) cover

ONCE AGAIN

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

3.82 | 261 ratings

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iluvmarillion
4 stars Like Yes, BJH are largely influenced by Simon and Garfunkel and Vanilla Fudge, but go in an altogether different direction investing in Mellotron instead of organ and a softer more mellow edge to Yes, aiming for a classical/rock fusion than a blues or folk orientated sound. The band often draws comparison to the Moody Blues, not because they sound alike but more because of their common use of Mellotron and soft classical-rock fusion sound.

John Lees, Les Holroyd and Woolly Wolstenholme all share the lead vocals, but there's a sameness in their light tenor voices. Their harmonies don't sound as great as some of the other bands around and they don't have the vocal range of Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Ray Thomas. However, I prefer their instrument playing to the Moody Blues. Mel Pritchard is a fine drummer, once asked to audition as the new drummer of Fairport Convention. Les Holroyd achieves a great groove with his bass guitar. His bass line has a sweet mellow sound reflecting a romantic side of his playing. He and Mel form a very strong connection as a rhythm section.

Like Mike Pinder, Woolly Wolstenholme, a largely self-taught musician and lover of Mahler music, was one of the earliest exponents of the Mellotron using it more as an orchestra substitute than for achieving rock sounds from it (as say Bob Fripp does in King Crimson). He and John Lees met in Art school before teaming up in a rock and roll band in the mid 60's before forming Barclay James Harvest with the other two musicians.

The two clearly stand out numbers on Once Again are the Tolkien inspired Galadriel and Mocking Bird. Both feature superb orchestral arrangements from Robert Godfrey, which perfectly mesh with the rock instrumentation. Mocking Bird is a ballad piece which builds atmospherically from a Bach like series of unresolved chords to full orchestra of violins and trumpets and chorus of voices in the middle section, as it unwinds into the orchestral finish. Galadriel is a haunting number with a gentle guitar riff underneath the organ/ Mellotron before a breakout into a blossoming full orchestra of violins and trumpets, returning to a coda of guitar and Mellotron.

The longest song is the 8 minute opener, She Said, which is a sort of weepy love song with lots of Mellotron and heavy guitar lines and some great bass work and drum fills from Pritchard. The middle section the music comes to an abrupt halt to a salutary whistle before more Mellotron/ drums and then a great guitar solo from Lees. Happy old World, is an interesting environmental protest song with some more great bass lines from Holroyd and nice contributory electric piano and organ from Wolstenholme. Song for the Dying, creeps up on you a bit. You need a couple of listenings to appreciate the way the song builds up from the piano intro into the melancholy theme of the main chorus before the fade out of the bass at the end. Vanessa Simmons features some nice acoustic guitar without standing out and Lady Loves is a fairly standard folk/country song, but the last part of the album is redeemed by Ball and Chain where the band lashes out with some really heavy bluesy electric guitar, drums and bass.

Once Again, might have benefited from a little less angst and melancholy and one or two up tempo songs in the mix just to break the music up. However, the undoubted quality of Mocking Bird and Galadriel, two of the best songs BJH wrote, makes this one of their most memorable albums. One wonders how the album would have sounded if the album had featured orchestra all the way through. Wolstenholme's organ and Mellotron are a perfect compliment to Robert Godfrey's orchestral arrangements.

iluvmarillion | 4/5 |

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