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Barclay James  Harvest - Once Again CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.80 | 233 ratings

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4 stars Barclay James Harvest's second album probably represents their finest hour. The well- experience quartet of musicians had gelled quite well at this point and were quite accomplished individually, with all but drummer Mel Pritchard contributing at least one original composition each and with producer the late Norman Smith (Pink Floyd, the Beatles) providing a skilled hand in the studio along with Robert John Godfrey's always spectacular orchestral accompaniment.

The use of orchestral accompaniment along with often folksy undertones and Les Holroyd and John Lees' wistful vocals have always drawn comparisons to the Moody Blues circa the same period, and while they certainly owe a debt BJH's music is noticeably more pensive and dark than most of that on the big-seven Moodies albums, although the emotional, relationship-inspired themes are often similar.

Many of the 'classic' BJH songs come from this album, most notably the 'She Said', 'Galadriel' and 'Mockingbird' with their grand orchestral arrangements, lush mellotron and (for the period) rather innovative melding of softer rock conventions which come across as almost pop at times, along with classical interludes and a uniquely English ability to make contemporary music sound timeless.

'Mockingbird' has held up particularly well over the years, a bit surprising considering musical differences over this arrangement are what led Godfrey to depart in 1972. Ultimately of course he formed his own band the Enid, an orchestral-centered group that took the bonding of classical and rock music further than BJH could have possibly envisioned when they recorded 'Once Again' in late 1970.

On the other hand the band shows a glimpse of the musical variety so prevalent on their first album with the near-ballad 'Vanessa Simmons', a laconic, sappy acoustic number that I suppose may have been written as a tribute by John Lees to the child of someone he knew; then again maybe not, but that's my impression. This one comes off an awful lot like a James Taylor number which makes it an odd inclusion on the album although it's a decent enough song on its own merits. 'Ball and Chain' is another strange inclusion with sort of a bluesy guitar riff and harder, more conventional rock rhythm that is unlike much of anything else they did in the early seventies. This is also one of only two of the late "Woolly" Wolstenholme's tunes on the record, the other being the more ethereal 'Happy Old World' though that one also has a fairly conventional refrain to go along with the spacey keyboards.

In all this is a very solid album and very representative of the Barclay James Harvest sound despite the comparatively weak 'Vanessa Simmons' and 'Ball and Chain'. I've seen this album on a lot of 'greatest records' and 'must hear' lists over the years and while I agree it's a must-hear, I can't go quite far enough to call it a masterpiece. Easily four stars out of five though, and a must-have for just about any progressive rock fan. Highly recommended for those reasons.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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