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Barclay James  Harvest - The Best Of Barclay James Harvest (1997) CD (album) cover

THE BEST OF BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST (1997)

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

2.55 | 4 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In its early years, the classic Barclay James Harvest line-up of John Lees (guitar/vocals), Les Holdroyd (bass/vocals), Stewart Wolstenholme (keyboards/vocals) and Mel Pritchard (drums) made rock music that was richly melodic and infused with classical trappings. Like The Moody Blues (a band to which they are reasonably, but perhaps unfairly, always linked to), Nirvana (the 60s psych version) and even Procol Harum, BJH's music is not progressive rock in the strictest sense, but employs classical "tricks" to great effect.

More than other other prog bands, BJH is ideally suited for a compilation treatment. The period covered here ranges from an early single in 1968 through to the four albums (Barclay James Harvest, Once Again, BJH And Other Stories and Baby James Harvest) that the band cut for the Harvest label. There is some awesomely beautiful symphonic music here, but the omissions are simply too glaring for one to declare this album to be an essential release.

For starters, BJH's three most progressive recordings of the time (Dark Now My Sky, She Said and Summer Soldier) are left off. When you factor in the absence of The Iron Maiden, When The World Was Woken, The Poet, and Moonwater, and the fact that the version of Child Of The Universe is not the classic Everyone Is Everybody Else recording (they cut that track after leaving Harvest) it becomes obvious that a lot of good stuff has been missed.

Still, it's hard to fault too many songs here and I must say that I really love this collection. The absolute classics are the sweeping early songs Early Morning (my personal favourite), Brother Thrush, Mother Dear, Vanessa Simmons, Medecine Man and an edited version of Mocking Bird (just about everyone else's favourite!), all of which are awesome, brief, heavily orchestrated, Beatlesque gems that display an almost implausible lyrical naivete. The emotion of the desparing conclusion to Mocking Bird and the thinly veiled religiousity of Early Morning are impossible for me to resist.

Elsewhere there are many enjoyable, but not really progressive songs. Upbeat rockers Taking Some Time On, Rock & Roll Woman, Thank You (a boogie woogie number that could almost be Status Quo!) and Child Of Man aren't bad although I've always had a particular soft spot for the beautiful Holdroyd rocker Crazy (Over You) which has an addictive guitar hook, a spacey version section, and an unforgettable chorus. Someone There You Know, Song With No Meaning, Ursula (The Swansea Song), Delph Town Morn and Harry's Song (which has a particularly strong kick are all tasty melodic, acoustic ditties with strong chorueses that seem somehow more mature than the early recordings.

Oddly enough, the only song I don't quite like is a real fan favourite, Galadriel, which is just a little too precious for me.When one considers that some of these tracks aren't on any of the first four albums, it does feel like an essential addition for the BJH fan (although the 1972 compilation Early Morning Onwards has more "non-album" material). It's hard to quibble with the many excellent songs on here (in fact I'm amazed that BJH wasn't a hugely successful singles band), but I'd be lying if I called this essential from a progressive rock point of view. ... 68% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |

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