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Barclay James  Harvest - The Best Of Barclay James Harvest (1992) CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

2.80 | 12 ratings

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Andrea Cortese
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ".like a ship in the night you passed along the highways of my life."

Seen some reviews about BJH's compilations recently.

As the tradition (sadly), you cannot find a real BJH compilation, one that contents material from both their two periods: 1968-1973 (EMI), 1974-nowadays (Polydor). Due for copyrights' reasons their works remain absolutely separate (the perennial Mockingbird-live apart) with the only exception of the stunning BJH Live, double LP live album released in 1974, containing songs from that Emi's period and from their then current album, the impressive Everyone Is Everybody Else.

By the way, the album starts with Hymn, an impressive acoustic guitar played song with great part for mellotron's simphonyc waves. It has come to be regarded by many as the BJH classic, rivalled only by "Mocking Bird". Inauspiciously, back in the summer of 1971 it was presented, in much the same form, for possible inclusion on Barclay James Harvest And Other Short Stories - and rejected! Fortunately, John Lees persisted with the song, and it was finally accepted for the Gone To Earth album (1977). Originally titled "Hymn For A White Lady", the song is about the dangers of drug's abuse, contrasting their illicit thrill with the spiritual "high" of Christianity, although many listeners have taken it for a straightforward Christmas song. The now traditional shouted "yeah!" that you can hear in the Berlin live album (1982) and in every finale of the band's live shows date back to early performances, where John dedicated it to rock stars who had fallen victim to drugs, saying "let's hear it for Jimi Hendrix... Paul Kossoff... Janis Joplin..." etc., and fans responded with a roar of approval.

Fantasy: Loving Is Easy is another John Lees' track (great rocker song). All of John's songs the XII album (1978) have titles like sections in a library, although this would, perhaps, have been more effective if the other two songwriter of the band had followed the same pattern. In its single version, "Loving Is Easy" had its lyrics CENSORED, but here they appear in their full glory: ".then you rip up my heart, you just tear it apart as I shoot all my love into you."; ".lovin' is easy with both eyes closed, just get a hold and watch how it grows.".

Berlin is a Les Holroyd's track (1978) played in a dominant excellent warm piano. It was inspired by the situation of the city of Berlin, which, at the time the song was written, was divided by the infamous Wall separating East and West Berlin. The western half of the city was an "island", entirely surrounded by the Communist German Democratic Republic (DDR).

Child Of Universe is the stunning opener from Everyone Is Everybody Else (1974), penned by John Lees. Originally rejected for BJH, the song was first recorded for John's solo album A Major Fancy (made under Emi's label in 1972, but only released in 1977) before the band decided to include it on this album. It was recorded and remixed several times, and BJH were never really happy with the results, but 'live' it worked brilliantly, and it has been a live favourite ever since. The various versions are findable now on the new 2003 remastered edition of Everyone. and Time Honoured Ghosts. Child Of The Universe is an anti-war song: ".I'm a child of South Africa, I'm a child of Vietnam, I'm a child of Northern Ireland, I'm a small boy with blood on his hands.".

Then it's up to the popish (many people thought it was a Phil Collins' one!!) Victims Of Circumstance, from the homounimous 1984 album. This is another anti-war song, penned by Les Holroyd, with some very bitter words for the politicians and leaders who keep their people in the dark and ignore their wishes. The melody of the song contrasts sharply with its message. Released as the first single from the album, it became their only Number 1 single in France. Poor Man's Moody Blues is incensed by reviewers' constant comparisons of BJH with The Moody Blues. John took his revenge writing this title which is a disparaging quote from a review of BJH in the music press. Ironically, but this was the song has become one of the most popular in their repertoire.

After the perennial Mockingbird live (the studio track is from their second album: Once Again, 1971) you find Life Is For Living (quasi-disco song), from the Turn Of The Tide album, one of the Barclay's most enduring favourites, which Les Holroyd wrote specifically for the 1980 concert in Berlin, where it made its live debut. Released as a single to trail the album, it became the band's most successful single, reaching the Top 3 in Germany and Switzerland.

Ring Of Changes is taken from the homonymous 1983 album. The album's theme of cyclical change is continued in the circular artwork of the cover album, the lyrics of this song and the reprise of the orchestral motif at the end, bringing us back to where we came in.

Titles (1975) is a musical and lyrical homage to The Beatles, using many of their song titles along with musical quotations to tell its story. The original concept and arrangement were devised by John and Woolly.

Then you have two songs from the 1990 album Welcome To The Show: the title track from Les and Cheap The Bullet from John. Between the both there's Kiev, from Face To Face 1987 album, a song about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The song Rock'n'Roll Star Les was compared by a contemporary reviewer to The Eagles "One Of These Nights", particularly because of its guitar solo. The song has become an enduring part of the BJH repertoire, even making appearance in the live shows.

The last track in this compilation is the Les's opener to the Eyes Of The Universe 1979 album: Love On The Line. This one was selected as a single to promote the album, and gained a lot of airplay, helping Eyes on its way to platinum status in Germany. Ironically, the title is similar to Woolly Wolstenholme's "Lives On The Line", which was originally going to be included on the album.

This is a good BJH compilation, but it doesn't express, strictly, their prog vein which, in the great part, is due to Wolstenholme's mellotron!

Neither glory nor infame!

Andrea Cortese | 3/5 |


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