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Barclay James  Harvest - Everyone Is Everybody Else CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.85 | 209 ratings

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4 stars Pilloried by press and public for a well-intentioned but ill-advised tour of South Africa; with neither record deal nor management; and seriously in debt. No wonder 1973 was the year that BJH could have broken up. Yet, after a sabbatical for band members to 'do their own thing' [in fact, only John Lees produced a solo album during this time, though its release was delayed for several years], they bounced back to enter a golden age of creativity and spiralling success. Everyone Is Everybody Else is the first fruit of this new phase, and the first of their long-term partnership with Polydor.

In many ways it represents the ultimate expression of that first 'incarnation' of the band, retaining a core of strong arrangements, incisive songwriting and inventive licks that typified their best work from those early years, but more streamlined, achieved without the aid of the now defunct orchestra, a sparser sound showing a vitality missing from the previous couple of albums, perhaps rejuvenated after surviving their difficulties. The result is a cleaner, more 'professional' sounding product, yet strangely lightweight: clarity perhaps at the expense of 'oomph'.

While the songwriting is universally excellent, there is a notable omission: the absence of a song from Woolly Wolstenholme, whose 'magnum opus' [Maestoso] was rejected for being 'too different'. Therein lies the key to this album - unlike earlier albums there are no deviances from the fundamental group identity. All songs sound as if they belong together, a harmonious and homogenious collection, flowing organically from the great opening piano chords of Child Of The Universe through to the majestic Mellotron drenched anti-war anthem For No-One, one of the few songs where John Lees lets rip with a genuine guitar solo.

In between are a bunch of top-drawer melodic Prog and soft-rock songs: inspired by the Apollo 13 near-disaster, Les's Negative Earth has an inventive song structure with a lightweight keyboard riff; a rewrite of a Bee Gees song, John's classic The Great 1974 Mining Disaster comments on the UK's destructive miners strike of that year; Les's riff-tastic live favourite Crazy City is about life in a big city [originally London but can be applied to anywhere]; and a cleverly linked pair of country-tinged rocker Poor Boys Blues and multi-part harmonies of Mill Boys deal with life on the bottom rung.

Faults are few: main weakness is the aforementioned production which robs some tracks of their ultimate energy - Crazy City and Negative Earth were awesome live, revelling in inherently powerful arrangements, but are here somewhat lacklustre by comparison; sadly, For No-One [and, less importantly, Crazy City] is unforgivably faded during John's classic axe work in the coda; and amongst so many brilliant songs, the simple but pleasant See Me See You is marginally below par.

Five of the best songs are reprised on the scintillating album Live [1974] which rather makes Everyone Is Everybody Else a touch less essential than it might otherwise have been. Nevetheless, it is a classic that sums up all that is good about early BJH.

Joolz | 4/5 |


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