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Barclay James  Harvest - Welcome To The Show CD (album) cover

WELCOME TO THE SHOW

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

2.90 | 57 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Lukewarm

By the time of "Welcome to the show", BJH were almost forgotten in their UK homeland, outwith their small but faithful band of followers. Their reputation in continental Europe, and Germany in particular, however meant that there was still a market for their albums. Consequently, this release was very much geared towards fans in that country. Germany was going through major changes at the time with reunification just around the corner, so the track "Halfway to freedom" may be seen as opportunistic or sympathetic, depending on your level of cynicism. The song bears the dedication "To the people of Germany 1989". The timing could not have been better, as it was written before the wall came down, but the album was released after. The song then featured on the first unified broadcast to the former East and West Germany from Berlin. But I am getting ahead of myself, since I'm on to track six already.

The problem with later BJH albums such as this is threefold: - The fire and ice of Lees and Holroyd is no longer tempered by the lukewarm water of Wooly Woolstenholme (with apologies to "Spinal tap!) - The division between Lees and Holroyd was getting ever wider, to the extent that it seems their contributions to each others songs was kept to a minimum - The songs themselves were becoming more and more bland and formulaic. The inspiration which had brought about compositions such as "She said", "Mocking bird", "Dark now my sky" etc. had long since dried up, to be replaced by an apparent willingness to accept the ordinary.

Here we have 12 songs all of around 4 to 5 minutes, and all with basic verse chorus structures. Lees sings his songs, Holroyd his, and while they are not sequenced alternately, there's no more than two by either one of them in succession.

For me, Les Holroyd's songs are the weaker. The opening "The life you lead" is an up tempo pop song, which sounds all too like the Bee Gees, especially the a-cappella harmonies. The title track, the aforementioned "Halfway to freedom", and "Where do we go" are all typical BJH plodders, which cry out for an injection of enthusiasm. On the latter, Andy Hamilton adds some nice sax, similar to that on "Play to the world".

John Lees songs are generally more diverse and for me the more appealing. At times the lyrics can be all to literal, to the point of seeming juvenile. "John Lennon's guitar" is the worst case. The story is rather touching, Lees was in the studio recording "Galadreil" for "once again" when engineer Norman "Hurricane" Smith ("Don't let it die") took Lennon's guitar from a cupboard and allowed Lees to play it. The lyrics go on to explain " As I played on my borrowed guitar, how could I know the Beatles would split the next day". The track has a Lennon like piano backing, but there is little sign of much in the way of guitar!

"If music is the food of love, someone ate the crown" is an example of the nonsense lyrics of "If love is king", another average song which benefits from some decent guitar work. On the plus side, "Lady Macbeth" is a darker number with obscure lyrics about an unidentified person. "Cheap the bullet" is an upbeat song with a "Child of the universe" like protest theme, while " Psychedelic child" keeps the pace up with pastiche lyrics relating to the flower power period. "Origin earth" has some nice background effects the lyrics being based on a science fiction novel Lees read.

And that's about it. The most noticeable thing about the album is the Storm Thorgerson sleeve photos, which are reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Momentary lapse of reason" (also his work I believe). For some reason, the album was recorded during the middle part of 1989, but not released until March 1990. I may be wrong, but it could be that the band or the label or both, had doubts about the quality of the album. Such doubts would have been justified as, while there is nothing inherently bad about "Welcome to the show", neither is there anything memorable or distinguishing.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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