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Barclay James  Harvest - A Concert For The People (Berlin) CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.15 | 61 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
2 stars As a record of an outstanding gig in front of a huge audience on the steps of Berlin's infamous Reichstag building, this album is a historic document in the BJH archives and a must-have for BJH fans especially for those who witnessed the spectacle. For others, however, there are complications resulting in a lacklustre product. Due to an electrical malfunction, some of the original tapes were unusable, so what remains is an amalgam of basic tracks from the concert augmented by a degree of studio overdubbing. While far from ideal, this was the only way of salvaging something from this importent event.

Whatever the reasons, and I do believe some commentators have seriously over-stated the amount of re-recording that took place, this is not the most artistically successful of BJH's live albums, though inevitably it was a commercial success. Perusing my listening notes, I come across phrases like "it's OK" [Berlin], "ultimately quite tame" [Loving Is Easy], "sounds flat and uninspired" [Mocking Bird], "OK without being spectacular" [Nova Lepidoptera], and "somehow fails to develop the excitement of the studio version" [In Memory Of The Martyrs]. It isn't that they are bad, it's just they don't stand out enough from studio originals or some other version.

Best and worst? For me, Sip Of Wine is the most successful song here. Though in itself a simple throwaway pop number, it is performed with much bounce and vigour, and crucially the coda sees the band at last stretch out, shifting into a different rhythm pattern and the guitar solo gets extensively reworked and extended. Low point for me has to be Child Of The Universe: it's still a good song, John sings it well and I can see why they played it at this concert, but Child .... without Woolly and his Mellotron is just not on. Oh, and it has some irritating tinkly piano constantly rubbishing about in the background. Oh, and Mocking Bird is just as disappointing!

I come across fans who rave about this album, but I just have to disagree. For a committed BJH fan it is a worthwhile purchase, enjoyable with some unspectacular nice songs but little to lift it out of the ordinary. Above all else, there is virtually no sense of occasion whatsoever despite the presence of a huge audience .... until the final track - Hymn - where John finally gets his own emotional juices flowing and a quarter of a million ecstatic fans at last join in. Yeah!

Joolz | 2/5 |


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