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Barclay James  Harvest - Glasnost CD (album) cover

GLASNOST

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

2.90 | 22 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars To put the record straight, Glasnost was recorded at an open-air concert in Treptower Park, East Berlin two years before the hated Wall fell, in front of up to 170,000 East Berliners, some of whom paid a minimal fee while others got in for free after the ticket system collapsed. It is a document of that occasion in July 1987 when the band were invited by city authorities to participate in their 750th anniversary celebrations, going some way towards appeasing those fans who had been forced away from the eastern side of The Wall when trying to hear BJH's triumphant performance on the steps of the Reichstag in West Berlin some seven years earlier.

It is a stunning album from BJH, packed with some of their best performances augmented by a wonderful sense of atmosphere. This is how a live album should sound, and is everything the 'Berlin' album wasn't! I can find no issues to criticise sound-wise, even the mix is almost perfect. It has a powerful 80s AOR feel, with a gutsy production that successfully draws in the listener and strikes a balance between the band's rockier numbers and their more melodic side.

The band sound like they are really hot and cooking! All songs are performed with gusto, often spiritedly, sometimes faster, with more energy and bite than their studio origins. Arrangements, too, are re-worked with longer instrumental sections, sometimes moving into quite different territory, and solos are generally much longer and more developed. Personal favourites will depend on individual song preferences: Berlin, Kiev and He Said Love are all definitive versions but all songs are excellent and there are no lows or failures.

Pride of place must go the fantastic Medicine Man. This old 70s classic has been given a fresh coat of paint, improved by the extra musician who helps to flesh it out a little. Aside from a marginally weaker synth solo which fails to live up to Woolly's efforts from the past, everything about this rendition is almost perfect. It has balls! A properly aggressive, thundering giant of a song with a powerful guitar solo showing John at his very best. It doesn't get much better than this.

My only negative comments are relatively minor: dated keyboard sounds can occasionally intrude, especially an irritating plinky-plonky piano; there is no spoken interaction until John's German introductions to Hymn and He Said Love; there is little sense of the concert starting and ending - you feel as if you are 'dipping into' it, joining sometime after the start and leaving before the finish; material inevitably veers towards the band's later Prog-lite career; and, while the quality of performance is universally high, several songs would not be considered amongst the band's best.

Glasnost is hugely under-rated. The band play with a high level of professionalism [no overdubs necessary!], yet with an energy and enthusiasm that is both infectious and exciting. The mood of the occasion clearly inspired the band, and that is caught admirably by this excellent album. Had there been a few less throwaway songs and a few more classics, this album would be sensational! Performance-wise it merits five stars, but song choice drags down the score for Prog fans.

Joolz | 3/5 |

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