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Roy Harper - Bullinamingvase [Aka: One Of Those Days In England] CD (album) cover


Roy Harper

Prog Folk

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3 stars After the initial shock of seeing Roy Harper labelled as 'prog folk' had worn off (one usually thinks of Harper as a 'stoned beat poet singer-songwriter') it seemed 100% fair that at least SOME of his work be described as 'prog folk'. The label seems especially apposite to BULLINAMINGVASE, which is roughly contemporary with Jethro Tull's MINSTREL and shares many of its features, especially the 'streaky bacon' technique of alternating lyrical, acoustic passages with heavier, electric ones. Both albums contain a mixture of angry (or indignant), playful and melancholic tunes; melancholy being the dominant mood. Both Ian and Roy have a habit of writing lyrics which are usually meaningful but sometimes wilfully obscure: the simpler the emotion they try to convey, the more convincingly they come across. Finally, Harper's ten-part suite 'One of these Days in England' is similar in its structure and its changing moods to Ian Anderson's 'Baker Street Muse', although the Tull piece has a 'city' theme and Roy H.'s creation talks about the English countryside. So it's a fair guess that most admirers of folksy Jethro T. will also admire this (minor) Roy Harper masterpiece. One major difference: BULLINAMINGVASE is, of course, free of the extended instrumental variations (dominated by flute, lead guitar, bass and exhilerating drumming) which are, in my opinion, one of the main glories of MINSTREL (especially its original A-Side). BULL is predominantly vocal, but it does contain some (a lot!) of the freshest and loveliest acoustic guitar playing I'm aware of. As a singer, Roy Harper is particularly gripping when he sounds wistful or sad. 'These last days', for example, is a wonderfully wistful ballad, and 'One of these days...' contains some beautiful passages which evoke the feeling of everything slipping into History.
Report this review (#170133)
Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Roy Harper always had moments of pure grandeur and other times inconsistency. For me 'Bullnamingvase' is one such album. The album opens with the very English "One of Those days in England" (part one I guess!) which canters along at a medium pace, overall a pleasant enough track but nothing earth shattering. The follow up song is beautiful "These Last Days" as is the concise "Naked Flame". The album ends with the 19 minute continuance of "One of Those days..." with Harper's poetical lust in abundance. Noteworthy contributions from Alvin Lee of Ten Years After fame on guitar and a certain Paul McCartney. I would recommend this for collectors only with 2 and a half stars.
Report this review (#170183)
Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars also titled One Of Those Days In England, this is almost the last classic album of his. As the rest of his discography will be much wiser and conventional. Dave Lawson (Greenslade) on keys. Ambitious work that had to censored for defamation, this album is not really up to par with its predecessor
Report this review (#172939)
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm really surprised by the low rating the other reviewers have given this album. With any Harper album, there's bound to be a weak track on even his best albums; in this case, it's "Watford Gap" (it's not a bad song, just inessential). However, the rest of the tunes should appeal to fans of Harper's music. The first "One of Those Days in England" is one of his poppiest - and best - songs. The concluding 20-minute part 2 is among the finest of Harper's longer songs. The acoustic guitar in "These Last Days" might remind some of the slower section of Floyd's "Dogs," and is also a strong song. The other two songs, "Cherishing the Lonesome" and "Naked Flame," grow in appeal with repeated listenings. All in all, this might not be the first album one should get by Harper, but everything he released in the 1970s should be owned by Harper fans (and Floyd fans and Zeppelin fans), and this one is no exception.
Report this review (#247044)
Posted Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Prog Folk: a progressive rock subgenre. At least as defined by Prog Archives. But it amazes me that few grasp exactly what this infers, even with PA's definition. It's simply what it claims to be, a combination of progressive rock and folk rock.

And few albums better exhibit this musical hybrid than Bullinamigvase (Bull-in-a-ming-vase) by Roy Harper, alternately titled One Of Those Days In England due to it's fantastic multipart suite like song of the same name.

Bullinamingvase was recorded at Harper's UK home in Hereford with Studer tape machines borrowed from Abby Road along with talented producer/engineer John Leckie. One Of Those Days In England Part l is a sweet but short album opener that features Paul McCartney and Wings on backing vocals and never hints at the poetic and deeper topic of it's longer multi part album closer that containing Parts ll-X and features juxtaposed soft and harder rocking sections with acoustic slide guitar, electric lead, piano accompaniment and a brief but dramatic string and harp backing score. The song is very Anglo centric and is a celebration by Harper of the history and myths of Great Britain, while simultaneously commenting on the modern realities of the then ruling Thatcher government, unemployment and union/labor problems, IRA terrorism and possible anarchist terrorism. Harper acknowledges 'a sword in every lake' and King Alfred the Great while he satirizes terrorists who want to 'plant a bomb in the street to change law and order and when we've killed all those who resisted the call, we'll discover a brand new wall at the border.'

The key to the catchy melodicism of these suite like songs is Harper finally combining his past overtly acoustic folk songs with the extremely harsh and strident hard rock of his last album H.Q. Equal parts soft and hard rock with polished hooks sells the material as does his brilliant combination of acoustic guitar leads, played by Harper and Andy Roberts before switching gears to a hard rocking vocal and electric guitar assault by Henry McCullough and Alvin Lee, supported by a deft rhythm section on the outstanding ode to romantic rejection Cherishing The Lonesome.

Harper switches gears again for a sublime commentary on failed marriage on Naked Flame which combines more deft acoustic guitar work with the legendary BJ Cole supplanting the music with gorgeous but non intrusive pedal steel guitar leads. The upbeat music is a great contrast to Harper commenting that "lawyers now lurk where lovers one kissed."

If there's any downside to Bullinamingvase, its that residents of countries like America cannot fully comprehend the "Englishness' of Harper's lyrics at times, which I agree can make some Harper's songs quite impenetrable as so much depends on Harper's lyrics, and this will always be Harper's great undoing, I'm afraid.

Bullinamingvase's excellently recorded, mixed and mastered sound helps push this album into the "must have" folk prog category of 4 star albums.

Report this review (#1477658)
Posted Monday, October 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Roy Harper holds a real excentric and genuine talent. That goes, really, without saying. And while I do appreciate folk-rock and progressive folk my feelings towards the bulk of Harper's work are divided. The album prior to this one, HQ, is a great album, of sorts. I gave it four stars, mainly due to the outstanding ending, 'When an old cricketer leaves the crease'. So, I was really excited to hear this one. Supposedly this ought to hold similar brilliance. Having said this I guessed that it would also hold songs of less interest to me. I was right.

Being an anglophile I do love when songs hold that very specific british tone. The opener, 'One of those days in England', hits the spot perfectly. Sublime and gentle it really touches me. A great song that opens the album in the most humble of ways. The songs following are more or less in the same vein, folky songs with more or less complex arrangements. Though it need to be said, there are not any overly complex compositions to be found on the first four songs. They are simply great folk inspired songs with a hint of rock and splashes of prog. The only song I disapprove of is 'Watford gap'. It created some sort of stir back in the day but that does not make the song any better. I could easily live without that one.

And then it comes, the rumbling epic of 'One of those days in England (parts 2-10)'. This is the true progressive folk number of the album. In this epic work Harper throws in ideas of all sorts. It really is an accomplished number, tying the opener to the ending track by including the theme. There is a rock'n'roll section I disagree with but apart from that it is a really interesting and great track.

The real reward on this album is, really, 'One of those days in England (parts 1-10)'. Apart from 'Watford gap' there is not a bad song on here BUT apart from the 10-part epic the other tracks are too much in the same way. Nice to listen to but I forget them too easily. So, 'Bullinamingvase' is an interesting album and I really enjoy it but in the end I have to face the truth and I cannot give this album more than three stars. I recommend you to listen to the 10-part epic, though. That is truly brilliant stuff.

Report this review (#1531987)
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2016 | Review Permalink

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