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Roy Harper - Hats Off CD (album) cover


Roy Harper

Prog Folk

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Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The sleeve notes on this release warn against calling this a compilation album. This is a typical Roy Harper stance because in essence that is exactly what this album is. Putting that trivia aside this is nevertheless one of the finest compilation albums I have come across within the progressive genres. Nearly all of the songs on Hats Off are in collaboration with such a wealth of high calibre artists that there is little wonder he is so highly revered by his peers. Tony Levin ( Peter Gabriel), Alan Parsons, Ian Anderson, Kate Bush, Jimmy Page, Bill Bruford, Haydn Bendall ( Camel -Engineer/production fame), Alvin Lee (10 Years After), Paul and Linda McCartney and the list goes on! 'The Same Old Rock' from the Stormcock release is still the highlight on this album, mesmerizing interplay between Page and Harper on guitars, but there is plenty of other great songs, ' These Fifty Years' with Ian Anderson, the lashing lyrics of ' Death or Glory', ' Me and My Woman'. If you want to start with Roy Harper then get this album, it is sure to hook a listener in but also will entice more investments in studio releases from this fine musician. A Highly recommended four stars.
Report this review (#172227)
Posted Monday, May 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars A newcomer to Harper's music might be forgiven for thinking that a compilation is the best way into his music. The fact is, Harper is not well-served by any of the compilations that are out there, and this one is no exception. Who put this CD together, I wonder? Very few of the tracks that I would expect to be here are present. Despite a fantastic title, I would stay away from this album, and instead seek out one of his albums from 1971 to '78.

Here's a big problem: Harper's first four albums in the 60s were in a folk vein (Sophisticated Beggar, Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith, Folkjokeopus, Flat Baroque and Berserk). His 70s albums beginning with STORMCOCK were a big leap forward both in terms of production and songwriting, while his 80s albums beginning with THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER were marred by its production values. (Apparently his 90s work to the present was some kind of return to form, but I honestly haven't heard much of the more recent work yet.) Most agree that Harper's greatest period was the 70s. HATS OFF, on the other hand, mixes it all together; the tunes don't sit comfortably side-by-side, many of his greatest songs were left off in favor of more mediocre or dated work (or, worse yet, stuff from the 80s), while his longer songs were horribly edited. Until a definitive box set comes out, this album probably won't turn any newcomers onto Harper's work.

How would I have done it? A 2-CD retrospective of Harper's 70s work; call it 1970-1980. The CD would contain:

- "Hors d'oeuvres," "The Same Old Rock" and "Me and My Woman" from STORMCOCK; - "Highway Blues," "Little Lady," "All Ireland" and "South Africa" from LIFEMASK; - "Forbidden Fruit," "I'll See You Again," "Twelve Hours Of Sunset," "Forever," "Commune" and "Che" from VALENTINE; - "Forget Me Not," "Hallucinating Light" and "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease" from HQ; - "One Of Those Days In England," "These Last Days" and "One of Those Days in Englad, part 2" from BULLINAMINGVASE; - "Playing Prisons" and "Burn Up the World (part 1)" from LOONY ON THE BUS; - "Sail Away" and "Come Up and See Me" from COMMERCIAL BREAK. - Finally, a few songs from 1980's THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER ("The Flycatcher," "Old Faces," "You"), - rounded out by selections from 1970's FLAT BAROQUE AND BERSERK ("Another Day," "Davey," "Song of the Ages," "Francesca"), and perhaps a live track or two.

Other compilations would best serve his pre- and post-70s work. My recommendation to newbees: seek out Harper's 70s stuff first, and make your own compilation! :-)

Report this review (#247202)
Posted Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permalink

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