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Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This will grow on you baby

"Baby James Harvest" is felt by many to be the weakest of their first four albums which were all released on the Harvest Label. This would be their last album for that label. This album is more of an acquired taste than their previous, more accessible releases. I remember being disappointed with the original LP release due to both the music and to the rather uninspired baby in a flowerpot cover, and lack of a gatefold sleeve. In retrospect however, the album was well worth getting to know.

The album contains just six tracks in all. There is the prog rock classic "Summer soldier", surely one of the most underrated prog epics by anyone. Constructed in two distinct parts, it has passing similarities with Uriah Heep's "July Morning". The final track "Moonwater" has a classical sound and structure, with delicate vocals and significant orchestration.

The diversity of the band's first album returns, with the rocking "Thank you", (a tribute to their road crew and literally everyone else), and the brass backed "Delph town morn". Elsewhere, "One hundred thousand smiles out" has more than a hint of "Space Oddity" to it.

The tracks are generally longer than those on previous albums allowing the band to develop them slightly more. The remastered version has some interesting bonus tracks, including the excellent non-album single "The Joker".

Report this review (#22617)
Posted Friday, February 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The style involved here is folk/rock music. The rythm is rather slow. It is not as folk as the next ones. This record contains acoustic and electric guitars through often a good piano or basic keyboards. The bass is loud and well played. The lead singer is good. This one is not as depressive as many other BJH's albums, maybe because of the rather absent floating keyboards.
Report this review (#22615)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Baby" brings to the fore some of the band's worst tendencies, notably their knack for imitation minus the original source's inspiration. Thus you get the classical aspirations of the MOODIES without their artful melodies on "Moonwater", a partial pretender to KING CRIMSON's throne in the second half of "Summer Soldier", and The BEATLES' Bungalow Bill taken prisoner for "One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out". Not to suggest that these songs aren't enjoyable on some level, but it's hard to praise a musical magpie that builds its nest from other peoples' business.

The opening "Crazy (Over You)" is spared from that assessment, a tuneful track that ranks with the best of their early originals. The folk rock "Delph Town Morn" is another winner, though John Lees' songs are beginning to sound the same from album to album. Either song would have made for a good single, but inexplicably it was "Thank You" that got the honor, a thankless nod to people and feats we'll never connect, delivered with the dated glam gilding of Elton John or T. Rex. It's admirable that BJH still boasts three unique songwriters, yet the results are remarkably uneven this time. (At six tracks, even one stinker can sink the ship). In between the overkill introduction of "Summer Soldier" and the classical "Moonwater" should be an ocean of albums rather than a stream of two songs. Their last record flowed better thanks to the continued presence of tasteful orchestration, which "Baby James Harvest" instead pours into its last act. While I find the original album wanting, the problem is easily sidestepped by picking up both this and their last record on the 2-for-1 repackages made available in the '90s.

Report this review (#22616)
Posted Saturday, April 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the last album in Harvest label. The "Baby" is not the best "sun" of BJH but is a very good album. In this album missed a harmony between the songs. Because of this the album contains various kinds of music: a symphonic masterpiece of solitary Wooly Wolstenholme called "Moonwater". This music show how Wooly was in another galaxy of sounds . "Summer Soldier" is John Lees in your best moment: great melodie and great lyric."Crazy (over you)" and "One Hundred Thousand..." are a typical BJH sound and show the kind of music the band will recorded in "Everyone" and "Time Honoured". "Depth Town" and "Thank You" are a songs in a normal vein of rock. Five stars for "Moon Water" and "Summer Soldier"! but not for the album.
Report this review (#22618)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Baby James Harvest it's the first album I ever bought of this unique and great band. I was wise to pick up in the remastered version, because of the 10 bonus tracks added to the only 6 original (the biggest surprise is Medicine Man single version!). Anyway, the album is very good, expecially in the final coda with the magnum opus Moonwater, an impressive orchestral (60 musicians) song in a mahlerian taste. The rest of the album is completely different, but very interestin with songs such Crazy (over you) and Summer Soldier. My preferite is the fine rocky Thank You. Not at the same level of Once Again, but this 2002 edition is a must for those who, like me, adore this symphonic/melodic/prog english band!
Report this review (#41892)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The fourth work announced in 1972 "Baby James Harvest". Work that powerful joins fantastic ensemble. It devised, and it began to show skillful construction to instrumental like the introduction of the brass etc.The album title is a parody of James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James". This peculiar humour sense is succeeded to the following album. It became the last work in HARVEST. It is a work being felt for progressive musical.
Report this review (#45011)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've wrote so many praises about BJH's output especially in original line up so I have to confess that "Baby James Harvest" doesn't really make me happy - although "Moonwater" deserves a five-star rating for itself alone.

Perhaps due to the pressures the band were undergoing at the time - they came pretty close to an untimely end ! - there's many things that just don't sound mature here... and with time ( and financial sources ) running out the album became no more than a hint towards what it could have been... under different circumstances. It SHOULD have been a double-vinyl featuring one side of each member's creative work and ended up a rather disrupted affair with Woolly Wolstenholme working separately from the others ( most of the time ), so their songs just didn't receive that little extra-treatment that eventually would have made them shine brightly. With Woolly's piano on "Crazy ( over you )" you only get a glimpse of it, while "Summer Soldier" ( on which Woolly's participating on mellotron and organ ) is a complex beast of a song which is truly best on the 74's Live album but here it's not really fulfilling the high ambitions - it may satisfy the prog-lover, though.

"One hundred thousand smiles out" is a fine song but not arranged to full perfection ( it preceded the far better "Negative Earth" ) while "Thank you" as well as "Delph Town Morn" could have been in John Lees' mind when he spoke of "Ashtray Material" afterwards, though this harsh judgement may be too severe. Nonetheless "Baby James" is BJH's weakest offering in original line-up, though the bonus tracks on the remastered edition ( "The Joker", "Child of Man", "When the City sleeps" ... all fine Single-A's and B's ! ) help the rating to be a three-star ( which it was only barely before and only because of "Moonwater" ). Lucky enough their problems could be solved and they came back with many beautiful albums afterwards... Rupert

Report this review (#70481)
Posted Saturday, February 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 1972 was not the best of years for Barclay James Harvest. Despite a relentless touring schedule, BJH had yet to produce a successful hit album or single, and their orchestra was dragging them deeper into financial difficulties. EMI were becoming increasingly impatient for a commercial return on their investment so, before embarking on yet another tour, they entered Strawberry Studio to produce this, their 4th album, in a limited time. They were ill prepared and problems with orchestral recordings in London meant that Woolly Wolstenholme only contributed to part of the album.

The result is their weakest album from the 70s, an uneven mix that was unloved, either by the band or the record company, and won them no new fans. No amount of studio gloss or technical proficiency can hide the fact that four of the six songs are average soft rock numbers, pleasant in their own way but generally too few ideas stretched too thinly. It is these four songs which see the smallest input from Woolly - he played some piano on just one of them - and it shows. But they do at least sound consistent with each other, as if they belong together. Which is more than can be claimed for the remaining two, one of which is a soaring Prog-Rock classic, the other is an orchestrated Grand Statement.

Summer Soldier is one of their best songs from this period. Probably inspired by the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland, it was written as a general call to cease futile violence and wars, a message as relevant now as it was then. I recall that John Lees, who wrote the song, was criticised at the time for apparently sympathising with terrorists, but a close look at his lyrics shows he took a humanitarian stance. Musically, Summer Soldier is a minor epic in three sections. Beginning with some sound effects, the first two verses are fairly sparse and 'acoustic' in nature. A stop-start middle section forms a link to the third sector, an ensemble piece with each verse book-ended by an eleven bar guitar phrase which even now has me reaching for my battered old six-string Thing.

Moonwater is Woolly's baby, the culmination of BJHs dalliance with an orchestra, and a logical extension of the style of The Poet from their previous album. Although containing two verses of vocals, complete with somewhat elusive lyrics sung by Woolly in a rather high register, Moonwater is really all about the orchestration. Woolly plays organ, bells and Tam Tam but the rest of the group do not appear except for an excerpt of Les Holroyd playing Mellotron. Once the singing is over with, its tweeness gives way to a more muscular treatment, leading to a dramatic finale, led by various voices from the brass section. One of the bonus tracks on the 2002 re-mastered edition of this album is a newly remixed version of Moonwater which has a much greater depth of clarity.

What of the other four tracks? Crazy Over You is a lacklustre opening featuring some backwards echo on a vocal but otherwise uninspiringly pleasant. Delph Town Morn is much snappier with an 'acoustic' feel augmented by a 13 piece brass section from the band of Syd Lawrence [who incidentally, was the father of Martyn Lawrence who would later feature as a producer of BJH albums]. Thank You, one of those hurriedly constructed songs that seem like a good idea at the time, is simply a list of album credits set to music! It is saved by having an extended guitar solo in the coda and it rocks nicely. One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out is Les Holroyd's answer to Major Tom, an imaginary astronautical scenario featuring a simple yet haunting piano phrase and a strangled snare.

Aside from the aforementioned remix of Moonwater, the 2002 re-mastered edition contains some other interesting bonus material. Their final single for EMI Rock And Roll Woman (average), its B-side The Joker (better though derivative), and the single version of Medicine Man (essentially a live cut) are nice to have. But the real gem is the single Breathless and its B-side When The City Sleeps, which were recorded with members of 10CC and issued under the pseudonym Bombadil as a novelty (Breathless was written by Terry Bull, ha ha!).

Things didn't get any better for BJH once they had finished recording Baby James Harvest as they naively embarked on an ill-advised tour of South Africa, causing an uproar in England. Fans subsequently boycotted their concerts and demonstrated against them. Money was running out and relations both with EMI and their own management were plummeting to an all time low. Sadly, this was not the album to turn things around. They survived, just, but that's another story .....

Despite the presence of Summer Soldier, Baby James Harvest is a clear 3 star album. Summer Soldier is a Prog classic, no question, but its live arrangement was absolutely stunning and is available on Live (1974) so this version becomes less essential. Overall, then, it is good but no more.

Report this review (#80843)
Posted Saturday, June 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars The least we can say is that the relation between BJH and their record label ... Harvest were not really great at the time of this release. It will be the last one before signing at Polydor. There were objective reasons for this situation. During the last two years, BJH will produce four albums and play lots of concerts in the UK.

The band was not yet very successful, although the concert halls will be bigger and the audience more important at the end of their Harvest contract. The major problem was financial. BJH had the idea of adding a full symphonic orchestra not only to record their albums, but to perform live as well. Some bands will also do that, but for selected occasion only (remember Purple in 69). BJH will play on a regular basis with the orchestra.

I never really liked this combination. Even if it was integrant part of the BJH sound in their early days, I never understood the reason why they did so. Wooly will mention on the liner notes of the remastered version of "Baby James Harvest" : "I wasn't the instigator of heading in an orchestral direction, but I did embrace it wholeheartedly. Rather than dabble in it. I was totally convinced by the possibilities of orchestrating our music and saw it as the way forward". I have to comply with this view, but frankly, I do not embrace it as Wooly did.

But touring with a full orchestra was a huge expense. John Lees remembers : "That tour was a tremendous logistical exercise. The further North we got, the smaller the orchestra became" !

Major financial problems were around the corner and the record company preferred to call it quit while the band was getting more and more popularity. It will be proven later on that Harvest had made a wrong decision since BJH will sell millions of records during the mid-late seventies. IMO, it will by far their most interesting part of their long career.

The best number on this album is obviously "Summer Soldier". It opens on some "live" effects reflecting the war for about two minutes. This very long piece (their second longest studio one, if I do not forget anything) will feature everything a BJH fan is requiring : a nice melody and smooth vocals. We'll get some "war scenes" again around the sixth minute and finally BJH will produce the most appealing part of the song. We'll finally enter into a beautiful symphonic part. The best moment of the album (but there won't be many).

"Thank You" is another attempt to write a rock'n'roll song. I have already mentioned in my review for "Other Stories" while I was describing the track "Blue Johns Blues", that I really hated John's vocals during such songs. He sounded almost like Alvin Lee (Ten Years After). It is the same here again. Dreadful.

Unfortunately, the other songs won't be good ones either. Mellowish and flat. Is it "Crazy Over (You)"or "Delph Town Morn". "One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out" is slighty better. I have to admit that the long guitar solo in definitely of great added value. A good song after all.

The closing number "Moonwater" will be the hardest song to record. It was a piece written by Wooly. It is a very subtle piece of music, full of beauty during the first part. But the last five minutes are pure classic music. Not an inch of rock in there : horns and violin. That's all.

About this section, Wooly recalls that the orchestra was playing in London while the rest of the band was recording in Stockport (somewhere North of England). When he arrived at the studio, he figured out that the tape was incompatible with the equipment and he had nothing else to do than going back to London to have it recorded it again !

Since the band had foreseen a South African tour (very much criticized at the time), and that they were short of time, John, Les and Mel were working on their own songs without Wooly's presence. They described those sessions as a "schizophrenic work".

The remastered version features a lot of bonus tracks. Mostly B-sides, and alternate version of existing songs. It will also feature one of their single : "I'm Over You". It is one my favourite of the bonus tracks. These bonuses will double the lenght of the original album (actually, they last for about thirty-eight minutes). I must say that they are not worse than most songs from the original album. The rather catchy "When the City Sleeps" being on par with "I'm Over You".

On the contrary "Breathless" leaves me ... breathless. It reminds me some Gary Glitter riff. BJH meets glam. As you may imagine, the result is simply AWFUL.

I believe that the edited version of "Medecine Man" works better than the extended version. We get rid of some useless moments (IMO) to get the core of the track. I do not usually like edited versions, but in this case I must admit that the essence of the track has been kept intact. Very good editing work.

A new single is featured as well (both sides) : "Rock and Roll Woman" b/w "The Joker". The first one is a very poor rock song. Each time that BJH will try and produce a rock'n'roll song, they will lamentably fail. The later will feature rather childish and mellow vocals. The chorus is absolutely ridiculous. I guess that this single was not very successful. Both numbers are very poor.

There will be a "live" version for "Child Of Man" recorded at the BBC studios. Finally, "Moonwater" will be remixed in ...2002 at the Abbey Road studios. On the 15th of January to be precise. Wooly explains : "When I listened to the original multi-track master tape, I realized that there were intruments that were buried in the original mix, partly because everything was done in such a hurry".

"I've always felt slightly disappointed by the original mix and thought it would be interesting to remix the recording using modern technology to get closer to my original vision of the piece". I quite frankly cannot distinguish a lot of difference between the two versions.

If you ever consider to buy this record (which I do not recommend), the remastered version offers a bit more value to the original work.

Actually, I purchased a duo box CD containing "Baby..." together with "Once Again". It sells for cheap (approximately 12 ?) and at least you'll get their best work (by far) under the Harvest label ("Once Again" of course).

It features as well two nice booklets with interesting information about the genesis of these two albums which I have used to highlight this review.

Two stars my little baby.

Report this review (#120839)
Posted Saturday, May 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

BABY JAMES HARVEST is the band fourth and last album for their...Harvest label. BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST was not very successful yet, yes they had a strong growing fanbase, but more on the ''cult'' side. Also their stubborness to use the orchestra in the studio and on the...road would eventually put a drain on the finances of the band which would lead to their departure to Polydor records for their next album (without the orchestra!)

BJH does give the impression with this album not being sure which road to drive musically. You have a lot of things going on here heading in very different directions. There are only 6 tracks featured on BABY JAMES HARVEST giving it a ''proggish'' look including the ''epic'' 10mns long SUMMER SOLDIER, the last expanded track the band would ever write. This is one of the first ''political'' song JOHN LEES penned, i guess it was the time of the IRA armed rebellion in Northern Ireland. This is not a complex epic with time changes and instumental solos virtuosity, but as usual with BJH, this is very tasty with great vocals and a great guitar-driven symphonic final to make the piece sound grandiose, but not pompous at all! Very tasty, i told you!

THANK YOU is on the opposite very basic rocker, i don't know if it was meant for a single, but this song don't bring anything worthy to this album. A typical lush ballad from LES HOLROYD 'One HUNDRED THOUSNAD SMILES OUT'' follows , the kind HOLROYD will compose by the dozens in the future; That's a sweet song, sweet delicate voice,nice arrangements and all, but i can't ever remember the melody when it's over.

DELPH TOWN MORN is another ballad, this time from JOHN LEES whose voice sounds more affirmed , more personal album after album. We are getting finally the ''classic'' voice of LEES and the same goes for LES HOLROYD with its ''sweet voice''. The strangest part of this song is the apperance of a ...saxophone, an instrument i don't recall hearing with this band before and after. Not bad, but this song won't be featured on any best-of.

This album also marks the end of the major influence within the band of WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME as the 2 others write now their own songs and cover the lead vocals themselves. WOOLY comes only with one track, his swansong i would say, MOONWATER a 7mn piece of.....classical music with no other members of the band involved. This is only WOOLY singing accompanied by a 60 members of a symphonic orchestra . This is nice to hear, but there is nothing mesmerizing on MOONWATER . This is of course well played , kind of pompous ''grandiose'' orchestrations at the end, but rather forgetable.

BABY JAMES HARVEST marks the end of the first era of the band, the end with any kind of orchestral experiments . This could be described as the WOLSTENHOLME era where BJH was as its most proggish with some great artistic achievements and a few mishaps, but that would happen in the future as well. BJH wil with their next album straighten out their songs, forget about any adventurous endeavour, keep it short but would deliver their best works as well!

2.5 STARS.

Report this review (#139493)
Posted Friday, September 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Wanting to try out an album by BJH, I found this one, (remastered btw). And it looks as tho I choose the wrong one. It starts out fine with a decent rocker, "Crazy Over (You)". The guitar sounds a bit subdued but I do like the Mellotron right under the surface during the singing sections. Like I said, a decent rocker but not prog at all, in fact there's hardly ANY prog on this album. "Summer Soldier" is the only exception, with sounds of war and a repeated yell of "KILL!" reverberating until we get a marching band drum beat. There's a very Jefferson Airplane ala Haight Ashbury sound throughout this song. The best section is at the 5 and a half minute mark when there's a church bell competing with a guitar riff then John Lee begins to sing with a reverb warble as the Mellotron stays just below the song. It's a fine song and the highlight of the album. "Thank You" is a honky tonk type song. Enough said! "One Hundred Thousand Smiles" is flat out boring. Last up is "Moonwater" a flat-out orcehstral song, very classical. Too classical! I don't see how the band was involved at all other then the hippy dippy lyrics sung so high pitched and delicately it undermines the seriousness of certain sections of the song. In fact, the music swells in parts drowning out the singing. I guess for some this is another highlight, but for me it's another boring track. My edition of the disc is the re-mastered version with 10 bonus tracks. The only song I like is "Medicine Man" which for me is the best song on the disc! I don't know if I'd compare these guys to the Moddy Blues like some, but again, this is the only album I have and it may be the only one I will have. 2 stars in my book.
Report this review (#139916)
Posted Saturday, September 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars For the remarkable band that helped give the Harvest label its name, what is truly surprising is how their so-called "Classic" period contains only one great album out of 4, and only a few noteworthy singles out of umpteen. It seems that, after "Once Again" failed to rack up sales figures that were even close to what they deserved, BJH must have gone reeling, the costs of orchestrated tours becoming an albatross that the loyal if limited fan base must have demanded anyway. As a result, the uneven and unspectacular "Baby James Harvest" was to be the band's swan song for their namesake label. One could stop here and simply conclude that the band threw everything at us with "Once Again", and simply had little to add afterwards, a sort of 0-hit wonder. But later efforts would resoundingly disprove this theory. My review is based on the original LP.

The album opens well enough, with "Crazy Over You". Its insistent and enjoyable riff contains the germ of what would become "In My Life" several albums later, but the tune stands up well for the early 70s prog tinged melodic rocker that it is. Les' bass and Lees' guitars both shine as do the harmonies. "Delph Town Morn" is one of their few songs to include a variety of horns and, while otherwise sounding typical, these instruments do add another half dimension or so to an otherwise undistinguished folk tune. "Summer Soldier" is certainly progressive and contains two main parts, the second of which is mellotron drenched and accurately conveys the desolation of war both without and within. Nonetheless, it would be the live version of several years later that would become the only essential rendition of this suite.

"Thank you" is another in an ever lengthening line of failed John Lees rockers, but the inventive "Hundred Thousand Smiles Out" is one of Les' better early songs, in fact giving John more opportunity to shine than any of his own compositions on this outing. "Moonwater" is Woolly's only offering, and includes mostly his voice and mellow but full orchestrations, not particularly successful but nonetheless qualified for an occasional listen.

"Baby James Harvest", while having many redeeming qualities, could be regarded as the "contractual obligation album" for BJH, if you will, its general listlessness and nondescript nature signalling that a rebirth would be necessary for the band to make real progress on their journey.

Report this review (#164171)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Badly James Harvest!

Compared to the previous albums by Barclay James Harvest this one is a bit weaker in the songwriting department. It is not a downright horrible album, but make sure you have Once Again, Everyone Is Everybody Else, Octoberon and the self-titled debut album before you move on to this one (if you ever do, that is).

The sound here is similar from the band's earlier albums and the same problems apply to this one as well. Barclay James Harvest were good musicians but they lacked a unique musical identity, something in their sound that was truly distinctive that would have set them apart from other acts. Still, in the earliest days they were somehow important because they were there from the very start of the progressive genre. By the time of this album however, there were several other bands on the scene that simply outshined Barclay James Harvest in almost every possible way.

This album is even more orchestral than their earlier albums and this is simply too orchestral for my taste. Particularly the closing number which is orchestral to a fault. The epic Summer Soldier is best heard in its much better live version on the Barclay James Harvest Live album. There are also some truly embarrassing moments here however, like Thank You - a misguided attempt at a rocker. Avoid that one at all costs!

Thankfully, the band's next album would be a lot better. This one is for fans and collectors only.

Report this review (#176864)
Posted Monday, July 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Apparently on the verge of bankruptcy, Barclay Lames Hardest returned to the studio with as little budget (this remains to confirm) at no producer, Baby JH suffers of its unjust reputation of a botched job. While it is no Once Again, it's certainly no worse than Other Short Stories and in some regards is even better. The puerile, yet smile-inducing artwork was certainly not fitting for the album's music. Apparently the group recorded most tracks as a trio, Wolstenholme missing most sessions, but managing to intervene in just two songs, but scoring a credit in Moonwater (where only him appears), the only track with their famous symphonic orchestra.

With the usually bland BJH-mould, yet derivative Crazy opening the album, there was not much chance for the album to hit the fans with high hopes; while the equally-daft Delph Town More is confirming this with its horn section and finishing on a Helliwell-like sax solo. Which is quite funny, because the opening taped sequence of the mega-epic Summer Soldier is reminiscent of Supertramp's Fool's Overture's taped sequence in its middle section. However interesting might be Summer Soldier, though, it doesn't come to the knee cap of the Supertramp epic (this was another era, though), but it's definitely worth the listen (with its Irish situation of the time) if you happen to have it handy at your free convenience.

The flipside starts on the dumb R'nR Thank You, where BJH sings the album's credits, but they're no Robert Wyatt at this exercise while the singing-out just about anything. 100 000 Smiles Out is another track that could fit in their Procol Harum file (especially Lees' guitar approaching Trower's). A correct track if you ask me. The closing Moonwater is a plaintive track that probably needed a better production is fairly impressive achievement with a reputedly low budget, but I'm not much a fan of this type of tracks, which echoes the previous' album Poet track.

Certainly no worse than its predecessor Baby JH is probably the most under-rated album in an otherwise much over-rated discography. The album's non-success and the band's catastrophic finances (mostly related to the orchestra and its expenses) will lead to many contract severed, with the label and their management. The group did manage to survive (and still does today), but had to amputate itself from its orchestra. Of the first four non-essential albums, only one is what I would call good, two more (included this one) are worth the investment if you're a fan and only the debut is best shunned. But this old writer would wisely tell you to avoid the band altogether, as it was simply never able to invent its own soundscape..

Report this review (#185108)
Posted Thursday, October 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars BJH's last album for the Harvest label was something of a damp squib that received a lukewarm reception from critics and fans alike on its release in 1972. Fortunately for the band the subsequent move to Polydor saw BJH reach its artistic peak, in addition to achieving an immediate increase in sales. However BJH also seemed to leave their progressive leanings behind when they departed EMI.

Baby James Harvest contains only six songs, with a couple of minor epics (Moonwater; Summer Soldier) to close each half of the original vinyl album. Moonwater is one of those Woolly Wolstenholme orchestral pieces that just doesn't do it for me. Having a real orchestra providing backing for a rock band is one thing; a fully orchestrated piece with additional vocals is quite another. I just don't think a pseudo-symphonic movement alongside rock songs works; certainly not in this case.

Fortunately, Summer Soldier is an entirely different proposition. Clocking in at over 10 minutes it's one of the longest tracks the band recorded, and is the anti-war song that by now was a seemingly customary element of BJH albums. The track begins with the ringing of church bells and sounds of battle, followed by a snare-drum marching beat. After a couple of minutes the first part of the song proper begins, with John Lees making a plea for reconciliation. Around the six-minute mark the church bells herald the second half of the song. This features the most orgasmic of guitar riffs, backed by swathes of Mellotron. For me, this epitomizes the charm of BJH. Their music is highly emotive and the guitar-playing of John Lees expresses depression of spirits while elevating the spirits of the listener. A wonderful paradox.

The remainder of the album is fairly unremarkable. The Les Holroyd penned Crazy (Over You) and One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out are typical examples of the direction the band would take on future releases. These two songs, along with parts of Summer Soldier, contain some lovely ringing guitar that reflects George Harrison. This sound would be used to beautiful effect on Hymn For The Children from Time Honoured Ghosts. Thank You is a dire rock'n'roller. Delph Town Morn is fairly pleasant, apart from the brass and sax solo!

Only one song to get excited about then. The remainder is, at best, average. Another BJH release for fans only i'm afraid.

Report this review (#259060)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This is a second miss in-a-row for Barclay James Harvest for the same exact reasons as their previous release. On top of that the official website clearly states that the whole of this album was written and recorded in a matter of four week which is not something to be proud of!

The bands songwriting is all over the place ranging from rock & roll to classical music. The album kicks off with the rocker Crazy (Over You) which sounds a lot like In My Life from Time Honoured Ghosts. The whole rock & roll attitude doesn't really bother me that much until Thank You which is the only composition that I think a man of John Lee's great talent should be ashamed for even proposing to the rest of the band. Even Woolly Wolstenholme manages to go over the border with his Moonwater which sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to the rest of the album.

There is clearly a lot of potential on Baby James Harvest but since writing and recording was so rushed the end result is anything but satisfactory. I actually consider it to be a miracle that the band managed to compose and record a great track like Summer Soldier which incidentally also marks the only real band effort on this album.

Eventually Barclay James Harvest ditched the orchestral arrangements and went for a rock band approach during the second half of the 70's which proved to be much more successful. I recommend to skip this album and go straight to Everyone Is Everybody Else.

**** star songs: Summer Soldier (10:23)

*** star songs: Crazy (Over You) (4:09) Delph Town Morn (4:43) One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out (6:04) Moonwater (Poco Adagio) (7:22)

** star songs: Thank You (4:23)

Report this review (#260211)
Posted Sunday, January 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars 'Baby James Harvest' is certainly not one of the more well-remembered BJH albums as far as the music press and most fans are concerned, but I personally find it to be among their more charming and intimate efforts, despite its disjointed feel and lack of any huge classics (save possibly "Summer Soldier", one of the better anti-war songs of those days).

The band were literally split up at the time, but not due to infighting or contractual issues. Rather, Wooly Wolstenholme was ensconced at Abbey Road Studios with the band's orchestra working on "Moonwater" while the rest of the group were settled in at Strawberry Studios putting together the nucleus of the album. As the band tells the story on their website, Wolstenholme laid down the orchestral backing tracks and delivered the master tapes to Strawberry for the final recordings and production, but the tapes wouldn't work on the Strawberry equipment so he had to return to Abbey Road and rework them while the rest of the group went ahead with the a-side of the album as well as Les Holroyd's spaceman epic "One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out". As a result Wolstenholme played little part on most of the record other than "Moonwater", with Holroyd providing most of the keyboard tracks on "Crazy (Over You)" and "One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out".

The song selection and themes are as varied here as they were on 'BKH and Other Short Stories', but at least this time the lyrics were for the most part a bit less esoteric than on the prior album and therefore more likely to appeal to someone besides just the band members themselves. The one exception is "Thank You", which is nothing more than a name-dropping rendition of the 'thanks to' blurb that seems to always follow the liner notes on most albums. Lees manages to squeeze in thanks for everyone from the band members' significant others to part of their road crew to record executives and even the members of 10cc.

For the first time the band opens with a Holroyd tune ("Crazy (Over You)"), and one that reminds me quite a bit of many early Supertramp songs, especially ones written by Rick Davies. The most noticeable difference here is the lack of orchestration which is supplanted by a bit of Mellotron and organ and an excellent John Lees guitar riff.

"Delph Town Morn" continues the trend of change on the album with a brass ensemble instead of orchestral strings, and I have to say the blend of horns and sax with some acoustic guitar and Lees' voice make for a pleasant effect, although once again this sounds a bit more like Supertramp than it does Barclay James Harvest. The theme, as is often the case with Lees songs, is a bird, in this case a steel one (aka an airplane) as near as I can tell. The piano-driven transition midway through is exquisite and again very Hodgson-like; I'm not sure if this was Holroyd or Wolstenholme but I quite like it. The extended sax solo that takes up the rest of the song is among the more engaging and lively I've heard from that era.

The album is dominated by the ten-minute "Summer Soldier", an anti-war song that opens with the sound of marching soldiers and fighter craft strafing before settling into gorgeous guitar strumming and rolling drums behind Lees' exhortation to peace and understanding. Sappy today perhaps, but the sentiments of self-examination and compassion for the personal and human side of 'the enemy' rings true and sincere here and is one that we could certainly use more of today. Great guitar work once again by Lees along with Holroyd's (acoustic?) rhythm, and the heavy use of organ and Mellotron help fill in for the lack of orchestral accompaniment one would have normally expected from a BJH album.

"One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out" is a Barclay James Harvest attempt at a space- themed song, something quite topical at the time considering the Soviet/U.S. space-race had only resulting in landing a man on the moon a few years before this was recorded. I have to say the arrangement reminds me a lot of the first two Klaatu albums, and while I never considered there might have been a BJH influence on that band I have to wonder hearing this today if that in fact was the case.

Meanwhile, back at Abbey Road Wolstenholme was wrapping up his main contribution to the album, the majestic, heavily orchestral and blatantly progressive "Moonwater". With its swirling crescendos and lush strings (not to mention a strong presence of horns and woodwinds) and decidedly classical arrangement, I could have been easily convinced Robert John Godfrey conducted rather than Martyn Ford, and would not consider this song out-of-place on any of a number of the Enid albums. Well-done and a great closer to a pretty decent album.

So the band's fans and music press were divided on this album when it released, and it would eventually be overshadowed by their first two and a couple later such as 'Octoberon', 'Gone to Earth' and 'Time Honoured Ghosts'. But I find it to be a very well executed recording with solid compositions, with the possible exception of the gratuitous "Thank You". Considered on its own merits and not be comparing it with other BJH albums I have to say it would make an excellent addition to just about any progressive music fan's collection, and therefore rate it a four (of five) star effort and recommend it highly.


Report this review (#438642)
Posted Sunday, April 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars 'Baby James Harvest' was the band's fourth album, and the last one that they recorded for EMI as it was deemed that they had not provided enough commercial return on the label's investment. If only they had listened to the album they could have heard that here was a band that was truly starting to come into their own. The songs were all melodic and showed a band that was full of confidence, not afraid to explore new territories such as using a brass section (from the Syd Lawrence Orchestra no less) on "Delph Town More", and combining this with some 12-string guitars to great effect. This is to me the first album where BJH really showed what was to come with an album that is full of passion and one great song after another. About the same time as the album was released there was a song by a band called Bombadil, that did nothing in the charts even though it was a pastiche of many of the popular bands of the day. Perhaps in some ways that is a good thing as Bombadil were BJH in disguise, and even though "Breathless" is a fun song that is all (included as one of the bonus songs, taking the original release of 6 up to 16). "Rock and Roll Woman"/"The Joker" was the final single for EMI (both songs here as bonus numbers), and that could have been the end. But then Polydor stepped in and the rest, as they say, is history.

Originally appeared in Feedback #70, Oct 02

Report this review (#978120)
Posted Saturday, June 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Baby James Harvest is an album I have owned for a fair old number of years, now, and, each time I play it, the more it plays as a sort of curiosity, something I am never quite sure how much to take seriously.

At the time, it was really serious for the band. This was to prove the last of their four albums for the EMI imprint Harvest (they had helped with the name!), but poor sales, and the enormous amount of money chucked away with the touring and recording orchestra, meant that they had become a commercial liability. They left and signed for Polydor after this.

It is a good album but really nothing more, and certainly, in my opinion, the weakest of this particular period, although there are some aspects that serve to keep us all interested. I like the experiment with brass instrumentation on Delphi Town Mum, and, of course, as scions of Northern towns, the boys will have been familiar with the magnificent colliery bands that flourished thereabouts.

There is a genuine classic, and a track which makes the price of the album worth its entrance price alone, in Summer Soldier, widely believed to be a (bitter) commentary on the escalating Troubles of Northern Ireland of the time, and this track, perhaps more than most others, added to the long held satirical blast of BJH as kaftan clad, hopeless, hippies. I love this track, and, in truth, the lyrics were rather brave at the time, commenting as they did on just how damned awful the times were from all perspectives, and how a little bit of peace and love might just be the answer. Oh well, only 30 years ahead of its time. Musically, it was a mix of the experimental (certainly in the way that it was, in reality, two distinct tracks in one) and classic symphonic psych prog, and, all told, it came off very well indeed, and stands up very well in 2014.

Elsewhere, Woolly only really contributed largely to album closer, Moonwater, which was recorded with orchestra separately from the remainder of the album, and this also stands up extremely well as a delicate, pastoral piece of beauty, musically and lyrically.

The remainder is fine, without being remotely exciting or memorable, more like BJH by numbers, I suppose. Thank You, especially, is a strange one, with a glam sort of backdrop, thanking the entire globe for riches had and to come, and Les Holroyd produces a sort of Poor Man's (pardon the pun) David Bowie in One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out

Two tracks, then, which were, and are, superlative, amongst competence and pleasantness, something which could, I think, rather be the final epitaph of this act when we write the final narrative.

Three stars. A good album which fans will have to have, and others might wish to.

Report this review (#1146102)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Baby James Harvest" is the 4th full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Barclay James Harvest. The album was released through Harvest Records in November 1972. All tracks were recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport (in the case of "Delph Town Morn" featuring a 13-man brass orchestra conducted by Brian Day) except the closing track "Moonwater (Poco Adagio)" which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London with a 60-man classical orchestra.

Stylistically the music on "Baby James Harvest" continues the semi-progressive rock style of it´s predecessors. Strong vocals and harmonies, catchy songwriting, organic playing and the occasional use of mellotron, which provides the music with an epic dimension. While the band do produce more simple rocking tracks like "Crazy (Over You)" and "Thank You", there is a sophistication to the songwriting that´s umistakably a progressive rock trait. In the case of "Crazy (Over You)" it´s especially the harmony guitars that provide the sophistication to the track. It´s mostly the 10:23 minutes long "Summer Soldier" that falls under the progressive rock catagory and maybe the closing orchestra heavy "Moonwater (Poco Adagio)".

The album features an organic sound production, which is pleasant and inviting and suits the music well. The high level musicianship are, as always when we´re dealing with Barclay James Harvest, one of the great assets on "Baby James Harvest" and upon conclusion the album is another quality release by the band. It´s not quite as interesting as the first couple of releases by band, but still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1156741)
Posted Wednesday, April 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars I remember sort of skimming through the Barclay James Harvest discography and, for the most part, I was left unimpressed, there were some good moments and good ideas but nothing terribly original or extraordinary. Nevertheless, the band functioned perfectly for background music as it was diverse enough to keep me engaged in whatever task I was doing but wasn't so interesting that the music distracted me.

As a result of my experience I was a little bit confused when I saw how this album was almost unanimously thought of as one of the poorest albums from early BJH. As a result I wanted to see why this album was thought of as poor, or at least poorer, than the bands other releases. To tell the truth, I don't think the songwriting or the performance from the band is any poorer here than on any other releases, the music is perhaps a bit more fragmented and there are songs that could be argued to not be progressive but I'd say that this is not uncommon throughout the bands discography.

On the whole I wouldn't say that this is a strong record 'Crazy (Over You)' and 'Thank You' are simply straight-forward rock songs and although they aren't inherently bad they seem a bit out of place when compared to songs such as 'Summer Soldier' or 'Moonwater'. 'One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out', despite being a song I thoroughly enjoy, owes a large debt to David Bowie and is far from original. 'Summer Soldier' is a well written BJH song for half of its duration with the other half seeming to be an extended tribute to King Crimson. In fact, there are only two songs here than I can wholeheartedly recommend, 'Moonwater' and the absolutely fantastic 'Delph Town Morn'.

'Delph Town Morn' is nothing more than an interesting and well written song with some wonderful brass driving the song along and is a real treat to listen to. 'Moonwater' is a, perhaps sprawling, piece that features intricate orchestration and although the recording doesn't quite match the depth contained in the song it is a wonderfully written piece nonetheless. As a whole though, the album feels erratic and haphazardly pieced together with songs that seem to blatantly copy their influences. As a result this album couldn't hope to achieve a mark higher than 2 stars.

If you enjoy the band you will likely find something to enjoy in this album and the music is certainly palatable but it ultimately falls short in album form.

2/5 stars.

Report this review (#1159647)
Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review Nş 641

"Baby James Harvest" is the fourth studio album of Barclay James Harvest that was released in 1972. It was the last album released to their record label, the Harvest Records. In most BJH favourite charts, Baby James Harvest scarcely gets a mention. After the pomp of their eponymous debut first album, the brilliance of "Once Again" and some majesty of "Barclay James Harvest And Other Short Stories", it was a huge disappointment. In reality, it isn't a bad album, but there is a lack of sparkle and drive and it feels as if the band was simply going through the motions. But in general, it remains a disappointment. Overall, the sound is pretty depressed and it just doesn't seem to particularly go anywhere.

"Baby James Harvest" has six tracks. The first track "Crazy Over (You)" written by Les Holroyd is the song chosen to open the album and is a nice and a typical Les Holroyd song. Here we haven't the usual musical orchestration which was substituted by the Mellotron work. It's a very simple but very effective composition featuring excellent guitar and keyboard workings. We may say that this song is one of the first efforts and a typical example of what would be the musical direction that the group would take in the future. The second track "Delph Town Morn" written by John Lees is a nice and beautiful song that seems to be released first as a single. However, it seems that it hasn't been the choice, because it was "Thank You" that got the honour to be that. It feature thirteen musicians that formed a brass ensemble section and they weren't members of the orchestra that usually worked with them. However, this is one of their few songs to include horns, and the inclusion of these musical instruments adds another different musical dimension to their music. I don't know if it's because of that, but this song reminds me Supertramp. The third track "Summer Soldier" written by John Lees is a classic John Lees' song that was to become the most frequently performed live piece of music from the album. It became also one of the first political songs composed by John Lees. It refers the futility of violence and a plea for peace. It seems that was inspired by some events in Northern Ireland, although we can consider that its sentiments could equally be applied to any type of conflicts. The song begins as an acoustic song and in the second part the song was arranged by Woolly Wolstenholme. It represents one of the highest musical moments on the album and it remains as one of their best songs from this musical period. The fourth track "Thank You" written by John Lees, as I said before, would be chosen as the next Barclay James Harvest single. It seems that this song was the late addition to the album. This is the rocking song on the album and its lyrics were made as a tribute to their road crew and to many other people who influenced the band's life. This isn't, in reality, a great song and it represents, for me, one of the weakest points on the album. It's hard for me to understand why it was chosen to be released as a single and not "Delph Town Morn", which is, in my opinion, a better song. The fifth track "One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out" written by Les Holroyd is about the isolation of an astronaut lost in space. It's a song inspired by the space race and where the lyrics recount the isolation of a fictional astronaut. The space race was always in the news since the first expedition to the Moon in 1969, and that interest was reflected in many other songs from many other artists, in that time, such as "Space Oddity" of David Bowie and "Rocket Man" of Elton John. It's a very calm and nice song, well arranged, and like the first track "Crazy Over (You)", is another typical example of what would be the music direction that the group would take in the next future. The sixth and last track "Moonwater" written by Woolly Wolstenholme is the great magnum opus of the album. It's a perfect way to close the album with a great and dramatic final. It's a fantastic piece of music with an incredible and beautiful orchestral work. This song represents one of the highest points in the musical career of Woolly Wolstenholme as a great composer and it's also, in a certain way, a logical extension of another song released on their previous studio album, "The Poet". With those two songs, Woolly Wolstenholme proved that he was a great composer and that he could have followed a promising musical career as a classical composer, if he has chosen that path, really.

Conclusion: "Baby James Harvest" is, without any doubt, the weakest of the all four first studio albums released by Barclay James Harvest, the four albums released to their first record label, the Harvest Records. However, we can say that it isn't a bad musical piece. In reality, it has two great songs, "Summer Soldier" and especially, "Moonwater". However, the other four songs, despite being good songs, they don't have, in my humble opinion, the same quality level of the others, and I even can say that they're weaker than was usual in this musical phase of the group, especially "Thank You". Probably, the main reason for some lower quality of the album, is because the band were physically split during the recording sessions, with John Lees, Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard at Strawberry, in Stockport, and Woolly Wolstenholme mostly working with the orchestra in London, to the point that in some songs, John Lees and Les Holroyd play some keyboard instruments. "Baby James Harvest" is a good album, but it isn't nothing more than that.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2921616)
Posted Thursday, May 4, 2023 | Review Permalink

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