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Barclay James  Harvest - Live Tapes CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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4 stars The best pick if you want to get to know this band with just one album. Includes soulfull haunting songs like "Poor man's moody blues" and "Child of the universe". There is something about the sound of the live guitar that is a bit disturbing though...
Report this review (#22672)
Posted Tuesday, December 9, 2003 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Live retrospective from this underrated band. They became famous in the years after this release, however the big points were their albums from the 70s. This is one of the best live albums of the seventies.
Report this review (#22673)
Posted Sunday, December 14, 2003 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars BJH become Rock'n'roll stars!

A good record of BJH live during what was to be their most successful period. All of the tracks are taken from their Polydor albums, with the exception of the timeless "Mockingbird" from their second album, "Once again". There is therefore little overlap with the previous "Live" album in terms of the track listing.

The performances are pretty faithful to the studio recordings, but the sound is sharp and rich, representing a significant improvement in that area over the previous "Live" album.

"Rock'n'roll star" in particular benefits from the live performance, transforming from a good album track to a standout piece of driving rock with a full sound. The guitar work is especially noticeable throughout, exchanging the smoothness found on the original album for a much more cutting sound.

A good summary of BJH at their creative peak, caught performing live as a solid coherent unit.

Report this review (#22674)
Posted Friday, April 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having been on one of the concerts of this tour this live album contains many vivid memories. It was the last time I saw Woolly as part of the old BJH and it was marvellous. The exciting opening, the strong chords that leads to Child of the Universe, the haunting One night and Suicide, the beautiful For no one and the breath taking Poor man´s moody blues, it is all there. This album shows again that BJH has been a great live band. The vocals are so good, especially John Lees´ voice is so strong that it can not be understood why this great band has not grown bigger. It has everything to do with their choice to continue making music they believe in and quite rightly they did. Live Tapes is simply a great live album, sounding better produced than Live but lacking somewhat in enthusiasm and shoulkd be listened to by everyone who likes melodic, beautifully crafted songs. One critic, why is it not packed in a single cd/box.
Report this review (#38149)
Posted Friday, July 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This January I went into hospital to undergo surgery and in those days I had with me this great BJH live album. The right way to spend all that borig time was listen to that music, never too loud, always charming. The sound is very clear and the tracks are all of the Polydor period 1974-1977, the perennial Mocking Bird apart (1971). This last is not the best live version, in my opinion. It's better that strong one from the 1988 album Glasnost, which is also available in The Best Of BJH (1992). My preferite song from the first disc is withot any doubt Child Of The Universe with that exciting opening you cannot find in the original Everyone Is Everybody Else (1974) but only as a bonus track in the Polydor 2003 remastered edition (great re-issues comparable with the 2002 Emi's ones, which are really so well made like also indefatigable and always precise ERIK NEUTEBOOM said). The one I prefer from the second disc is Taking Me Higher, because here you have a different ending (with some drums) than the original track on the Gone To Earth album (1977). The Hymn live version on Live Tapes is not the best you can hear: try the "shouted" live version from the album Berlin: A Concert For The People (1982).

Waiting for the new 2005 remastered edition of the 1974 album Barclay James Harvest Live I will try to find something of Carmen...Erik's review was so enthusiastic!

Report this review (#43540)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars This originally 2-LP is my introduction to Barclay James Harvest. I was searching for progrock in a record store and my eyes felt on the inner sleeve of that 2-LP. I read Woolly Wolstenholme: Hammond C3 organ (including 2 Leslie boxes), Mellotron Mk3 and MK4, ARP Pro Solist synthesizer, ARP String-ensemble and Minimoog. In my opinion this wide range of vintage keyboards would contribute to a wonderful progrock sound without any doubt .. and it did! The sound of BJH is almost beyond the complex and varied sound from ELP, Genesis, Pink Floyd and King Crimson. It also has been nailed as a blatant ripp-off from The Moody Blues. Nonetheless, this band evokes so much progrock pleasure with their warm and melodic sound on this 2-CD. It contains simple but very melodic, harmonic and pleasant compositions, layered with wonderful Mellotron, sensitive, often slightly distored electric guitar, a decent rhythm-section and warm vocals. Highlights are "Child of the universe" (this could have been an UNICEF anthem!) featuring wonderful piano, Mellotron and moving guitar, "Mockingbird" (beautiful twanging guitar and then bombastic Mellotron), the emotional "Suicide" (great compelling atmosphere) and "For no one" (moving blend of fiery, distorted electric guitar, violin- and choir-Mellotron and dramatic vocals).

If I compare this one to my "BJH Live" review (five stars), I award "Live tapes" with four stars because some tracks sound a bit too polished (like "Rock 'n' roll star", "Hard hearted woman" and "Polk street rag").


Report this review (#46118)
Posted Friday, September 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have to admit that this recording, after all these years, evokes the very same emotions as it did way back then, and I'm a fool for "Live Tapes". It features my favorite Band at the peak of their playing and many of my favorite songs in versions that, imho, can not be bettered, and... it does feature them in a very good sound quality: "Child of the Universe" ( the band themselves were never completely satisfied with their renditions, but this one kicks off the record with a climax per excellence ), "Rock'n'Roll Star", "Poor Man's moody Blues" ( I love the ending here - it's a keyboard-downward-spiral meeting the lead guitar's upward spiral in simplicity but that's the way I love it - compared to rather complex later renditions where things got mixed up and the structure of the arrangement got "confused" by simply too much to lesser effect ), "One Night" ( an underrated BJH-Classic featuring haunting backing vocals in the 3rd verse and a great guitar-solo by John Lees ! ), "Suicide ?" ( stripped down to a blistering song ), "Crazy City" ( full speed, don't like it when it's too slow ), "Jonathan" ( Les Holroyd's finest hour in songwriting now blowing your mind with its majestic ending ), "For No One" ( you can hear John Lees, Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard at the top of their playing, perhaps the best effort they ever came across with in terms of "Band-playing" ) & "Hymn" ( without the "Yeah" but with the Hammond - and the voices of John Lees, Woolly Wolstenholme and Les Holroyd together - just as I love to hear them ).

I can't be very objective about this album. It established BJH as my favourite band for life - and everything they did afterwards had to live up to this, especially live in concert. Well, to be honest, they never really could, and if, it happened to be moments, but those were moments of brilliance ( "She said" on "Revival", "The Poet/After the Day" on "Legacy", to name but a few examples and, as you can see, they had been achieved with Woolly Wolstenholme returning to John Lees, but I have fond memories of the 1990's show that, to my ears, was better than all the live-recordings BJH had released without Woolly and came close to what made me a lifelong addict ).

"Medicine Man", as one of the bonus-tracks of the remastered edition, is another one of those "definites", and, it has to be said, I'm deeply in love with the fuzzy guitar-sound on this record, something that I even heard fans complain about... it might be my heart, certainly it's an absolute subjective view ( and review ), this may be the reason why I've waited so long to write it, and Prog Lovers - I do understand - prefer the first "Live" -Album, but for one time let me make an exception, please, and give a 5 Star-rating to an Album that is and perhaps will always be my personal No. 1 out of everything I have bought. And this it is though my favoutite BJH-Song ( "Mockingbird" ) is not to be heard in my favourite version ( a bit too fast ! ) and, perhaps because they were to difficult to do in Concert, does not feature one of Woolly's masterpieces in songwriting.

You can, if you like, subtract 1 Star ( for those who like BJH ) or two ( for those who like BJH but only the "prog"-side ) but if you do as I tell you and play it loud ( really loud ! ) you should be able to experience the emotional thrill it's giving me... best Live Album ever.

Report this review (#64954)
Posted Monday, January 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars A disk, sweetly like sugared coffee. This is is not real Art-Rock but rather Kitsch-Rock, with a lot of flourishes and florets, a sound like a pink icing about the birthday cake. The technical perfection and sound are more importantly like a musical statement. The quality of the compositions is doubtful, even though everything sounds so beautiful and faithfully. You completely miss every surprise, somehow every tone looks foreseeable and is forgotten immediately again. BJH is a good demonstration group for effect devices, but the force of Rock has completely got lost.
Report this review (#79596)
Posted Sunday, May 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Make no mistake that Live Tapes is A Very Good album indeed, perhaps good enough to be considered a suitable 'Best Of' type compilation thanks to spotless performances and pristine sound. Most songs are in the good to excellent category, with only Poor Man's Moody Blues lagging behind a little possibly because John's vocals are simply not energetic enough. While the start is brilliant, with a pre-recorded spacey instrumental and roto-toms leading into Child Of The Universe in classic style, the album really picks up in the second half. The sequence from Suicide? to the climax of Hymn is stunning.

Stand-outs are: Jonathon is more gutsy than on the studio version and features a wonderful short burst of Mellotron choir at the end; For No-One too is a classic, perhaps even the definitive version of this anthemic song; as is Taking Me Higher, which builds on the slightly limp studio arrangement by adding a rockist coda with lovely guitar soloing; and Suicide? is more 'involving' than the studio original with a proper guitar solo for a coda without the 'clog-walk' sound effects!

Live Tapes is the second of a pair of BJH live albums released just four years apart during the 1970s, the first being Live (1974). This close proximity inevitably invites comparison, yet they are quite different beasts:

- Live (1974) has a warm analogue ambience, perhaps aurally substandard but with an excess of character. Live Tapes is sonically almost faultless, dynamic, punchy and detailed, offering a full soundstage with excellent clarity. All instruments and voices are clearly defined and well placed with no issues relating to the mix.

- The performances are also substantially different: on Live (1974), the band may not reach the same high level of professionalism, but they show greater willingness to develop and stretch song arrangements, especially early in the set. On Live Tapes, though adapted for a live setting, most renditions are faithful to original studio versions, even John's solos barely stray from familiar templates, though there are some memorable exceptions and his guitar is here much more incisive.

- Live (1974) belongs to the early 1970s BJH 'guitar-and-Mellotron-anthem' period and represents the zenith of that phase of the band's career, Woolly and John each vying for attention with strong themes and solos. Live Tapes is altogether more balanced: similar to contemporary studio work [eg Octoberon and Gone To Earth], guitars continue to provide the dominant themes, but keyboards are now more often 'relegated' to a supporting role.

- Origins are quite different. Live (1974) is essentially a single concert performance with the insertion of just two [perhaps three] songs from the previous day. By contrast, Live Tapes was compiled from a number of different live recordings over the course of two years [1976 - 1977]. While this is in no way apparent while listening to Live Tapes, and certainly does not detract in any way from the listening pleasure, the 1974 set has a greater sense of 'being there as it happened'.

- It is well known that Live (1974) is truly live except for some Mellotron overdubs made necessary by the Mellotron playing up on the night, and minor changes to a couple of vocal harmonies. No such information is known about Live Tapes but I suspect extensive overdubbing has taken place, especially processing of vocals but I may be wrong.

- What sets Live (1974) apart is its heightened sense of emotion spilling over from an infectious enthusiasm from the performers, particularly Woolly's keyboards. By comparison, Live Tapes sometimes gives the impression of being a little colder and more clinically correct, probably because it adheres too closely to the studio recordings.

- Obviously, there is variation in the setlists, though with a degree of overspill. Clearly, those listeners with a penchant for material from the Time Honoured Ghosts, Octoberon and Gone To Earth albums will have a preference for Live Tapes.

Really, between Live and Live Tapes you 'pays yer money and takes yer choice'. For me, Live has an extra little indefinable quality that takes it further into my soul than Live Tapes but it is a close run thing. Certainly the improved sound is a great bonus, and perhaps the three tracks added to Eclectic's 2006 remaster edition might tip the balance in Live Tapes favour!

Report this review (#96334)
Posted Tuesday, October 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Three songs will remain from their legendary and brilliant "Live '74") : "Mockingbird" (still played today and as unevitable than "Aqualung" from Tull or "Smoke" for Purple), "Crazy City" and "For No One".

While "Mocking" (the oldest song played here from "Once Again" in 1971) is a good rendition (harder than the original), I still prefer the one of their first live album. IMO, it will never be matched.

From the very first notes of "Crazy City", one immediately feels that something is completely wrong with the guitar sound. Awful, really. The comparison betwen the two versions is extremely easy. Of course this has never been a great BJH song, but they made a complete mess out of it on "Live Tapes".

"For No One" is played faster as if BJH was in a hurry. It affects noticeably the quality of this great song. These last two come from "Everyone...". Fortunately, the opening number on these "Live Tapes" and the third song of this very good studio album will be superbly played and be one of the highlight on this effort.

I may sound as an old man (which I am) telling that everything was better in the good old days, but let's be realistic, it is very easy to determine which live version is superior. Without the slightiest doubt.

From their average "Time Honoured Ghosts", two songs are delivered. Amongst the most average ones : "One Night" and "Jonathan" while I would have expected "In My Life", "Titles" or my fave one "Moongirl".

The next BJH release is the one I consider as their last very good album. "Octoberon" will feature several great prog moments of which only one is here : "Suicide?" : as emotional as the original. Another highlight.

But what about "May Day" and "Ra" ? Forgotten. Instead, we'll get "Rock 'n' Roll Star" and "Polk Street Rag". Both were the most rocking songs from the album. I guess it is useless to tell you that this side of their work is not their best. They were never considered as a rock band and never will.

I suppose that they were facing their more progressive and interesting work with their back, which will inevitably result in Wolly's departure. "May Day" could have sound great with the choirs at the end of the song replaced by some fabulous mellotron. But nothing as such, unfortunately.

Their weakest Polydor effort so far is undoubtfully "Gone to Earth". Four songs from this one made their entry on this live set. Two poor ones : "Hard Hearted Woman" and "Taking Me Higher", a great one : "Poor Man's Moody Blues" by far the highlight of the studio album as well as one of this live release and finaly "Hymn" which is finally cleared from these heavy orchestrations of the studio work and which sounds far much better so. A very good version to close this album.

There will be of course some good BJH on this live album but there is no comparison at all between their first two live albums.

While the first was all symphony and majesty, this one is rather uninspired. They could have easily produced a very good live effort from the same studio albums, should have they opted for more prog songs.

But in these days, BJH was moving to a more poppy and commercial period. Of course, they can hardly be blamed for being successful commercially. But Genesis and Yes will also be less appealing to my ears when they will sell like never before. So, I guess I am wrong (although lots of progheads think as I do).

Three stars.

Report this review (#124014)
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

This is the second live album BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST released 4 years after ''BJH LIVE'' in 1974 .Of course, they weren't published for the same reasons. The first one was issued by Polydor trying to recoup some money from an indebted obscure band. LIVE TAPES on the other hand is an attempt at making (a lot of,if possible) money taking the advantage of the growing popularity of a band that was riding high back then artistically and commercially.BJH, even if they were not on the same commercial succesful level with bands like Genesis or Yes , were doing quite well in 1978, especially on continental Europe.

When you listen to LIVE TAPES, you can feel the financial means didn't come scarce for this project . The sound of the first live album was rather muddy and the production was awful.It won't happen here as this double LP comes with a wonderful crystal clear sound where you can hear every instrument distinctly, the voices can be heard as if you were part of the concert. To keep it short, a masterful sharp production!

No risks were taken either with the track selection! All the big ''classics'' from the ''classic'' period are present: HYMN , POOR MAN'S MOODY BLUES, CHILD OF THE UNIVERSE all sung powerfully by a JOHN LEES at his peak. Oh ! what a strong, yet beautiful voice! Even SUICIDE gets more emotional on LIVE TAPES than on OCTOBERON. LEES is crying his heart out on this track.

LES HOLROYD tries to level successfully with his partner with a better version of ROCK N ROLL STAR orTAKING ME HIGHER , definitely more energetic and livelier than the studio versions. Other favorites of mine like JONATHAN and ONE NIGHT from TIME HONOURED GHOSTS (my fave BJH album) are included making a happy man out of me!

LIVE TAPES can be considered like a best-of live and as such, there are always on this matter subjective personal appreciations about which tracks should be there and the ones that shouldn't. Songs like CRAZY CITY or POLK STREET RAG never did anything for me as i don't like JOHN LEES when he tries to play hard rock guitar.This is not for him!!He is not a rocker! I would have preferred MOONLIGHT or THE GREAT 1974 MINING DISASTER,but that's just me, i guess!

From the old times, only the grandiose MOCKINGBIRD made it so far in a edgier rendition, though still very pleasant.This song, i guess, is part of any BJH concert as it is still played by the band today though only through the eyes of JOHN LEES! LIVE TAPES is a pleasant album to listen to,the songs although not very different from the studio versions are played with more force, mor energy by a band that seems to have fun enjoying their growing fame!

LIVE TAPES is the perfect complement to the 1974 ''BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST LIVE'' as it showcases the evolution of a band through the 70s going from bankruptcy to stardom, but keeping true to themselves by producing tasty beautiful, melodic prog/rock songs.


Report this review (#140097)
Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars If "Live Tapes" can never match "Live" (1974) for sheer verve, potency, progressiveness, it more than compensates with a sparkling production and, it must be admitted, more varied and engaging material. The tracks, other than "Mockingbird", are drawn from the band's most consistent period, and it shows in the breadth of what they were able to accomplish. My review is unfortunately based on the original LP, and I just noticed that one of my favourites, "Hymn for the Children", is a bonus track on the CD re-release.

Continuing with analog terminology, side 1 features 3 of their best known songs in rejuvenating versions. "Child of the Universe" is ushered in by technical drum rolls, and fades out to lovely Wolstenholme keys and Lees guitars. "Rock 'n Roll Star" is pumped up live without sounding raunchy, while "Poor Man's Moody Blues" features some new ideas and a great ending. Speaking of which, all three of these songs terminate concisely and decisively, which is refreshing for a live album. What I cannot understand is why the rest of the album reverts to the long drawn out endings that were the staple of 70s rock.

The next biggest highlights are delivered courtesy of John Lees, with emotional versions of two of his ballads, "One Night" and "Suicide". The first is enhanced by some brilliant guitar work that goes well beyond anything heard in the studio offering, while John Lees' wordless accompaniment in Suicide magnifies and solidifies the great sadness of the theme. Such touches show that the band was inventive in their own way, and the insertion of "Hymn" as finale further adds to the broad sweep of the material. Indeed it is the only tune in which acoustic guitar is played, because no electric guitar is called for. Les Holroyd delivers two superior versions in "Jonathan" and "Taking me Higher", but both are such mediocre songs to begin with that the end result is just good. He does play some incredible bass licks during "For No One".

"Live Tapes" works as a great summation of the mid 70s period of BJH for fans or newcomers. In this case, unlike its older sister, a lot of great material had to be passed up, as these Polydor years produced so many fine songs, so I would still recommend acquiring the albums from which the songs are sourced.

Report this review (#165087)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars About as imaginative as its title!

Often on live albums one is able to find better versions of songs compared to their original studio counterparts. Sometimes songs simply gain new life when performed in front of an audience. This is the case with Barclay James Harvest's first live album, simply titled Barclay James Harvest Live. With this second live album, however, it is really the other way around!

Live Tapes was my first exposure to Barclay James Harvest. I sometimes start my investigations into a new band with a live album of the band in question since that is often a good way to get an overview of the bands repertoire. I used to like Live Tapes and initially I rated it three stars. But since then I have acquired all of the studio albums from which these songs originally were recorded and I have discovered that the studio versions of most of these songs are superior to the Live Tapes versions in almost every way. The performances here come off as a bit lifeless and even more sleepy compared to the studio versions. There are a few moments of greatness, but they are far between.

Also, they have not chosen their best songs from this period. There are some quite boring and unimaginative selections here.

Live Tapes is still a half-decent live album, but it deserves no more than the two stars I have now given it. I now wish that I had started my investigations into Barclay James Harvest with a different album.

Get the first live album instead, Live Tapes is only for fans and collectors of this band.

Report this review (#176869)
Posted Monday, July 14, 2008 | Review Permalink

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