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Barclay James  Harvest - Ring Of Changes CD (album) cover

RING OF CHANGES

Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog


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greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars With all those albums behind them, BJH could have changed their style, but no! They still have here this folk/rock, although less hard rock, with the good mellow lead vocals as always. The keyboards are less floating here. The drums and bass are good. The compositions are a bit more banal. But some really sound good: you must listen to the beautiful relaxing "Waiting for the Right Time" or the catchy "Looking from the Outside".

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#22697)
Posted Thursday, April 08, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Changes, but not progress

BJH's early exploration of different sounds and styles was well behind them by 1983, and in its place came some pretty standard fare. The songs here are soft rock; Alan Parsons Project type compositions. There's no real progressive rock, even longer songs such as the title track have little variety or excitement to them.

Don't get me wrong, there are some good tracks here. "Just a day away" has some fine Spanish style trumpet, and "Teenage heart" is a pleasant acoustic ballad. On the down side though, "Highwire" is just pop, and tracks like "Fifties child" and "Looking for the outside" appear to include a drum machine for some reason.

All the tracks are written by Les Holroyd or John Lees, but never together. Even if that in itself is not unusual, there are further indications here perhaps there that the two are heading in different directions.

Not a bad album, but far from the band's best.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#22698)
Posted Saturday, September 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
arnaldosmp@sa
3 stars Barclay James Harvest in the Eighties. The years of symphonic rock has gone. Now are the days of acoustic/melodic songs and sometimes pop music. Here in 1983, the bands was broken in two parts: first when John Lees write our songs and second when Les Holroyd write our songs. Because of this, this album is very different than "Turn of The Tide". The John Lees's songs are in acoustic format: "Paraíso dos Cavalos" is very beautiful and talk about Algarve (in south of my country, Portugal) and singing a part in portuguese! Another highlight is "Just a Day Away" with a mexican-folk taste. The orchestra arragments is a revival of symphonic (in "Paraiso" and "Fifties Child"). The Les Holroyd's songs are in more commercial vein. The best is "Waiting for The Right Time" with good vocals arragments. "High Wire" and "Looking" are more weak. This album is a good album in a vein of melodic rock in eighteen years. Four stars for John Lees's songs but three stars for entirely album.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#22699)
Posted Tuesday, February 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars The use of Orchestra didn't really make this a "Prog"-Album again, but if you like the "lighter side of BJH" it can please you as well as me, cause from a personal point of view, "Ring of Changes" deserves 4 Stars for one last time... ranking the BJH- catalogue "without Woolly", this album makes Number 2 for me.

Bias Boshell seemed to be a good choice for guesting on Keyboards... and the songwriters, both Lees and Holroyd, delivered fine material ( with one exception to be easily forgiven: "Just a day away" sounds like the Eagles WITHOUT the Eagles and shouldn't have been a hit... it'd best be forgotten ), from the starting "Fifties Child" ( great String-Intro for the Album by Producer Pip Williams ! ) to the final Titletrack, I like them all... though the album cannot be compared with the 70s masterstrokes and with the next Bias Boshell was proven to be NOT the best choice to go on with.

Back to songs: "Paraiso dos Cavalos" sounds like a kitsch-postcard on record, you can almost see Winnetou and Old Shatterhand ride towards the setting sun ( in South Africa, though... ) and if you LOVE Winnetou you have to love that special feel as well as the kitschy atmosphere, so these words weren't written to put it down.

"Teenage Heart" is a hearty, nice one, too ( far better than "Just a day away" ) with great harmony vocals... you have a lot of great vocal-harmonies on the whole album anyway.

"High Wire" - fine chord structure and fine lead-guitars ! - is a catchy Pop-Rocker and the groove of "Waiting for the right time" is swingin' gently... light as a feather ( Mel Pritchard - I LOVE you ! ) and one of the album's highlights... on which, all in all, the title track is the standout-cut.

3 Stars only just because this is a "Prog-rock-Archive" and I'm taking the instructions of its Headmasters seriously... to me, it is 4, but I'm repeating myself already... Rupert

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Send comments to rupert (BETA) | Report this review (#66547)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Recorded at Far Studios in Germany [home of Boney M svengali Frank Farian] Ring Of Changes sees the debut of Bias Boshell's rich layered keyboards and the first of two albums produced by Pip Williams, both of which are felt by most BJH fans to be uncharacteristic and poor though Ring Of Changes has hidden fires that lift it well above the baseline. Sadly, the production is smooth and detailed but exceedingly lightweight - fine for those dense keyboards and abundant lush multi-part harmonies but totally inadequate for up-tempo rocking numbers.

As always, songwriting is divided between John and Les with John's being overall the strongest, though neither have excelled themselves in choice of subject matter. A few love songs sit amongst more interesting topics but none are particularly hard-hitting. John's concerns are direct and personal: Paraiso Dos Cavalos is a story of a family holiday in the Algarve, nicely arranged in a very Moody Blues sort of way with orchestral instruments adding to the atmosphere; the excellent opener Fifties Child deals with lost innocence and ideals of the 50s generation, beginning with a lovely string quartet leading to full orchestra intro before the band joins in; most diverting is John's reflective Midnight Drug, supported by an understated chugging rhythm guitar pattern, an open letter to a friend who has lost his way, contrasting John's own life "Spending my days making natural highs" to the other's "Pouring your life in a glass of ice".

Les's tour de force is the wonderful title track Ring Of Changes which closes the album. Musically it is composed almost entirely of synths and drums, without a guitar in sight, but the arrangement is dynamic, beginning by tapping out 'ring of changes' in Morse code then building through each phase to a big uplifting everybody-join-in chorus. It also cleverly illustrates the theme of cyclical change ["The wheels keep on turning / Turning circles we go round again"] by subtle use of repeating motifs.

Of the remainder, all of which are love songs, Les's three are disposable: synth driven Looking From The Outside is merely a pleasant pop tune, the rockier High Wire is let down by lack of production oomph and over-repetition of the chorus, while Waiting For The Right Time is another generic slow ballad with masses of soft string pads. John's are a little more memorable: Teenage Heart has a lovely lilt with one of those hummable tunes that get into the brain and stay there, while Just A Day Away is lively and tuneful in a foot tapping sort of way like country-rock.

Holroyd and Lees always had their own individual songwriting styles but the practicalities of working as a band gave them a common identity. Ring Of Changes was the first album to suffer from a clear divergence, not only in songwriting and singing styles, but in working practices and approach to instrumentation, something that was to blight several later albums and became a root cause of their ultimate split in 1997. Here, John's songs are mostly driven by guitars, including the welcome sound of acoustic instruments on several, while Boshell's influence is most keenly felt on Les's songs, some of which contain little or no hint of any kind of input from John.

Overall, while falling far short of their best, and containing no Prog moments, Ring Of Changes is a darn good album of soft-rock AOR. Despite an over-reliance on cheesy 80s new-agey synth arrangements on several songs, there are enough good songs to make the album very enjoyable.

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Send comments to Joolz (BETA) | Report this review (#95647)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Since one keyboard player was not sufficient to replace Woolly, we'll get two on this album (but as guest musicians). With this album, BJH will revive the tradition of playing with an orchestra. I have to say that I am quite suspicious before listening to this album, but at this time of their career, it was not possible to produce a worse album than their previous studio one : "Turn Of The Tide".

You can of course forget about prog music with "Ring Of Changes" but this is not new. What you'll get here is boring soft pop music. Insipid for most of it (the first two songs are truely difficult to bear). I cannot say that I am overwhelmed with joy when I listen to "Teenage Heart" : a dull acoustic song with some additional orchestrations that do not add anything necessary to this tune.

As usual, we'll get the attempt to a rocking number, but "High Wire" is the best (?) song so far. But the respite will be short : "Midnight Drug" is only interesting during the instrumental intro which sounds pretty much to "Manifesto" from Roxy. The hypnotic beat is not bad after all. Some spacey pop with "Waiting For The Right Time" will not convert me into a fan of this album, I'm afraid...

Do you want some folk and syrupous ballad ? You'll get it with "Just A Day Away". Really poor. As will be "Paraiso Dos Cavalos" and its useless orchestrations (but I do not like orchestrations, I admit).

This album is BJH at their lows (once again...). On par with with the previous one. And the title and closing track won't change anything to my opinion : dull all the way through. Their last decent album was "XII" and I wonder when will the next one see the light...

One star.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#125697)
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
2 stars THE LOW POINT OF BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST.

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST released in the beginning 80s 3 studio albums i do consider as being the worst ones from their-very long-carreer. I reviewed with 2 stars TURN OF THE TIDE which marked a shift to soft rock format; i guess this one RING OF CHANGES and the next one VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCES sadly follow the same pattern.

When i bought RING OF CHANGES back then in 1983, I never played the record too often as it failed to leave an impression on me.Not that i thought that it was bad, it's just it was completely dull with no memorable moments whatsoever. Playing this record a few months later, i had no memory of any songs at all.I would say that for me RING OF CHANGES is the worst of all BJH albums with nothing to eat on it. I still prefer listen to VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES than this one (not that it happens often!!!!). But i think it's just a matter of taste. However every BJH fan generally agree that their worst album is one of the 3 aforementioned.Beyond that, it's only personal perception.

As usual we have the 2 song writers sharing the credits but now more than ever, BJH sounds like 2 solo projects working under the same namebrand.There is almost nothing in common between JOHN LEES songs and HOLROYD material. Somehow, LEES keeps the heritage of the ''old '' band even if he has to adapt to the new times, but here and there, the listener can always find something reminiscent of the past through his songs.

The same cannot be said of HOLROYD's tracks as they almost all have become cheesy processed synthetic pop. They are all composed on keyboards, the guitar of LEES is an afterthought now.Just listen (or better avoid) to LOOKING FOR THE OUTSIDE, HIGH WIRE or WAITING FOR THE RIGHT TIME, 3 dull attempts at making a ''hit''. They are completely dull, predictable and lifeless. We had ''concert for the people ''(great), now we have music for the masses, perfect for airports ( i am not talking about ENO,believe me)

The last HOLROYD track RING OF CHANGES sounds first more elaborated because of the use of an orchestra , but this is not a return to ''THE WORLD HAS WOKEN'' either as all instruments are synthetized and the song goes nowhere.So far this album get only one star as we cannot give the big ZERO.

Thanks god, John LEES manages to save this recording from total disaster, but not by much. LEES was not either at his most prolific creative peak at this time, but at least he didn't go as low as his partner.Not that any of his songs here would belong to any BJH best-of, but i least i can go through TEENAGE HEART or PARAISO DOS CAVALOS. We have heard many songs this kind from him before, nothing new but at least it is listenable. He even performs a West-coast Californian style song JUST A DAY AWAY , the same kind we have been used to during the ''glory'' times from 1974-1975.

However, none of the tracks from RING OF CHANGES are necessary listening, even for the most ardent BJH fan. I bought the CD for completion but the music stops here.

1.5 STARS

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Send comments to febus (BETA) | Report this review (#140861)
Posted Friday, September 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars After a rather pathetic songwriting performance on "Turn of the Tide", John Lees more than pulls his weight on the sequel, with yet another titular allusion to change. Do not be fooled by the presence of orchestration as this is nothing like the Harvest years. More slick pop rock, albeit with a much better balance than on any other 80s album from the group.

"Fifties Child" is a rousing nostalgic opening number that dispenses with the silliness of "Tale of Two Sixties" and is actually pretty catchy while possessing staying power. "Looking From the Outside" has one of Holroyd's better riffs and is similar to his work on TOTT but with more punch. Nothing progressive here but if you liked "Sip of Wine" or "Rock 'n Roll Lady" you might feel at home here. Some pretty good synths are thrown in. Another decent Holroyd tune that does not develop well enough in spite of a great beginning is "Waiting for the Right Time", which is spacey in a way that reminds me of some of his collaborations with Mel Pritchard on "Everyone is Everybody Else".

Two of the major highlights are represented by John Lees's return to a simpler more folky approach, and their back to back presence is also noteworthy as they build upon each other. "Just a Day Away" was somewhat of a hit thanks to its catchy acoustic Rolling Stones like feel, while "Paraiso Dos Cavalos" is simply lovely and features superb orchestration in a long instrumental flourish at the end.

Unfortunately the album has more dross than even some of the lesser works of the 70s, such as the triple whammy of "Teenage Heart", "High Wire", and "Midnight Drug", all of which are fairly mundane and without enthusiasm from performer or listener.

While superior to "Turn of the Tide", "Ring of Changes" does not constitute a comeback, but simply a circling pattern before heading due south. 3.5 stars rounded down.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#164734)
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 'Ring of changes' is an album that attracks me and makes me a bit angry at the same time. The attractiveness lies almost entirely in the Lees' compositions, albeit that 'Just a day away'' certainly not ranks amongst his strongest renditions. But compared to the songs Les Holroyd delivered for the album it was not too hard to produce a listenable one. 'Fifties child' is a very nice opener, with an orchestral intro, acoustic guitar chords jumping in and a very Westcoast feeling throughout the song. It illustrates Lees' affection for bands like The Eagles, Love and CSN&Y. The song has also a quite positive vibe, making you wondering why BJH looks at the world from the bright side (since they have not shown themselves too often as real optimistic, happy people). Maybe it is also because of the total different 'feel' that the next song, 'Looking from the outside' is such a disappoinment. It is dull, nothing reslly happens, it is dominantly driven by poppy keyboards while a guitar sound is completely absent. 'Teenage heart' is another Lees' song with a distinctive Westcoast-feeling. It has a simple melody and it is in a way quite dull too, as if the composer didn't know how to proceed. Still it is a better listen than the previous song. 'High wire' is synth-pop at its best. Unfortunately it sounds cheap, doesn't have a exciting melody or solo and should be forgotten immediately. 'Midnight drug' is, surprisingly, also dominated by synths although it was written by guitarist John Lees. The theme of the lyrics has occurred regularly in Lees' work and is very sympathetic to me but yet I don't like the song. It lacks a warm sound, it is too poppy, actually it should have been performed by A- Ha or the likes. 'Waiting for the right time' is another rather dull Holroyd-song. It drags on for almost 6 minutes but nothing happens. No soloing, no interesting breaks, no change of melody, it just drags on. 'Just a day away' is nice and cheerfull but it is far from essential. Again it is not a typical BJH-song at all. On the other hand, if it had been succesfull as a single (and it certainly had that potential) we would probably have judged it otherwise. In that respect it could have served for BJH as 'Follow you, follow me' did for Genesis. But BJH was not a lucky band when it comes to hit singles. And frankly, they didn't need one. The last two songs are the best of the album. Actually, 'Paraiso dos Cavalos' is John Lees at his best. It has a beautiful melody, a bit melancholic, with a stunning intro where acoustic guitar and hobo/keyboard set the stage for a story about a Spanish horse farm where Lees (with his and Holroyds family, as a matter of fact) spent some time and enjoyed it very much. The song is very strong in melody, has a good break with very intense vocals in the middle after which the main melody is picked up again. No soloing, alas, it could have had a coda as Lees played on numerous other BJH songs.' The title track is the only Holroyd song I like. It has a good melody, with a very repetitive chorus that sticks into your head immediately and works well. The overall atmosphere of the song is not much different from his other compositions but in this song it simply works well. Probably more attention was pais to this one as it was the title track, probably it was just a matter of a creative outburst.

The two last songs don't save the album as a whole. It is enjoyable but far from necessary. It is certainly not a good one to start to get to know BJH. This one ranks amongst their weakest and is therefore for collectors. Because of 'Paraiso dos cavalos' and the title track I give it 2,5 stars.

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Send comments to Theo Verstrael (BETA) | Report this review (#187567)
Posted Saturday, November 01, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars Turn Of The Tide with an orchestra added

With Ring Of Changes, Barclay James Harvest continued with the same general approach as on the previous Turn Of The Tide album. The major difference is the presence here of a symphonic orchestra which marks the first time the band worked with an orchestra since their early days. Anyone who knows the history of the band, knows that their early "trade-mark" was to mix orchestra with their Rock music. I actually think that they blend the orchestra with the Rock instruments at least as good here as they ever did back in the days! But that doesn't help much if you don't have any good songs and it is in the song writing department that the main problem lies here.

There are, however, a couple of good songs here. My favourites being Paraiso Dos Cavalos and the closing title track. These are both of the same type as In Memory Of The Martyrs which was the best song from the previous album. But there is not much here to elevate this album above decent. As usual there are also a real stinker in Just A Day Away (Forever Tomorrow) which is truly disgustingly bad!

Only for fans and collectors

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#210485)
Posted Sunday, April 05, 2009 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Reading an article on the band in the latest issue of Classic Rock Presents Prog made me dig out this album from 1983, the first one that I brought of the band.

By this time, the old stereotype of kaftans and hippie dreamers was long gone, and this album, especially, marked them out as seeking to pursue a lighter, prog inspired, pop direction.

It is not a masterpiece, but I do think it has been a little harshly judged on the site, because Lees and Holroyd have produced on this album some exceptional pieces of music.

The title track is brilliant, Paraiso Dos Cavalos an enjoyable nonsense, and I also enjoy the melancholic feel of Fifties Child.

However, the highlight of this, and one of the band's finest, is Waiting For The Right Time, a plaintive call to a loved one who simply will not, or cannot, respond. Set against a backdrop of light synths, gentle guitar work, and fine percussive work from the much missed Mel Pritchard, it is the type of track to which love should be made after a massive emotional moment such as making up after a huge fight.

By no means essential, this is a good album, and certainly one that fans of lighter prog will very much enjoy. They made better albums, but I suppose the first one you bought will always hold a special place.

Three stars.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#308264)
Posted Thursday, November 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars By the time this album was released, prog music was in despair where all music around the globe was dominated by punk and new waves. I rarely heard any music released during this time was having 'riff' in the music that reminds me to the glory days of rock music in the seventies. It was a very bad period for prog until Marillion released its debut album 'Script for a Jester''s Tear'. This album by Barclay James Harvest did not attract me at all as the music was just straight forward pop with a bit of rock style. Unfortunately there is nothing like stunning guitar solo that I can enjoy from this album. It does not necessarily mean that the music is bad... It's just not in my taste at all. But I think most people who enjoy pop music can enjoy this album quite well. But I am afraid that it has any good track that is memorable - as every single song is just straight flat and nothing that hooks me. You'd better get Alan Parson's Project than this album, really.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#441052)
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars 'Ring of Changes' was certainly an appropriate title for Barclay James Harvest's twelfth studio album. The band ventured outside England for the first time since their trek to San Francisco to record 1975's 'Time Honoured Ghosts', recording and living in Germany in what was undoubtedly a tax-dodging scheme. A new producer too, eschewing Martin Lawrence in that role after more than half a decade in favor of Pip Williams who had kick- started the Moody Blues' career with their 1981 release 'Long Distance Voyager'. Williams made that album work by leveraging what the Moodys did best (orchestral trappings and flowing vocal harmonies) while layering both with the sort of overly-polished eighties sheen needed to get airplay in that decade.

And he would do the same for BJH, bringing in the New World Philharmonic Orchestra for several numbers and carefully weaving in the new-wavy pop numbers in a way that minimized the bitter aftertaste while ensuring the band would have something associated with the record that was still suitable for mainstream FM radio. "High Wire" and "Just a Day Away (Forever Tomorrow)" in particular are in the same commercial vein as their last two albums, and the latter was released as a minor single.

"Waiting for the Right Time" was also released as a single but manages to reflect well on the band with its slow tempo, ballad-like simple rhythm as well as velvet-smooth orchestral and synthesizer stylings. I don't personally recall hearing this one on the radio back in the mid-eighties, but it certainly would have held its own along with tracks like "The Voice" from the Moodys, "Eye in the Sky" from Alan Parsons, or Yes's "Hold On".

The horns are back again as well, primarily on "Just a Day Away" and as with the prior two albums are a bit of a surprise for this band but are tasteful enough to not be a distraction.

I guess my biggest disappointment with this album is that the opening "Fifties Child" is a bit misleading. The orchestral intro and majestic arrangement gives the impression the band has finally recognized their strengths and isn't trying to compete with artists half their age as they seem to have been since 1979's "XII". True, the bland rhythm section on this song would have been left on the cutting room floor of any of their pre-1980 studio sessions, but overall the sound is welcoming and creative without sounding dated. A great aural compromise.

But these tracks are too few and far between. "Waiting for the Right Time" comes close but uses the orchestra as window dressing rather than an integral part of the composition. The title track is similar and the choral-like vocals fit the swelling arrangements well, but for the most part the non-rock portions of this song are synthesized so the band missed a great opportunity to fully flesh out the composition with a heavy dose of strings and possibly a woodwind or two. Too bad.

Most of the rest of the songs here are firmly rooted in the eighties. "Midnight Drug" in particular could have been included on a Vapors or an Echo & the Bunnymen album, while "Teenage Heart" sounds like fails to take off at all. "Paraiso Dos Cavalos" with its tight string arrangement and (could it be?!) augment the verbal Portuguese soundscape quite well; in fact, given the de-emphasis on the rhythm section here this one just might top "Fifties Child" as the best almost-made-it-back track on this album.

Two and a half songs aren't enough to justify the entire album, but the noticeable improvement in both effort and sound deserve recognition. I've rated the band's three prior albums as two-star efforts because they never made it out of the eighties and are more forgettable today than they were when they released. That's not quite true of 'Ring of Changes', which manages at least to show the band capable of trying something new even if it was clearly done for commercial reasons. So three stars it is and a mild recommendation. If you are a Barclay James Harvest fan or are just interested in discovering them, start at the beginning but when you get to the eighties you can pretty much skip right to this album and get a comprehensive sense of where the band was musically during that decade. None of the other eighties albums are necessary (or recommended).

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#479386)
Posted Saturday, July 09, 2011 | Review Permalink

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