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Barclay James  Harvest - Victims Of Circumstance CD (album) cover

VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCE

Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog


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greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This one sounds less fluid, not very folk. I would even say that it has some new wave influences. The compositions are not really convincing. They tried a different style here and they did not really succeeded to retain fully the attention. On some songs the rythm is faster and drums too; I do not think it is well suited for their usually smooth and relax style. Definitely not their best albums; Their previous "Ring of Changes" has more their original style.
Report this review (#22701)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Barclay James Harvest in the Eighties. The old and symphonic Barclay is gone. Now the band are in days of melodic and sometimes commercial pop-rock. In this album , like the others albums before "XII", there are good songs and bad songs. Because of this, the music is not always good. The highlights of this album are: "For Your Love" (beautiful love song with orchestral arragments), "Sideshow" (John Lee's folk) and the ballad "I've Got Feeling". The rest of the album is more weak but "Victims" and "Say you'll Stay" have good vocals and arragments. In this album, BJH have a new: female vocals. For me, is not a good choice. More weak than "Ring of Chances" it'is a album for the fans.
Report this review (#22702)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have a certain feeling about his album. When it came out I was growing on my progressive rock passion and searching all the bands which could have thwe minimum relation to the genre. This was one of them. Nice songs, although too much poppy most of the time. The title track is very catchy and Mr Holroyd still had a charming voice.
Report this review (#22703)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars The "big mistake" BJH made with this album was leaving behind the trademark-sounds in order to go with the fashion of the 80s... it was a real success then but nowadays it cannot stand the test of time anymore with only 3 tracks I still like listening to: "Hold on", "Rebel woman" and the title-track ( featuring the lead guitar played by producer Pip Williams... NOT John Lees ).

Two female backing-vocalists should have added "Soul", sometimes they're rather taking it away ( "For your Love" is a nice song but far too kitschy the way it is here ) and Bias Boshell's artificial synth-strings in "I've got a Feeling" are just killing that song ( even worse with saxophone in the 12" - Version ) that elseway would have made a fair ballad.

"Say you'll stay" was "Life is for living revisited Volume 1 " ( Volume 2 is "Following me" on "Face to Face" ), nice but superfluous ( oh, no, not really... do you know the version by "The Silent Spring" on the Tribut- Sampler "Their Light still remains" ? Here it is a highlight ! )... "Inside my nightmare" was supposed to "rock" but it doesn't and "Sideshow" lost its moment now, though its lyrics are still actual.

Strange that BJH still sounded like a band here and because of its twin- character to "Ring of Changes" ( which featured one more song by John Lees like "Victims" feautures one more by Les Holroyd ) "Victims" still belongs to any BJH- collection, but for Prog-Lovers there's no more than 2 Stars left.

Rupert

Report this review (#66549)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars If music be the food of love ..... then this is an over-dressed and under-cooked turkey! While most of BJH's 1980s/1990s output is high quality soft rock AOR, like it or leave it, Victims Of Circumstance is an unfortunate diversion, a failed attempt at modernising their sound. There are some good songs trying to get out but they really struggle to make any headway against a relentless tide of new-age production, clichéd keyboards and [shock-horror] actual female backing vocals! Guitars are almost an endangered species, even bass is mostly synthetic. The effect is verging more on 80s new-wave than soft rock.

Opener Sideshow is typical of the album's malaise, a jaunty little rocker failing to make any impression against a gutless production, unsympathetic orchestral arrangement and of course those alien female voices. And, Rebel Woman is awash with Those Synths so beloved of 80s pop bands. Fine if you are The Human League or OMD, but this is supposed to be BJH, creators of such masterpieces as She Said and For No-One. And, Les-does-reggae pop song Watching You should have been entered for Eurovision! And, I've Got A Feeling is another Les-by-numbers slow ballad that we've heard so many times before [and since!]. And .... so it goes on.

None of it is bad, you understand. Taken individually, there is much to enjoy if approached with an open mind, though a million miles from Progland so it has to be rated low here. In general Victims Of Circumstance comes near the bottom of the BJH pile.

Report this review (#94813)
Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars All together now, "I crashed my car, do-do-do".

Of all the BJH albums (and there have been many), this is the one I listen to least. While a number of their albums have been relatively weak, I have still found pleasure to a greater or lesser extent in almost everything they've done. In this case though, I just find the album to be lacking in soul.

The most striking thing about the opening section of album is the prevalence of female backing vocals, immediately giving the album a lighter more pop orientated feel. Tracks such as Les Holroyd's "Hold on" become repetitive, anonymous pop rock. The opening track "Sideshow", on which both Lees and Holroyd sing lead vocal (a very rare occurrence), holds up better through the quality of the song, but I cannot help but feel the female vocals are superfluous.

"For your love" is an unashamed ballad by John, complete with a lyric clearly inviting the waving of lighters at live performances. Pip Williams (who worked with Uriah Heep in the 1990s) provides some slushy but sympathetic orchestration, while Bias Boshell, the guest keyboard player for the album, contributes some fine piano. The closing section, with more female vocals, is nicely put together. Les offers a similar ballad to close the album, but the results are more prosaic and predictable.

The album title actually comes from the lyrics of Lees "Rebel woman", which in turn inspired Holroyd to compose the track "Victims of circumstance". "Rebel woman", like Gary Moore's "Murder in the skies" was inspired by Russia shooting down a civilian aircraft over Korea, and the unforgivable death of the "victims of circumstance" on board. Holroyd picks up a similar theme with the title track which, despite the jaunty melody, deals with some serious political issues. The song reached number one in the French singles chart!

Lees' only composition on the second side of the album is the rather bizarre "Inside my nightmare". This song is about someone who kills his girlfriend by crashing his car while driving dangerously. The melody though is upbeat with a pounding rock beat. It all seems a tad inappropriate, especially with the female backing vocalists adding "Do-do- do's"!

"Victims of circumstance" demonstrates once again that Barclay James Harvest have put their prog influences firmly behind them, in favour of radio friendly pop rock. The songs are adequate, and Pip Williams has made every effort to breath every bit of life he can into them. At the end of the day though, this is a very ordinary album.

Report this review (#110827)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Let's put things into prespective. I discovered BJH in 1974. I have been quite found of this band for about three years (back then). What I appreciated in their music were the incredible melodies, the great mellotron touch from Woolly and their ability to create great and emotional songs.

The last BJH albums did not really fulfill my expectations (to say the least). I just rated their last three efforts with one star. I could not be involved in their poor pop/folkish/boring stuff. Unfortunately, this album won't be anything superior. Just a collection of boring songs.

At least, BJH would release one or two (maybe three) average songs during the last seven years (after their last great album "Octoberon"). But on this one there is really nothing to be remembered. It is a very dull album. Not too long, for the sake of the reviewer...

It is impossible for me to mention at least one track that could be of interest. This is just a painful nightmare from track one through nine. Well, to be completely honest, a song like "For Your Life" could have been not that bad. But boy, it is completely ruined by the "orchestra" (a flavour of their early days) which will take on the lead during the second half of the song.

The title track is no less irritating / boring. Completely insipid and useless. This band is really a case apart. They will release almosy FORTY live / compilation / DVD's out of fifteen or so original albums. They only should have call it quit a few years ago to avoid these painful moments.

We'll even get a reaggae-ish song with "Watching You". Can you imagine BJH sounding reggae ? Awful. Period. Only the closing track will hit a little higher (but don't except too much).

This album is the worse BJH so far. It is a real bad experience to listen to this one from start to finish. One star (but this is really because no lower ratings are available).

Report this review (#126164)
Posted Sunday, June 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
2 stars VICTIMS OF THE 80s!

VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES is s difficult album for me to review and rate because, frankly it comes with personal sentimental values. See, I went this year (1984) at one of their concerts in Toulouse when BJH toured to promote this album. The concert was great! Sure, they performed a few new tracks, but most of the time they pleased us with all the good old classics. They played with a lot of energy, the performance was flawless.

It was also a very good period of my life with my then-wife who happened to like this album, especially I'VE GOT A FEELING, the last track of this album. And as we've got a lot of feelings for each other back then, VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES was a record synonym of good times and happiness. Thus it might be difficult for me to look at it with an objective eye!

Now listening to VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES makes me well aware that this was not the record of the century, not even a BJH classic.It was a wonderfully produced record, one of the first using new digital technology. VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES is more of a savvy marketing musical product than a plain rock n roll album. Everything on it is so clean, the instruments, the vocals, the production. You have music to satisfy every corner of the globe: syrupy ballads, reggae, rockers, synth-pop.But there is one thing you won't find here: the traditional old sound of BJH!

VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES would be their best selling album to date as this album charted almost everywhere in Europe. The kids who bought it back then had no idea the same band produced great music in the 70s and were definitely not interested in listening to CHILD OF THE UNIVERSE or MOONLIGHT.I guess for them the album EYES OF THE UNIVERSE was the first BJH album.

As usual, there are already 2 bands playing on this album, or better BJH can be considered as 2 solo projects working under the same roof. A bad sign is that LES HOLROYD wrote 5 out of the 9 songs featured on this record. Knowing how his songwriting has go down badly on their last albums, there is enough to be scared and with just reason. Meaning more synth-pop on your way with the ''graces''of HOLD ON or SAY YOU'LL STAY , great elevator or waiting room muzak the same kind everybody else was producing for radios and 'top of the pops' back then. Holroyd gets even very ''adventurous'' with WATCHING YOU , a synthetized reggae sure to please the new crowd. The same man that composed MOONLIGHT 10 years earlier!How lower can you go!

JOHN LEES sadly was not in great form either in 1984, only 4 songs and i would say only the opener SIDESHOW is really good with a very nice melody in the good old LEES tradition; But sadly we have also the return of LEES the rocker with REBEL WOMAN and if you have read about old reviews, you know what people think about the guitarist wanting to play ''rock''.Not for him! INSIDE MY NIGHTMARE and FOR YOUR LOVE are not bad tracks, but you already have forgotten about them when it's over.

Of course for me the most memorable track of this album is the closer, the ballad I'VE GOT A FEELING for the personal reasons i indicated above; That's nice, that's cute, a lot of syrup perfect for those romantic moments; reminds me the the big hit single ( i don't remember the name)from a band named BERLIN which was featured in the movie TOP GUN.

Beside my sentimental attachment to some parts of this album, i still shoud try to be honest and as such, i cannot give it more than 2 stars. VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES is not an album for prog aficionados, but you still can offer it as a gift to your little sister. She will love you for that!

2 STARS.

Report this review (#140940)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album of Barclay James Harvest's, despite not being well liked by the band's English core fan-base, is one of my favourites of theirs. I can understand people's reticence at liking this album: when I first bought it on its release, I disliked it intensely and sold it after only a couple of airings, my reconciliation with it not occurring until some 10 years later.

What is it then that made me, and still makes other BJH fans, dislike this album so much? The answer will sound petty to most people - it's simply that the album has a commercial sound edging towards the pop-end spectrum of rock. What's worse, sin of holy sins, the band employed female backing singers to assist them with the album and the corresponding tour! Absolutely unheard of on a BJH album, either before or since "Victims.", and to many fans, as it was for me in 1984, it was a step too far.

So..true to its title, the music was never really given a fair chance to be heard.

My reconciliation happened as a result of two things.

First, I had just invested in a CD player for the first time and was looking to play some BJH music on it: the first BJH CD that I bought was a compilation called "Alone We Fly" and one of the songs that I loved on it, "Sideshow" I initially thought I hadn't heard before. I had - it was taken from "Victims.".

Second, about the same time I also purchased a video of the band recorded live on the Victims of Circumstance tour - again, there were a few songs in the set-list that I loved and thought hadn't heard before: "Rebel Woman", "For Your Love" and "Victims of Circumstance" itself. Of course, that last was the clue that these are all songs from the maligned album.

These two experiences taught me that I had clearly not given it a fair opportunity in 1984 and so I sought the album out again, buying it for the second time.

I have loved it ever since: the songs that I've already mentioned deserve to be ranked amongst the band's very best. "Sideshow", a strong John Lees song about the power of the media to skew reality is given a golden edge with Les Holroyd taking over the vocals for the last verse; the juxtaposition of their voices has always benefited the few songs in the repertoire where it occurs. "Rebel Woman" has a great guitar riff overlying it, "Victims of Circumstance", a Les Holroyd song about injustices perpetrated by politicians on behalf of the populace, that he was inspired to write by hearing the "victims of circumstance" lyric on John's "Rebel Woman" song, has a classic BJH-feel to it whereas "For Your Love", with its "let it shine" refrain in its last phase is anthemic.

The remaining five songs do not come up to the same standard but Pip Williams's production manages to tie the whole together such that even the out-and-out pop of "Say You'll Stay", "Watching You" and "Inside My Nightmare" feels as though it belongs on this album, making the whole a very enjoyable listen.

Unfortunately, its low standing with the core fan-base means that it has not yet been re-released and is currently unavailable as a CD. However, broadband users can still obtain it via download from such sites as War Child Music.

I am giving it 5 stars...yes, despite its lack of a "progressive" rock feel because, despite the fact I have not always scored this way on this site, I have come to the conclusion that if a band/album are listed here then i can score it based on what i think of it. The clincher for me was seeing how Blackfield are treated on here. Victims of Circumstance is to BJH what Blackfield are to Porcupine Tree, and if Blackfield can get 5s by the dozen, then so can this victim.....

Report this review (#149732)
Posted Friday, November 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars If we thought that the immediately preceding BJH albums were poppy, "Victims of Circumstance" shows that we hadn't seen anything yet. The phrase, as expressed in the title track, deals with people who suffer the consequences of world leaders' actions, but it could also applied to BJH who were victims of the worst aspects of the 80s era. But they were also beneficiaries for they realized some of their biggest commercial successes during this time. It was therefore not surprising that the downward spiral continued.

Like "Turn of the Tide", Holroyd's contributions are the better ones, but, unlike TOTT, it is more like choosing the best of a mediocre lot. You've got the decent title cut, a few fairly mundane rockers like "Hold on" and "Watching You", and a generally inferior clone of "Life is for Living" by the name of "Say You'll Stay". As far as Lees, he is mostly AWOL with the exception of the ballad "For Your Love". A lot of really nasty female backing vocals creep into the mix and help neither the sound nor the reputation of the group.

To summarize, when our favourites produce efforts such as these, we are all victims... The worst yet from BJH.

Report this review (#164745)
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
1 stars The victim is none other than you, dear listener!

This album is where Barclay James Harvest lost it completely. The 80's was overall a very weak period for Barclay James Harvest (as for many bands that begun in the 60's/70's), but on their previous two albums they at least managed to put one or two good songs on each. On the present album they failed to even do that. In addition they add female backing vocals that give the music an even more commercial sound than before. This is indeed hard to listen to with cheesy lyrics, polished sound and catchy choruses (or attempts to be catchy, anyway). I really have nothing positive to say about this album, even the cover art is one of the ugliest I have ever seen!

Barclay James Harvest would never again make a good album, but everything they did both before and after this one is at least better than the present one. This is the absolute low water mark.

Only for completionists!

Report this review (#254664)
Posted Sunday, December 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars There's really nothing I find appealing about this album, and really I should probably stop here. I won't of course, but I should.

My biggest problem with this album is that it is so deeply and unequivocally a complete and utter product of the eighties major label/MTV-driven commercial sound that I can barely listen to it today. It probably doesn't help that I never even knew this album existed until about a year ago, so I never had the opportunity to bond and form memories with it back when it would have been considered a lot more palatable than it is today.

Barclay James Harvest have always been heavily influenced by their surroundings, whether it be the locale and/or studio they are recording in, the whims and tendencies of their producers, or even local events and trends. Besides maybe their very first album I can't really see where the band set out with a firm plan and direction and put together an album that was wholly their own vision. And I don't mean that to be a derogatory statement, just an observation that helps explain why they would crank out another commercially-oriented record with just enough orchestra to remind folks these are BJH but far too much eighties sheen and trite lyrics to have any hope of becoming a classic or even solid progressive rock album.

The band really crossed over with 1979's 'XII', but with this album there is no doubt they've left any progressive inclinations or intentions behind. The closest they come is the title track which has the distinction of decent female backing vocals and some horns (both rarities for a BJH song), but also for some reason gives me a strong vibe of an early seventies Motown tune. I keep expecting Marvin Gaye to start belting out 'What's going on' at any moment.

Otherwise pretty much every track matches the bland and unoriginal level of the most forgettable songs on 'XII', 'Eyes of the Universe', 'Turn of the Tide' and 'Ring of Changes', all marginal albums with but a few saving graces. This one doesn't even have that. I can't bring myself to give a Barclay James Harvest album only one star, but if I were to ever do so this would be that album. Two stars (barely), and not recommended.

peace

Report this review (#479409)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2011 | Review Permalink

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