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Barclay James  Harvest - Caught In The Light CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Caught in a rut

With Wooly Wolstenholme long since gone, BJH remained a trio for this album, but the lack of one of Wooly's epic compositions is only one of several shortcomings.

The keyboards sound like they were played on the sort of budget priced synthesiser you can buy for the home. The songs are generally lacking in the inspiration which the band had found in both their Harvest and early Polydor days. It's not that they are bad, but they tend to leave an impression of a band which has gone flat, and is going through the motions.

Things start well enough with the ecologically aware track "Who do we think we are?". After that it's really BJH by the numbers, descending into farce with "spud-u-like", a real low point for the band, and a million miles from tracks such as "She said" and "Summer soldier". Towards the end, the band's tribute to their own classic "Mocking bird", subtly titled "Once more" helps to restore one's faith. It's a clever pastiche of the original track, similar to the way "Poor man's moody blues" (from "Gone to earth") related to "Nights in white satin".

All in all, it's a pleasant enough album, but it is light years from when they were at their peak.

Report this review (#22725)
Posted Friday, March 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars After two albums in a commercial and pop vein, in "Caught in the Light" the Barclay's return a little bit for the good old days. After the Wooly departure the band becomes a trio and stay to make an albuns with good songs in old style and bad songs in a pop style. An half of "Caught" is a good colection of songs in BJH style: John Lees's "Knoydart", "Forever Yesterday", "Once More" and "Ballad of" and Les Holroyd's "Copii Romania" and "Cold War". The highlights are: "Copii Romania" a beautiful ballad about the poor children of Romania; "Forever Yesterday" a acoustic song in old style; "Once More", a little return to "Mockinbird" (this is a nostalgic moment) and the best John Lee´s moment: "Ballad of Denshaw Mill". Because of this songs, this album is a little return to the past.
Report this review (#22726)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars BJH's first "Flop", although rather undeservedly when you listen to the album... this is - in many respects - a disc on which Les Holroyd's in top form while John Lees is delivering the weaker moments, but that don't matter much with great songs like "Silver Wings", "Who do we think we are" and, most of all, "Cold War", a track that recalls early classics like "Medicine Man" without sounding backward-glance, the real highlight of the album.

The other Holroyd-Songs are quite nice, too: the catchy "A Matter of time", the "big-gesture" "Copii Romaina" and the sweetly flowing "Great Unknown", in which I only dislike the leadguitars ( too loud ).

John Lees had one fine track in store, too, "Forever Yesterday", but it suffers a bit from the synthesised guitarsounds in the "Bitter tears"-section while the rest of the arrangement is stunning.

The other tracks are somewhat between nice but unessential ( "Back to earth" ) and awfully ill-advised ( "Knoydart" ), the closing "Ballad of Denshaw Mill" ( with Chris Rea-like Guitar-Outro ) would have been best on a fan-club-giveaway at X-mas, no, John Lees has had far greater moments, but all in all the feel of the album is just fine and I even like it better than "Welcome to the Show" ! Rupert

Report this review (#65462)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album has puzzled me from the start. I was indeed delighted that the Barclays had decided to record another album and I was even more delighted when it turned out to be a very long album. It starts off with a really nice Les Holroyd song confronting the listener with one of the most intriguing questions mankind can pose: "who do we think we are?" It's a very nice, melodic song, very typically Holroyd with, fortunately, some hard edges. A good opener which is followed by a very nice Lees' contribution, featuring his wellknown guitar playing. But then things really start to deteriorate. 'Copii Romania' is a really akward ballad, far over the top albeit that the subject of the song is very sympathic. But Holroyd chooses the wrong arrangement with only vocals and dreadful keyboards. Unfortunately it would throw the light for more horrible contributions from his side.... 'Back to earth', dedicated to Lees' father who passed away during the recording of the album and 'Cold war' are quite nice songs, not bad but most certainly also not very good either. Yet it is very good to witness that the band took up the challenge to write songs about actual themes and that they take a stand. 'Forever yesterday' is nice and melodic and manages to render the atmosphere of rural northern England where the band resides. Yet is is unforgivable that the record company decided to cut off the beautiful coda of this song because the album would otherwise have become too lenghty!! That coda, appearing on the 'Endless dream' compilation, is more worth listening to than the contributions by Holroyd on the rest of the album. Because 'The great unknown', 'Silver wings' and 'A matter of time' are very. very mediocre songs with unsurprising and unappaling melodies and arrangements. The album is saved by two Lees' songs: 'Once more' is more or less a wink to their own career as its guitar solo is the same as in their most wellknown song during the Harvest years, 'Mockingbird'. Yet the solo is totally differently arranged and sounds very good. Lees' last song, the haunting 'Ballad of Denshaw Mill' is somewhat too long because the musical achievements are not that exciting. It is a very moving and beautiful song that tells an interesting story but it should have been more arranged and should have contained more solos or other attractions. Probably it was the length problem again.

All in all Once again is not their strongest achievement but when you program your cd-player well you can enjoy more than 50 minutes of beautiful progrock and - ballads. And skip those three awful songs for the rest of your life!!

Report this review (#73753)
Posted Saturday, April 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Caught In The Light is a BJH low point. Much of it passes unmemorably in a wash of lush slow ballads with sad moody lyrics and arrangements often spoiled by unsuitable sequenced instrumentation. Some songs have been pruned in length, yet at 70 minutes it is far too long with insufficient variation in material. The device of a key change to re-invigorate a flagging song is used several times, a sure sign that inspiration was in short supply.

It all starts well enough with the excellent Who Do We Think We Are from Les, with its rolling loping chord progression and doom laden lyric, but most of his contributions are formulaic Les-by-numbers, lush slow ballads which drone on endlessly despite some excellent emotional lyrics [lose a brownie point for yet another use of the metaphor 'silver wings']. His final contribution, It's A Matter Of Time, redresses the balance a little: still slow, but it builds into a very 70s sounding stately anthem, with some wonderful soaring guitars and background churchy organ but runs out of steam with over-repetition of the title phrase.

John's contributions are typically patchier, including the much maligned Spud-U-Like with its deliberate parody of synth-pop songs in an ironic arrangement, and the John-does-Les tedious ballads The Ballad Of Denshaw Mill and Forever Yesterday with some poor clanking piano. Once again, his lyrics are excellent but are let down by some very average music. The exception is the laid back Once More, a re-write of their classic Mocking Bird which is really rather wonderful, from a gorgeous lilting chorus of "Born in the spirit of love / You took flight" to an extended guitar led coda.

This was a difficult time for BJH with both Les and John suffering personal tragedy, not helped by disagreements and dissention within the band. It is also the culmination of a developing trend whereby they worked more-or-less independently on their own songs with little or no input from the other. And it shows. The overall impression is of two solo albums unsatisfactorily shoehorned together. Not one of their best.

Report this review (#94916)
Posted Wednesday, October 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars After a very average opener, we'll get some cold-wave influence (Tubeway Army) during "Knoydart" which is a good and unexpected track. Actually, "Copii Romania" is another nice ballad, full of keys. Somewhat mellow but the spacey mood is very pleasant. BJH has not released such aerial number for a very long time. One can only be pleased.

The instrumental intro of "Back To Earth" has the same structure : very pleasant keyboards before the vocal starts. I have to admit that this song is better than what we have been used by the band during the last decade and a half. It sounds as if it was coming out form another time. But, again, who could complain ?

"Cold War" is another very pleasant number. Hey ! I must be dreaming. Four good songs in a row ! I can't remember this on a BJH any longer and I am not joking. The keyboards are again extremely present and provide a subtle mood, far away from those awful attempts to AOR music of the last albums. BJH sounds definitely better when it sticks to simple, but attractive melodies.

Both "Forever Yesterday" as "The Great Unknown" are not as powerful; but still alright and above most of their production available since "Eyes Of The Universe" (yes, back to 1979). Just nice little ballad. A bit naïve. But at least BJH will avoid to fall as low as in ... the next song : "Spud-U-Like". Finally, we are brought back into the nightmare again. The same nighmare that I had to endure during several BJH albums. But apparently, it will be one of a kind on this album. Not too much damage since it is a very long album (almost seventy minutes).

I am less positive then some fellow reviewers about "Once More". The reference to "Mocking Bird" is of course obvious; but more in the lyrics than in the music. Except the final instrumental part which is really great. It is of course remarkable to have this capability of self-parody.

As the final number of this album is arriving soon, the feeling is a bit too mellowish with "A Matter Of Time". It is now a bit too much, although guitar and keys are very nicely played (but this is a constant during this work).

The closing number "Ballad Of Denshaw Mill" opens like a Celtic song. It reminds me Mostly Autumn untill the vocals enter the scene. It is one of the longest BJH song ever. Talking about an epic is probably out of purpose. It is too uniform (boring) for this. Actually, it is a major disappointment to get such a long song without texture. I would have expected something bigger to close this good album.

The end is near for BJH, and even if I have no clue who was still interested in their music in 1993 I have to admit that this album is a very good surprise. A bit too long, probably by two or three songs.

I had almost forgotten that BJH could write a good album (but this feeling was also true for Kansas, ELO, Heep at a certain time of their career). So, from time to time I am rewarded in reviewing a band's (almost) entire catalogue. This album sounds as if Woolly had come back !

Three stars (but seven out of ten if I had been able to rate on this scale).

Report this review (#131220)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

I thought 3 years of rest would have helped the band coming back with another inspired effort, a sense of freshness or even maybe something a little bit different. But sadly, what we have here is the same old BJH. LES HOLROYD starts the show followed by a LEES song which of course is followed by another HOLROYD track an so on and on for a total of 12 songs. If you guess the 2 songwriters wrote 6 tunes each, great news !you are absolutely right.

I am a little bit annoyed writing this review because i think i am starting to repeat myself as the same qualities and the same mistakes which prevailed on all the recent BJH recordings are of course present again here on CAUGHT IN THE LIGHT! As BJH is clowning itself, so am i. Thus i will keep this review shorter than usual.

What do you want me to say? That, yes, LES HOLROYD songs are most of the time dull, generic, always the same plastic synth sounding ballad with no meat as usual? Yes sadly nothing has changed so far. For one good track WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE, we must still endure THE GREAT UNKNOWN or SILVER WINGS, songs it seems we already have heard in the past, the only difference is they had a different name on the albums of the past (i mean 80s).

COPIL ROMANIA is another attempt at writing something like KIEV, but it just only partly succeed because of the ''dramatic'' effects of the vocals. Trying too hard is not always good when sometimes keeping it simple and real is better.Sometimes you can feel the authenticity of an emotion, but when you try to force it, it comes flat.

So there is not much anything new in the world of LES HOLROYD, but would thii time JOHN LEES help to bring some spark again? Sadly , he is not coming with any new masterpieces either. Just when i thought he got it right with his rock songs like the excellent 2 he wrote for WELCOME TO THE SHOW , he drowns again even badly with the ''funny'' SPUD-U-LIKE . One thing for sure, we don't have time to get bored with LEES material as we can always expect something different, be it good or bad as opposed to the colorless blandness of HOLROYD's songs.

KNOYDART is not very inspired either,BACK TO EARTH and FOREVER YESTERDAY at least reach vintage quality LEES level where he brings passion to his compositions by singing his heart out with natural emotion, not fake like Holroyd on COPII ROMANIA. ONCE MORE is a fun nice tribute from John to the emblem song of the band MOCKINGBIRD. I guess John Lees loves all those musical trips to the past.This is one of the highlight of this album. Sadly the last track THE BALLAD OF DENSHAW MILL is not really the expected epic as it clocks as over 9mns. The music doesn't really get adventurous or elaborated as one would have expect. Not bad but a few minutes less wouldn't have hurt this song.

This is another BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST recording repeating the same formula album after album with not too many new surprises . The same Ol', same Ol, same old story! Barclay James Harvest and other short (predictable)stories!!! This is not a great album, this is not bad either as usual! Right in the middle!


Report this review (#141207)
Posted Sunday, September 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This, the penultimate studio album of BJH's career (their 16th!) is one of their least pleasing. It comes from their late period when the song writing styles of John Lees and Les Holroyd had polarised to the extent that there was virtually no communication between the two of them leading to a disjointed feel about the album as a whole.

The difficulty between the two song writers was compounded for this album by the fact that John's father had died recently, leaving John feeling depressed. It shows in his songs on this album in what must surely be his most lacklustre performance for BJH, with only "Back to Earth", written as an eulogy to his father, standing the test of time. It is a beautiful song, unfortunately not matched by his other efforts on here that, even if they are basically decent songs, fall victim to some bad choices in the arrangements.

The album as a whole feels very sluggish, the tempo is low even by BJH standards. The one song that raises the pace slightly, John's "Spud-u-Like", falls prey to the malaise that affected him on here.

What saves the album from total disaster are some excellent ballads from Les Holroyd's pen: "Copii Romanii", about the plight of Romanian orphans, is a poignant, beautiful song with a haunting melody superbly sung by him and "Cold War", "The Great Unknown" and "Silver Wings" all do more than justice to the BJH name.

Overall, though, this one's for committed BJH fans only - if you are looking to hear something from the band then you'd be better off trying virtually anywhere else - say "Once Again" (early period) , "Time Honoured Ghosts" (middle period) or "Welcome to the Show" (late period).

Report this review (#156456)
Posted Monday, December 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars Once More

After the disastrous duo of Victim Of Circumstance and Face To Face in the late 80's it was not very difficult for Barclay James Harvest to produce a better album in the early 90's with the previous Welcome To The Show. While that album was hardly up to par with the band's 70's output, it did constitute some kind of return to the form and quality of early 80's albums like Turn Of The Tide and Ring Of Changes. This small but obvious improvement over previous albums might make us expect even greater things from this follow up album. The nice cover art work by Rodney Matthews (who has made many cover art pictures for Prog acts) as well as the extended song lengths for this album might raise our expectations even further. However, anyone with such higher expectations was certainly in for a major disappointment with Caught In The Light.

The cover art work features the band's trademark butterfly, this time up in space again and thereby evoking the cover for the 1978 album XII. Sadly, the image does not represent the music as well as it did in 1978.

This album is on the whole over 70 minutes long and given how similar most of the songs are in terms of sound, mood and tempo this is far too long for its own best. As usual with this group, the sound is rather lightweight, the mood melancholic and the tempo slow. This lack of variety makes the album appear even longer than it actually is and listening to the whole thing in one session feels like it's taking an eternity! Also, several of the individual songs are far too long for their own good. The longest track here is over nine minutes and five of the other tracks are over six minutes long. This would not have been a problem, of course, if these songs had contained some interesting changes and developments to justify their length. But none of the 12 songs on this album goes beyond simple and traditional song structures. There is hardly anyhing particularly progressive about this music.

With such a long running time overall, it is very hard to see any reason whatsoever to extend songs like Back To Earth and Cold War to over seven minutes each or to include such awful songs as Spud-U-Like and the pointless near-remake of the band's old classic Mockingbird, appropriately entitled Once More. There are a few decent songs here too, particularly the first three and the last one. Indeed, Knoydart and Copii Romania are pleasant songs as is the closer Ballad Of Denshaw Mill with its strongly Celtic sound. However, I will not comment further on each of the songs as I simply don't think that most of these songs deserve any special comment! Indeed, there is very little to even distinguish the different songs from each other. There are some nice passages spread over the album with, for example, some tasteful acoustic guitar licks or an unusual sound here and there, but these points of interest are very brief and fleeting. Though, most of the songs are at least listenable and, in small doses, even pleasant in a minor way. But they are not at all memorable or particularly interesting.

While Caught In The Light is surely better than Victim Of Circumstance and Face To Face, there is really only one conclusion to draw here: this is primarily for major fans of this band who want to complete their collections. This said, had they removed the worst couple of songs and shortened the most overlong ones, this could have been yet another decent little two star album by Barclay James Harvest. But as it stands, I can give only a single star.

Report this review (#255065)
Posted Tuesday, December 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars From all I have read, BJH was a group in name only by this point. The two co-stars, John Lees and Les Holroyd, traded off songs and barely met in the studio. It was like a marriage that had business ties to complicate any attempted divorce proceedings. Strange, then, that it's harder than ever to distinguish the contributions of one from those of the other. Perhaps this is a case of looking in the mirror and not liking what one sees.

This is an almost uniformly mellow album with a slick post ENYA feel. Very few contrasts can be found and virtually no succinctness of expression. The extended track lengths give one hope in progressive terms, but they are simply beyond languid electronic pieces that require a half dozen minutes or more just to reach the end of their 2 or 3 verses, middle 8 and obligatory diffuse solo.

The only two tunes that stand out for good reasons are the opener "Who do you think we are", and "Cold War", both Holroyd offerings, but they would have been more impressive on a more mixed tempo disk. At least there is that sense of mystery that we remember from the old BJH. Otherwise, "Spud-u-Like" is the only rocker and it isn't at all memorable, while "Once More" is a sad tribute to the early Harvest period when the group was far more inspired, even down to quotes from "Mockingbird". The rest is pretty, forgettable and pretty forgettable.

While BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST is best known as a more mellow crossover group, most of their earlier and even later material had some edge to it, some venom, mixed with healthy resignation. Here we find only acceptance of the inevitable. There is still a sense of beauty about many of the tunes, but a passive beauty it is, one that neither engages nor feels engaged. For fans and completists, but don't expect to be caught in this BJH-lite for too long.

Report this review (#357501)
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars Anyone else feel a chill in the air?

This may be the most sterile Barclay James Harvest album of all, coming at the (bitter) end of a long, up-and-down career that seemed to have been down more than up after 1979. I've never been able to figure out if BJH were caught in a strategic struggle over how to navigate the waters between popular culture and record label pressures while still remaining artistically relevant; or if they never got over the departure of keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme; or (most likely), a little of both.

Clearly the relationship between John Lees and Les Holroyd had been deteriorating for quite some time. Both had long been in the habit of writing their own songs separately then coming to the studio to sort out what would make it on a record and how that would sound. But by this point the two were not only writing separately, according to several reports of the period they also tended to go into the studio individually and lay down their respective tracks. Of course technology had advanced to the point where this was easily possible and bands do this today all the time due to personal preference, available studio time and engineers, touring schedules and the like; but in this case one can almost picture Lees and Holroyd passing each other in the corridor of Friarmere Studios like Sam and Ralph, the sheepdogs of Warner Brother's Roadrunner cartoon fame, one punching out on the time clock while the other punched in for his shift. Maybe it's just me but there is a pervasive sense of drudgery on this album despite the lively opening Holroyd song 'Who Do We Think We Are?'

And speaking of that song, the chord progression that launches it is lively and promising, but like most of the rest of the tracks the lyrics are sub-par for a BJH album and Holroyd fails to capitalize on an opportunity for a stellar single in my opinion. The song, like most of the album, suffers from needless repetition and serves as an antithesis to what progressive music is supposed to be about.

I'm sure the sequencing of the album was intentional with Holroyd and Lees songs alternating throughout which ensured both could claim equal shares of any royalties, but this also resulted in a record that sounds more like a loose collection of tunes rather than a cohesive body of work.

John Lees' songs in particular seem lackluster and almost whiny, especially 'Knoydart' and the aimlessly wandering 'Once More' with its slightly sad and nostalgic nod to the past in the synthesized strings woven almost haphazardly throughout the lulls of the tune. This mood carries over the his closing track 'Ballad of Denshaw Mill' as well, which is really a pretty decent tune that recalls a time when the band had a habit of closing with lengthy, majestic numbers full of classically-oriented compositions often based on English folklore. That applies with this song too, but given the overall mood of the album it's hard to get too excited about it. Lees originally tried to squeeze this one in on the 'Ring of Changes' album but the band declined to include it then.

Holroyd's songs aren't a heck of a lot better, but he does manage to lose the race to the bottom with Lees and so deserves at least a nod for that. 'Cold War' offers decent vocal harmonies and both 'Copii Romania' and 'A Matter of Time' fit the BJH mold of their later work with moments of brightness and melodic charm, but mostly only by comparison to the waning contributions by Lees.

All things must come to an end, and with Barclay James Harvest the end was clearly in sight by the time they recorded this album. They would manage one more before Lees and Holroyd went their separate ways for good, but by this time in their career the band was issuing far more compilations, anthologies, retrospectives and drudged up old live material than they were anything new, which is always a sign that the creative juices, or at least the band's cohesion, is dying. I can't say this is anything more than a collector's piece for loyal fans, and can't recommend it to anyone trying to get into the band today. Two stars and not recommended.


Report this review (#483541)
Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 | Review Permalink

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