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Barclay James  Harvest - River Of Dreams CD (album) cover

RIVER OF DREAMS

Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog


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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Yesterday's heroes

It took some time for this album to even be released in the UK, such was BJH's demise in their homeland. They were still finding success in continental Europe however, and this album, while still bearing the band's hallmark sound, was clearly geared towards that market.

"Back in the game" kicks things off with a typical piece of mid-paced BJH light rock. Les Holroyd and John Lees share the song writing credits throughout the album, but as usual they write alone, and take lead vocals on their own songs. Many of the tracks here, while not necessarily slow or sad in terms of sound, are reflective lyrically. There's plenty of self examination, and "good old days" philosophy.

At times, the message seems to become the dominant factor, with the music taking second place. "Yesterday's heroes" is a case in point, although it is vastly improved by some great guitar work towards the end. At almost 8 minutes though, it could have been so much better.

In all, the album smacks a bit of going through the motions. The inspiration which led to the creation of their early masterpieces for both the Harvest and Polydor labels appears to have deserted them, resulting in pleasant, but unchallenging songs, which sound awfully like one another. Sadly, there isn't one stand out track on the album, although the final track "The time of our lives" sits slightly above all the others.

An album which can only really be commended to BJH fans.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#22733)
Posted Friday, April 09, 2004 | Review Permalink
arnaldosmp@sa
3 stars This album show BJH in a vein of "Caught in The Act". This is the last album where Lees and Holroyd write and play songs together. Like all the albuns before Wooly departed, in "River" are good songs and bad songs. The highlights of this album are: "River of Dreams" (a beautiful ballad), "Children of..." (John Lees in good form), "Mr.E" and the best moment "Three Weeks...", a last testament of beauty with Lees and Holroyd voices. The best moment of Les Holroyd is "The Time...", a great song for playing live. I give three stars because of this songs and because of acoustic arrangements.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#22734)
Posted Wednesday, March 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This should have been BJH's best album without Woolly Wolstenholme - if you only look at the quality of the songs delivered, 8 great ones out of 10, one ( "Pools of tears" ) not essantial and only one ( "The Time of our Lives" ) rather poor - instead of this it became the swansong for BJH as a trio and this wasn't only due to "poor promotion".

First of all I want to begin with what's perfect on the album: "Children of the disappeared" is a great track just the way it is, the first part of "Do you believe in dreams" couldn't be bettered, too. But as with "(Took me) So long", a nice and poppy track on which Les Holroyd's voice is sounding sick, the rest of the album always leaves me with something to complain about... Lead guitars splashing in far too loud, acoustic guitars and backingvocals sounding lifeless, quirky keyboardsounds ( that organ on the title-track's KILLING ME, and "Three weeks to despair" - what a song - was wasted that way, too ) and and and...

The most embarassing thing is that "Yesterday's Heroes", a track that should have made it as the true highlight of the album, is far too heavy-weghted to get flowing above the ice, it should have been taken into SUSPENCE - like "The Song ( they love to sing )" on EYES OF THE UNIVERSE. It was definitely obvious that the trio was running out of gas...

I don't mind a weaker album depending on a bunch of weaker songs, but if you manage to take down an album with songs as fine as those there's something wrong and change is necessary - I still think that John Lees was quite right for not wanting to go on this way any longer, and, as I thought way back then, "WOOLLY'S RETURN" was the best possible solution. But knowing about BJH-Fans who love this album as if it were as great as its songs I don't want to turn it down, have a listen, perhaps you get in touch with the arrangements and production, I never have. Rupert

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Send comments to rupert (BETA) | Report this review (#65459)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars River Of Dreams is something of a return to form for Barclay James Harvest after the low of Caught In The Light, fans of their later commercial material often considering it to be their best album. It serves as a reasonably fitting curtain call to Lees and Holroyd's career together, but only one track can be considered Prog and that isn't very good.

The best tracks are the first three, which also display the most collaboration between the BJH principals. Les's wistful "spirit of the 70s" lyric for the poignant Back In The Game is appropriately accompanied by a very 70s arrangement and structure with combined harmonies and strong guitar part, only the modern keyboards separate it from Gone To Earth [1977]. River Of Dreams contrasts a jaunty almost country-rock arrangement and singalong chorus with downbeat lyrics, a disillusioned rake through the "dirty water" of the past. Yesterday's Heroes, my personal favourite, is a modern AOR track underpinned by a chugging guitar motif running through the song and some strong guitar themes.

The album tails off after that: Children Of The Disappeared has a Prog structure with a nice mid-section but is far too disjointed musically; Pool Of Tears, Do You Believe In Dreams and (Took Me) So Long are boring rock-lite MOR; lyrically enigmatic, Mr. E has an interesting keyboard based arrangement with sudden outbursts of guitar solos and is really rather good; musically slow and dreamy, Three Weeks To Despair is notable for its emotive lyrics on homelessness and sampled voice of such a man; while The Time Of Our Lives is a suitably rousing almost anthemic closer with another nod to the 70s, but is otherwise formulaic Les.

Overall, it's a mixed bag but is a good example of the band's later work, and better than most. Had Lees and Holroyd continued to work together as they did on some songs, then it could have been so much better. Sadly, they ran out of steam, Lees in particular became despondent at the developing situation, and soon River Of Dreams was the original band's epitaph as relations deteriorated. It may have been the end of the road, but they went out on a relative high.

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Send comments to Joolz (BETA) | Report this review (#94895)
Posted Wednesday, October 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Looking backwards it would have been more than earned that the definitive break-up of this splendid band was marked by producing a spectacular album.

Well, River of Dreams was their last studio album as a three-piece band and it is far from spectacular. In everything the abum smells like breaking up, low motivation, preferably not working closely together anymore. And yet it renders us some beautiful songs, in my opinion.

The album starts off promising with a really good song by Les Holroyd. The orchestral part isnot too surprising but very nice to listen to and the lyrics are simply good. Unfortunately the title track, the first time written by John Lees, is by far not his best track ever written, let alone on this album. It is a nice song but actually very straightforward and not surprising at all. So that was the first desappointment. But Holroyds 'Yesterdays heroes' catches up again because it is another very god song, with a good melody, good arrangements and not too mellow (as often was the case with Holroyds songs). And it is followed by what I consider the best song of the album, 'Children f the disappeared'. It is a bit fragmented but it has such a haunting melody, a more than beautiful guitar solo and chiling lyrics. In my opinion one of Lees' best songs. And than the album goes down never to recover fully. Pool of tears is not my piece of cake at all, just a very mellow lament with absolutely no attractive musicianship whatsoever. The same holds true for the next two songs that are so mediocre that I could hardly believe that one of my favourite bands actually recorded them. Mr. E. proves to be a very nice rendition by John Lees but it is followed by the akward 'Three weeks to despair', his most horrible song to dat, in spite of his good intentions. And closing the album with another very middle of the road song is another proof that BJH was not really into making this album.

Too bad it wasn't possible to record another album at their standards. For thosae who are not acquainted with the band: let this one alone. For the real fans it is a must-have because ot its 4-5 good songs. The rest is really spoiling your time.

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Send comments to Theo Verstrael (BETA) | Report this review (#110470)
Posted Friday, February 02, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Well, this is probably the last true BJH studio album. The long and winding road stops here for Les and John. They will each prolong the BJH experience but through each one's respective eyes...

BJH must been one of the most prolific bands in terms of live albums, compilation, or DVD releases (thirty-five or so only on this web- site !).

I was positively surprised with their last studio album : "Caught In The Light " (three stars). Some sort of a return to a more progressive sound, closer to Wooly's legacy. But can we expect the same from this one ?

The opening track has its good (a great guitar solo) and its bad. Most of the songs featured on this album will be rather long (six minutes + for most of them). This could have led to a similar album as "Caught In The Light" but it won't be the case.

There will be some good guitar moments on this album ("Back In The Game", "Yesterday's Heroes", "Children Of The Disappeared"). But each of them won't avoid these songs to be very average. The general mood of the album will be mellowish and syrupous.

Some boring songs (the majority) unfortunately : "River Of Dreams", (only saved by a great, but short, guitar break again). But the worse is still to come : "Pools Of Tears" is an anonymous rock ballad like I would like to see them disappear from the musical earth. Same comment and verdict about "Do You Believe In Dreams" (somewhat ELO-ish. But from their worse days). I wish I did, if only I could dream again of the BJH of the middle seventies...But this was in another life.

On the good side, BJH has dropped their poor rock / AOR mood developped in several of their albums from the eighties. But in "compensation" we have to bear severe sleepy moments. My problem is that I can not stand neither of those. A Bee Gees type of song like "Took Me So Long" (I hope it is not autobiographic) is absolutely awful (and long).

I can't find any positive comment about the last three songs of this album. So, I will leave this review as such.

Since this album is the last combined (?) effort from BJH, I would like to take the opportunity to pay a tribute to Mel (RIP), Woolly, Les and John. Even if I have been harsh with lots of your albums (but I did not release them), you have filled my heart with your melodies when I was a young kid, ages ago (from "Once Again through "Octoberon "). Thanks for that guys.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#131627)
Posted Friday, August 03, 2007 | Review Permalink
febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
2 stars END OF THE (MAIN)LINE!

RIVER OF DREAMS is the last BJH album to feature JOHN LEES and LES HOLROYD together. Each one will go their separate way but still keeping the brandname. Not only we haven't lost BJH, we are going to be treated in the future with...2 BJH versions: 'BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST through the eyes of JOHN LEES'' and ''BJH featuring LES HOLROYD''.

IT didn't matter ( at least for me) that the ''classic'' line-up disbanded as there were no real band working together in the first place for the last 2 decades. Each songwriter came in the studio with their own ''babies'' and recorded them with minimal participation from the other leader. That was especially true for LES HOLROYD who composed mostly synth-lead AOR songs with very minimun guitar input from LEES. Actually , BJH were already 2 different entities sharing the same vinyl or CD space; now they would still keep the name, but have a (muiscal) life on their own.

RIVER OF DREAMS would not leave any mark in the history of prog music, not even in the history of the band. BJH is at the end of the road creatively, just using the same old recipes we have tasted for so long. RIVER OF DREAMS feature10 relatively long tracks played with no enthusiasm, just going through the motions. As usual, this is not bad, but believe me this album can be used as a sleeping pill in case you have trouble falling assleep. The sound is monotonous, the same goes for the vocal renditions. There is no spark, no energy whatsoever.

None of the 10 tracks is worth being included in a best-of of the band. Seems to me i already have heard those songs in the past, only better.LES HOLROYD is at it again, trying to do an imitation of PETER CETERA from CHICAGO on such dull tracks like DO YOU BELIVE IN DREAMS or TOOK ME SO LONG. JOHN LEES plays mainly ballads, no hard rock tune this time; maybe it would have been a good idea for once as it would at least pull me out of my lethargy. There is nothing to hurt your ears, but also nothing to excite you either as they have tendency to drag on indefinitely.

I definitely cannot find a real highlight here:MR E. or CHILDREN OF THE DISAPPEARED have their moments, with good LEES guitar licks, BACK IN THE GAME is a typical HOLROYD tune but still pleasant. However this is an album of a formula which has run its course to the max. The band has no gas left in the tank. This was the time to say goodbye, sadly not with a bang!

2 STARS.

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Send comments to febus (BETA) | Report this review (#142361)
Posted Saturday, October 06, 2007 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
1 stars Back in the game? Well, not at all actually!

After a handful of albums ranging from merely decent to downright poor, Barclay James Harvest claims to be "back in the game" here with River Of Dreams. Sadly, this is every bit as dire as previous albums, if not more so. The previous Caught In The Light, Welcome To The Show and Face To Face albums all had at least one or two good songs each, but River Of Dreams falls short even of that. What we get here is ten nondescript, slow Soft Rock songs with a sound that could be considered "adult contemporary". The progressive elements of the early years were long since considerably watered down and on this album they seem to have evaporated entirely. The songs here are very long, but this is not an indicator for interesting arrangements of which there are none.

On a "positive" note, River Of Dreams is a more even album than of late with no awful songs as such (like Spud-U-Like from the previous album, for example); instead, the album remains firmly in the mediocre throughout with no standouts in any direction. The band have finally learned that every time they try to "Rock out" they fail miserably. Thus they stick to a very slow tempo on this album, effectively making it sound the same from beginning till end. This results in a listenable but oh so dull album, worthy of consideration only by the most staunchly dedicated fans (if such people exist at all!?).

At this point in time even the band themselves realized (?) that this could not go on any further and the two principle songwriters of the band, John Lees and Les Holroyd, finally parted company for good. Holroyd took drummer Mel Pritchard with him and continued to make music under the name 'Barclay James Harvest featuring Les Holroyd' while John Lees reunited with Woolly Wolstenholme (who had left the band in the late 70's) under the (somewhat pretentious) name 'Barclay James Harvest Through The Eyes Of John Lees'. The latter group would finally "get back in the game" and they concentrate on playing songs from the 70's live as can be seen on a very good recent live DVD.

To sum up. River Of Dreams is a wholly forgettable album, recommended only for completionists.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#291850)
Posted Sunday, July 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars About half this album, mostly in the early going, represents a relative return to form for BJH, at least to the level of the early 80s, while the other half picks up where "Caught in the Light" left off, which is nowhere special.

The energy level and the simple folk influence prominent in earlier BJH returns on "River of Dreams" and "Back in the Game". Lyrically it's less adventurous than in younger days, preferring to tread the well trodden path of reflection and introspection, but Lees' leads in "Back in the Game" are more spirited, while the vocal harmonies recall the glory days of "Octoberon". It's true that on "Do you believe in Dreams" this tendency goes as far as CSN or America, but those aren't bad reference points for aging artists in any rock genre. Both Lees and Holroyd make major contributions, with Lees' piano ballad "Children of the Disappeared" and the uptempo "Mr E" being near original idea for the group long after we might have expected such a push.

Gone are the days of BJH concept albums in which tracks were sequenced with love and care, such that I can only evaluate this final "group" effort as a collection of songs, some quite good, others rather bland. At just above 2.5 stars, this one gets rounded up as a tribute to an English institution that was more of a force behind the currents of progressive rock (and indeed rock in general) than its victim. Not bad for an also-ran.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#357677)
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars Honestly I'm not even sure why Barclay James Harvest put out this album, except that they apparently still had something of a following in parts of Scandinavia and mainland Europe. The CD was originally released in Germany and to the best of my knowledge was never issued in the U.S. or even in Britain that I've been able to determine, although information about the album is pretty sketchy so I could be mistaken about that. For anyone looking to pick it up today your best shot is to find a used copy somewhere on-line; there are many to be had but just about every one I've seen is a copy of the German CD.

The general format and sequencing is pretty much the same as 'Caught in the Light', opening with a peppy but lyrically-lean guitar number by Les Holroyd ("Back in the Game"), followed by mostly alternating Holroyd and John Lees compositions. Each musician dominates their respective songs and once again the album comes across as a collection of disparate tunes rather than a unified band offering. This is consistent with their last three albums.

Lees sounds more and more nostalgic with each passing year, and here nearly all of his songs including the title track, "Children of the Disappeared" and to a lesser degree "Three Weeks to Despair" come across as pensive and backward-looking at a time Lees clearly felt was better than his present circumstance. "Mr. E" is the other Lees song and I'm not sure exactly what that one is all about although it hints at the Beatles and in that respect is likely also a nostalgic piece. The synthesized symphonic bits and snippets of "Strawberry Fields" lyrics place his sentiments a couple decades behind the time of its recording anyway.

Lees also throws in a love song with "Pool of Tears". Holroyd's love songs on earlier albums were often sad, but given the overall mood of this album the tune becomes a bit constrictive and depressing, and ends up sounding like one of those wrist-slashingly lovelorn Chris de Burgh songs from the eighties. Holroyd follows with his own love song "Do you Believe in Dreams" which is slightly more upbeat and much more in keeping with that classic BJH sound given the orchestral sounds and layered vocal harmonies.

Overall Holroyd is a bit more ambitious and positive with his opener but he also slips into sentimental recollection with "Yesterday's Heroes", a lengthy and very good guitar-heavy tune with lyrics that seem to be calling out to past influential music 'heroes' for guidance on how to deal with the present day. Like I said, the guitar work is admirable but if it wasn't clear enough before there can be no doubt that BJH has reached the end of their journey as a musical unit by this point.

In the end this is a slightly better album than 'Caught in the Light' but not measurably so. I'm almost tempted to rate it as a three star effort, but the lackluster outweighs the adequate and for Barclay James Harvest that just isn't good enough. Two stars it is. If you can get your hands on this without spending too much and you are at least a passing fan I would say go ahead as it will at least make for a conversation piece in your collection; but don't go out of your way to hunt it down as you will inevitably consider the cost and effort not worth the experience.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#484517)
Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011 | Review Permalink

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