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Barclay James  Harvest - BJH Featuring Les Holroyd: Revolution Days CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Turn, turn, turn

With BJH's two main songwriters and singers firmly entrenched in separate camps while sharing joint custody of the BJH name, releases under the BJH name are now either by "BJH Through the eyes of John Lees" or "BJH featuring Les Holroyd". It would be reasonable to expect such releases to contain songs which are faithful to the tenets which identified an album as being by BJH. To that extent, this offering by the Les Holroyd BJH (which includes the late Mel Prichard, but excludes Lees and Woolstenholme), is indeed a bona fide BJH album.

One of the strengths of the band when they were a foursome however, was the fact that Holroyd's softer vocals were complimented by Lees deeper, often rougher voice. With all the tracks here being sung by Holroyd, his vocals are not really strong or interesting enough to sustain a whole album. He might have been wiser to pursue BJH's early orchestral leanings more, with longer more progressive pieces in the way of "Dark now my sky". Instead he goes for a generally more commercial sound, even veering towards ZZ Top on "That was then.. this is now".

Unfortunately, the songwriting is not strong enough make the tracks commercially appealing to a new audience. Holroyd does chose to rework one older BJH number "Life is for living", but its hard to see why. Initially, it sounds like a demo version of the song, and certainly adds nothing to the original which appeared on "Turn of the tide".

A pleasant, but ultimately disappointing BJH badged album. The sooner Holroyd and Lees patch up their differences and decide to produce some memorable BJH work again, the better.

Report this review (#30550)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars It's My Life is a good intro to that album by Les Holroyd. It reminds me of the 1983 BJH song Ring Of Changes. A good quasi-symphonic one is Prelude with interesting varied arrangements. The last song Marlene (From The Berlin Suite) remind of Berlin (1978) and it's a sort of tribute to the memory of the famous holliwoodian german actress Marlene Dietrich. I rate this one with three stars while I've rated Nexus only with two! That's because in this one Holroyd presents many new tunes when the duo Lees-Wolstenholme has made some interesting new songs, but re-offering too much old material (differently arranged...I don't like that pieces very much...).

2.5 stars

Report this review (#44417)
Posted Saturday, August 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have to admitt that my expectations where far too high to not have been disappointed by "Revolution Days" first - Les Holroyd's talents as a songwriter and, concerning the years before, his abilities to save a whole album from mediocrity ( "Caught in the Light" ) in mind I expected a rather commercial but nonetheless enjoyable "BJH without John Lees" building up on Holroyd's strengths... perhaps more "Pop" than "Prog".

Instead of this my first impression was a shock: "It's my Life" offers Holroyd's voice in poor condition and the lyrics made me worry about the writer's state of mind, while musically it's as if Les Holroyd had taken John Lees' track "He said Love" ( from the 1987's "Face to Face" Album ), subtrated the melody and wanting to make a rocksong of it... but, although Holroyd's voice can make you worry throughout the album, "Revolution Days" doesn't really go on that way and - there's quite a lot you can do in the studio - delivers some fine if not great moments nonetheless.

My favourite track is "Sleepy Sunday", which is classic BJH with even Mellotron-sounds ( Sampled... I suppose ) at the end, "Missing you" is a fair and moody ballad.

The re-workings of "Life is for living" and ( go and buy the revamped edition with: ) "Love on the Line" may not really be as great as the original recordings but are well-made still... that's what I really like on "Revolution Days", and, yes, "That was then... this is now" rocks but it's only a torso of a song and, with many of the others, I'm waiting in vain for a real melodic flush... and I never really dug the "Prelude", sorry, while "January Morning" could have been gently flowing without the superfluous Electric Guitar-section stealing the original flow from the song and taking it into a pathetic low ( not high ). The title track doesn't sound finished, reminding me of the 2nd part of "Do you believe in dreams" ( on The "River of Dreams"- Album ) as well as some parts of "January morning", perhaps Les was running out of ideas, I don't know, "Quierro el Sol" has got an Eagles-Flair but isn't quite an essential song, too.

It was a nice move to pay tribute to Marlene Dietrich at the end, a legend ( and great actress ) indeed, but that simple song had deserved a less pathetic ending, too.

Mixed emotions about "Revo", though all in all I like it better than "River of Dreams". If only BJHFLH had, like John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme, kept any promises left unfulfilled here in their concerts. Don't take the rating for granted, for Holroyd-Fans it's "one more star" at least, but not for Prog-Rock-Fans... I have a hard day understanding Mr. Holroyd anyway... one one hand he was always responsible for the more "poppy" and "commercial" side of BJH, on the other it was him wanting "more ROCK and CLASSICAL influences" ( as stated in an interview ), "Revolution Days" isn't much of any while a reunion with John Lees AND Woolly Wolstenholme could exactly be what Les Holroyd aimed for... if he's honest about it. But "go back into the past" he doesn't want. Contradictory... ridiculous... but NOT A BAD ALBUM here.

Report this review (#66086)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have been a fan since the early days but sort of went off them as they tended to lose their way over the years. I was pleasantly surprised then on hearing Revolution Days even though it was just a Les Holdroyd offering. I love 'totally cool' 'sleepy sunday' and 'missing you' all dreamy tracks reminiscient of the good old BJH. These are complimented and contrasted by 'that was then this is now' though 'january morning' is a bit overlong this is still an album worth listening to.
Report this review (#82968)
Posted Thursday, July 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This is Barclay James Harvest Featuring Les Holroyd, one of two bands now using the old band's name and the least interesting to Proggers, formed by BJH founder and bassist Les Holroyd with a couple of ex- Sad Cafe persons Mike Byron-Hehir and Ian Wilson to continue the AOR road pursued by later BJH. Forget about Prog - though a couple songs display a form of 'progression', there are not many who would claim this band has any connection with Prog. Byron-Hehir, an excellent guitarist, brings a gutsier, harder edge to Holroyd's songs, aided by an expansive production with a modern powerful sound, much more punchy and dramatic than most BJH albums.

So far so good, but what of the music? Well, Les's songwriting has long given over to clichs, both musically and lyrically, but here the changed environment has perhaps rejuvenated him, at least in part. A powerful rock arrangement of It's My Life starts us off in belligerant mood ["it's my life / and I'll do what I want / be what I want to be / it's my life"] but our optimism is soon dispelled by the insipid Missing You, one of several slow ballads. The rest of the album proceeds in a similar vein - some fine rocking moments from an excellent tight band and scintillating licks from Mike B-H are accompanied by a number of slow ballads, sung in Les's increasingly strained impassioned manner mostly backed by lush synthesized strings.

A preponderance of those slow ballads in Les's work, past and present, must mean there are people out there who like them. To me they are too numerous and too similar and here they ruin what might otherwise have been a strong album. If you like Les's work with BJH, particularly the later material, you might go for this, but there is precious little connection left with the old band. Taken on its own merit, a couple of good rockers and one reasonable ballad isn't enough to make it interesting to anyone other than a fan.

Report this review (#95650)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Les Holroyd has always been the mellow part of Barclay James Harvest. His ballads are the most wellknown, with 'Life is for living' and 'Berlin' as long time live favourites of both the band and the fans. So what to expect of his first 'solo' album? To be honest, I was quite scared that Les would have taken the opportunity to exploit his mellow soft rock side further and further on such an album. He most certainly has not and that was probably the biggest surprise for me. It makes 'Revolution days' sounds modern, varied and moody at times.

The album starts off with a synth chord reminiscent of their 'Victims of circumstance' days. But 'It's my life' develops into a nice sounding, medium paced song which is most certainly not prog at all but it isn't AOR either. 'Missing you' is the weakest song, with a simple verse and even more simple chorus without any creativity, solo or musical surprise. Shame on the artists and producers, this is actually nothing more than a mediocre demo. 'This is now, that was then... ' sounds quite fresh, has a good pace and is a surprisingly nice song to listen to. It may be too repetitive at times but it never falls over the edge. The next two songs prove his origin. 'Prelude' is somewhat of an orchestral piece that BJH used to include on their albums in their early days and which was often atributed to Woolly Wolstenholme. Yet Les Holroyd shows now that at least he learnt quite enough in those days,,, or that we may have underrated him in this respect. During the piece the band joins in smoothly from where on the piece becomes heavier and poppier. Good stuff, leading into 'January morning', a good and atmospheric song, with good guitar playing. Yet this song also proves that Les' voice has definitely grown weaker over the years, unfortunately. The next song 'Love on the line' is one of the two remakes of old BJH songs on the album. Whereas John Lees' and Woolly Wolstenholme succeed in adding new ideas to their remakes, Les' attempts do not do anything special to me. They are not very good, they are certainly not bad either. And he has every right to remake his own songs! Of the remaining songs 'Sleepy sunday' and 'Marlene' are good crafted, nice melodies and sometimes quite heavy guitars.

All in all, 'Revolution days' requires an open mind and some attempts to get into the album but it is absolutely worth the effort, and actually a necessity for BJH fans. I had my doubts and they were quite serious but for me the album turned out to be a nice surprise. And as it is the last studio album on which the late Mel Pritchard can be heard as well as the fact that the album is dedicated to Les' far too young deceased wife Christine makes it even more special.

Report this review (#113979)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Instead of grouping forces (which they should do), their two leaders decided to go each in their own direction. Each of them joining with another founding member. Mel in this case and Woolly with John Lees. Woolly's departure (1978) signified the end of their progressive and bombastic approach which culminated in their fabulous "Live '74" release.

An extremely long period of weak albums followed (although commercial success was high, particularly in Germany) with here and there some good songs featured. But most of those ones were signed by John. So, I really was expecting the worse from this album.

Actually, this won't be as bad as could have imagined. While this BJH plays rock ballads, it is mostly OK, even if Les's voice might be a bit mellow throughout a whole album. Pleasant mellotron is even present at times which will definitely bring you to their most brilliant days. Both "It's My Life" and "Missing You" are really pleasant.

The first poor one though is "That Was Then... This Is Now". This attempt to a more rocking sound is real bad. But this is not a new given fact. I thought the same already in some songs of their Harvest days. Some thirty years before this release, so...

A song like "Prelude" also belongs to the nice moments of this album while "Quiero El Sol" is another poor country music type of song. Press next or escape to avoid it and discover "Totally Cool" which is a good and aerial rock ballad with good background keys. One of my fave here.

The highlight of this album is "Sleepy Sunday". A very good composition : emotional vocals, sublime backgroound keys (but this is a tendancy that the listener will discover all along this album) and nice guitar. It really belongs to the best that BJH has produced since the last fifteen years (of this release). Vibrant. The guitar solo at the end of "Marlene" is very good as well. Emotion again (as you might know already, I like these...).

Now that Mel has passed away (RIP), I believe that it is best for BJH (whatever brand) to concentrate on live albums. Unless (who knows) that a reunion of the trio could take place. Might be interesting.

I really can't say that this album is a good one (only half of the songs only). Just average because of to many tracks lowering my scoring (the acoustic "Life Is For Living" or the dull "Revolution Day" for instance). But it is better than what I expected.

Two stars.

Report this review (#135844)
Posted Sunday, September 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars "That Was Then... This Is Now"

Like Wishbone Ash and Asia and some others, Barclay James Harvest too split into two separate bands existing simultaneously. John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme (the latter sadly no longer with us) toured and recorded under the (somewhat pretentious) moniker of Barclay James Harvest Through The Eyes Of John Lees while Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard did the same under the more conventional name Barclay James Harvest Featuring Les Holroyd. The present album is by the latter incarnation of the band and this is clearly the inferior one, at least from a Prog perspective. While Lees and Wolstenholme kept the progressive spirit alive, at least in the live setting, Holroyd and Pritchard focused on the more commercial aspirations that had increasingly dominated the band from the 80's onwards.

The present album is the latest studio release to date (by any of the two versions of the band). Revolution Days is about as far away from revolutionary as you can get. Filled with lightweight Soft Rock and Pop, this album is a dull experience. There is nothing offensive here, but also nothing exciting. There are several longer tracks, but anyone looking for anything progressive or even slightly unconventional will draw a blank. If 80's and 90's Barclay James Harvest was a watered down version of 70's Barclay James Harvest, Revolution Days is a watered down version of 80's and 90's Barclay James Harvest! Most of the songs have a tempo so slow that it feels like listening in slow motion, and when they raise the tempo somewhat and try to "Rock out" they fall flat like of the very repetitive That Was Then... This Is Now. Holroyd's voice is also too weak to carry the band for a whole album, and you get tired of it long before the end.

This is only for completionists

Report this review (#938131)
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
2 stars When I was doing my degree I spent a lot of my time in record shops, and was intrigued by a double cassette of a band named Barclay James Harvest. I bought the tape, and 'Time Honoured Ghosts' and 'Octoberon' could often be heard blasting out from my room. I quickly purchased a lot of BJH albums and I was particularly taken by the fact that there were two songwriters who didn't write together, but produced songs that were complimentary. John Lees played guitar and provided lead vocals on his songs, while Les Holroyd played bass and sang lead on his songs. It wasn't until I received this album that I realised that all has not been well in the BJH camp as this album has been released by Barclay James Harvest (Featuring Les Holroyd). Apparently there has been a major split and Les and Mel Pritchard (drums) are in one version of the band while John Lees and Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme (keyboards, who had actually retired from the band some years before) are in another.

There is a stylised butterfly on the front cover (all BJH covers have a butterfly on them somewhere), but a bit like the record it isn't the real thing. Les always provided the softer material, and while this is a good album it misses out by not having John's songs to play against. It is an album that obviously all BJH fans have to buy but it is a bit like yin without the yang. I enjoyed it, but it is definitely missing something, and that something is John. They have been together for many years and I sincerely hope that they will patch up their differences and yet again delight concert goers the world over. It isn't bad, but if you want an introduction to the band then pick up 'Concert For The People' or 'Live Tapes'.

Originally appeared in Feedback #67, Apr 02

Report this review (#975483)
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | Review Permalink

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