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Barclay James Harvest

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Barclay James  Harvest Barclay James Harvest album cover
3.22 | 219 ratings | 26 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Taking Some Time On (5:27)
2. Mother Dear (3:13)
3. The Sun Will Never Shine (5:04)
4. When the World Was Woken (5:44)
5. Good Love Child (5:05)
6. The Iron Maiden (2:39)
7. Dark Now My Sky (11:54)

Total Time 39:06

Bonus tracks on EMI remaster (2002):
8. Early Morning (2:34)
9. Mr. Sunshine (2:54)
10. So Tomorrow (3:28)
11. Eden Unobtainable (3:10)
12. Night (3:20)
13. Pools of Blue (3:29)
14. Need You Oh So Bad (1:18)
15. Small Time Town (2:12)
16. Dark Now My Sky (3:43)
17. I Can't Go On Without You (2:13)
18. Eden Unobtainable (3:04)
19. Poor Wages (2:34)
20. Brother Thrush (3:06)

Note: tracks 10-16 previously unreleased, from 1968 BBC Sessions

Line-up / Musicians

- John Lees / guitars, recorder, backing vocals
- Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme / lead vocals (2,3,6), organ, piano, Mellotron, guitar, harmonica
- Les Holroyd / bass, lead (1,4,5,7) & backing vocals, guitar, cello
- Mel Pritchard / drums, percussion

- Jim Litherland / percussion (1)
- BJH Symphony Orchestra (former members of The New Symphonia)
- Gavin Wright / orchestra leader
- Robert Godfrey / orchestra conductor & arrangements (3,4,7)
- Norman Smith / arranger & conductor (2), producer

Releases information

Artwork: Ian Latimer

LP Harvest ‎- SHVL 770 (1970, UK)

CD Harvest ‎- 538 4052 (2002, Europe) Remastered by Peter Mew with 13 bonus tracks; new cover art and reentitled "Their First Album"

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Barclay James Harvest ratings distribution

(219 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (41%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Barclay James Harvest reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars When the world was woken

BJH had been around for a while before this their first album was released. Their previously unsuccessful singles had given little indication of the talent and sophistication which was to reveal itself over the coming years. Until recently, those singles (A&B sides) had only been available on budget label compilations such as "Early Morning onwards". They are now however among no less than 13 bonus tracks on the remastered version of BJH (or "Their first album" as it is unnecessarily titled on the remastered version). These bonus tracks are worthwhile, but inevitably now sound dated.

As for the original album, it is often credited as being good but reflecting the fact that the band had yet to establish a clear direction for themselves. The diversity of the album is however in many ways what make it so endearing. Each side (of the original LP) starts with a straight ahead rock track. Both "Taking some time on" and "Good love child" are loud, abrasive songs, with a driving pace and a wall of sound. Other tracks range from the delightful, almost commercial, "The sun will never shine", to the symphonic "Dark now my sky". The latter has heavy orchestration, interrupted by a very soft vocal section. It is by far the longest track on the album, and was certainly a brave piece to include on a first album.

For me, the best track is "When the world was woken", a beautiful, uplifting track, with soaring strings and a haunting melody. The subtle complexity of this track is not immediately apparent, but the structure is truly magnificent.

An excellent first album, with the promise of plenty more to come.

Review by loserboy
4 stars Magnificent Symphonic piece of early progressive rock with some of the most enduring melodies of all time. BJH's first album can be categorized somewhere in the PROCOL HARUM - MOODY BLUES school of musical thought with still carrying their own personality. In many ways this debut album gives off a rather "BEATLES'ish" feel as well with sound repro not unlike that which typifies much of the BEATLES music. Vocals are like velvet with superb musical harmonies and excellent lyrics which seems to fit the music with perfection. Recorded in '69 and '70 using only 2 eight track machines with the assistance of Robert Godfrey (The ENID), the Barclay James Harvest Orchestra and a mellotron. For those who are trivia buffs then you might it interesting to note that Jim Litherland (COLOSSEUM) added some guitar brilliance to the opening number "Taking Some Time On". Although sounding a little dated at times , this is still a tremendous recording which I fondly treasure.
Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Interesting album that shows the talent of this great band. Here There's a lot of good stuff, in magnificient Symphonic arrangment. "When the world was woken", "the sun will never shine", Mother dear" and "the iron maiden" have haunting melody (I agree with Bob Mc Beath, when says that "when the world..." is the best track of the album!). A central part for importance is settled by the epic "dark now my sky" of which we have an important and different (and shorter) version in the Emi's remastered album (2002). Brilliant are finally and in a more strong rock vein "good love child" and the opener "taking some time on". Time has come to discover Barclay James Harvest!
Review by Matti
4 stars A wonderful debut by the sadly overlooked BJH. I feel a bit wordless, because although this album has only four reviews, each of them is excellent (and 4* like mine). Things I had in mind are there already, for example "...can be categorized somewhere in the PROCOL HARUM - MOODY BLUES school of musical thought with still carrying their own personality." Yes, the sonic closeness to '67-'72 Moody Blues in fact helped BJH to become one of my fave bands. Procol Harum assimilation is the strongest in 'When the World Was Woken'; the mellow organ sounds very much the same as in the epic on Shine On Brightly, and surely would have been a massive hit had it Procol's name on it. But BJH was a unique symphonic rock band and deserves a classic status.

'Sun Will Never Shine' is a nice sixtyish song with a memorable chorus. Perhaps the loveliest after 'Woken' is the short but ahh so moody and haunting ballad 'Iron Maiden'. Its sad Mellotron sound - compare the beginning of Uriah Heep's 'Come Away Melinda' - and the perfect vocals. (BTW it's the vocals that are not always good in BJH from the third album onwards.) Last but definitely not least: 'Dark Now My Sky', nearly 12-minute epic, their grandest collaboration with conductor Robert Godfrey (>The Enid). Even with two or three less interesting tracks this is unarguably a classic album. To me band's pinnacle was their second, Once Again.

Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars This is the way a re-issue should be made, what a perfect gift to the BJH fan! The sound has been improved (it was 1970, almost prehistoric times), the track list contains 13 bonustracks (including 7 previously unreleased) and the 16-page booklet features lots of track information, a comprehensive history and nice pictures.

The highlight is the 12 minutes version from their epic "Dark now my sky" delivering a bombastic orchestra sound (instead of the Mellotron that had inspired the band to use this orchestra), beautiful sensitive electric guitar, warm vocals, sparkling piano and impressive church organ waves. Most of the bonustracks are simple but wonderful melodic and harmonic compositions with strong echoes from The Sixties (The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, The Beatles, The Byrds) featuring beautiful keyboards (lush Mellotron along piano and organ), acoustic guitar and pleasant vocals.

If you compare this album from 1970 to the symphonic rock dinosaurs YES, GENESIS and PINK FLOYD in that year, you can analyse that BJH sounded very mature. The music press often nailed BJH as the 'Poor man's Moody Blues', this re-issue prooves that this was projection from the poor views from the music press themselves!

Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As barbed tongues of frost descended towards the dark days of another northern winter, four young members of Barclay James Harvest rose from their bleak moorland retreat and once more ventured south towards The Smoke and a date with Destiny .....

..... to be more precise, to EMI's Abbey Road studios and a date with famed Beatles engineer and Pink Floyd producer Norman Smith who would produce this, their first album. It was here too that the Barclay James Harvest Symphony Orchestra was formed by their new Musical Director Robert Godfrey, assembled from a bunch of students from the Royal Academy. Keyboard player Woolly Wolstenholme, in particular, would enthusiastically embrace the idea of orchestrating BJH music, but recording presented a few problems, particularly when they attempted to match up the separately recorded efforts of band and orchestra.

The band had previously recorded some unadventurous singles, pretty songs like Brother Thrush, but by the winter of '69 their ideas had moved towards a harder edged rock sound married to pastoral songwriting all wrapped in an overcoat of aggressive orchestration. It was a big undertaking for a new (-ish) band - it didn't always work, and that remains one of the charms of this album as they strove to keep it all under control. The album displays their naivety in bucket-loads: lush sounds and consummate professionalism were a thing of the future, but for all that it has a raw energy that is infectious, an enthusiasm undimmed by studio polish.

It was Woolly, destined to be the most enduringly Prog-orientated member, who hit the ground running with a strong contribution on all fronts: songwriting, singing, playing and arranging. Les Holroyd was still finding his voice, his singing and bass playing not as solid or assured as it would become, while his one songwriting contribution was derivative. John Lees apparently lacked confidence to sing his own compositions though his guitar playing is very forthright while not yet fully matured. Mel Pritchard was already an accomplished drummer [already he had turned down an offer to join Fairport Convention] and that is much in evidence here in his full and busy style.

The songs are a mixed bag. The hard rocking Taking Some Time On is a tongue in cheek hippy song, specifically designed as a rousing opener. Mother Dear, a gothic tale of ghostly apparitions in the night, is a gentle ballad sung by Woolly in an acoustic setting with sympathetic orchestral arrangement. The Mellotron finally appears to introduce Woolly's eerie The Sun Will Never Shine, a song about depression which builds to a chorus with some weird dis-harmonies and soaring guitar. The only song written by Les, When The World Was Woken is a convincing Procol Harum clone complete with church organ and Hammond well to the fore, though later it is overwhelmed by an unsuitable orchestral arrangement.

Good Love Child is a psychedelic hard rocker, based on a nice little guitar motif which is simply repeated far too many times with too little variation. The Mellotron finally comes into its own on The Iron Maiden, a song actually about an "obnoxious" girl nicknamed 'Behemoth', yet evoking an 'Olde English' feel of pastoral peacefulness. Sung simply without the bells and whistles of the full band and some nice harmonies on the chorus.

At over 12 minutes the longest track they would ever record, Dark Now My Sky is the big Prog finale, based on The Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, a book written in the sixties about man's destruction of the environment. Full of symphonic complexity, it seemed at the time BJH would move more in that direction like many of their contemporaries, but on the contrary, they would never again attempt anything quite as adventurous as this. Starting with Woolly comically over-acting a short excerpt from Shakespeare and some maniacal laughter from Robert Godfrey, an orchestral interlude prefaces the song proper which alternates between very quiet simple verses sung by Les and loud instrumental breaks. Later, there is some heavenly interplay between choir, church organ, piano and Mellotron before the orchestra finishes it all off with a flourish.

The 2002 re-issue has no less than 13 bonus tracks, including their early singles and 7 tracks recorded for John Peel sessions in 1968. Of particular interest is Need You Oh So Bad which features Les on cello and John on recorder and an early 3 minute version of Dark Now My Sky without all the orchestral extras.

Ambitious - boundary-pushing - extravagent - rough-edged - unrefined - imaginative - exciting ..... Foolhardy and reckless perhaps, but for an unknown band to have their own orchestra was an exceptionally brave and 'Prog' thing to do even at a time when creativity oozed out of the studios. As they progressed, BJH would develop their more melodic tendencies and refine techniques, but this first album shows them still exuberantly finding their way, grubbing about in the dark to some extent as they come to terms with new technology and ideas.

Too flawed to be considered a classic, but highly recommended nevertheless

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars This first BJH album sounds pretty outdated. None of their legendary numbers are featured on this first effort. I was a huge fan of the band in the early mid-seventies when I discovered the band with their wonderfull "BJH Live". Since this one featured most of their great song, I did not bother to but their entire back catalogue. I only purchased one (I think it was "BJH And Other Short Stories").

BJH made a temptative attempt to psychedelic rock with "Talking Some Time On" which is deeply inspired with the early Floyd sound (Barrett era). "Mother Dear" and "The Sun Will Never Shine" with their string arrangements sounds a bit Beatlesque, but the melody can not really compete with the Masters. A bit childish.

Same feeling with "When The World Was Woken" : a poor melancholic song with lots of orchestration (horns, violins). Really too much. I have never been a fan of those combinations. It sounds almost classical and it is definitely not my cup of tea. Dull.

The rock number " Good Love Child" brings a bit of variety in this ocean of romanticism. The Fab Four also used to produce some rock numbers : no need to say that this one is sub-par as well. BJH comes back again with a soporific ballad "The Iron Maiden" : again a rather poor song.

Fortunately, the closing number "Dark Now My Sky" is really good. It features a very good guitar soli like John will be used to later on. Even some orchestration parts are not so annoying. This track really saves this album. It gives an indication to what the band will be offering later on : true symphonic music. This song features a nice and long instrumental intro (five minutes). After that, we'll as well the most symphonic instrumental breaks surrounding the vocal parts. These guitar breaks are very nice and so emotional (which will be another BJH trademark).

The year of this release is remote of course (1970). The proof of time has been devastating for this album.

I purchased the remastered version of this album while I was reconstructing my discography some four years ago. It features an awful lot of bonus tracks which, really, do not add anything great to the original album.

There is an edited version of "Dark Now My Sky" which is cut down to a mere 3'42" but which again is the best of all the bonuses. Actually "Night" is also a decent number (thanks to its psyche mood I guess). "Eden Unobtainable" has some early Crimson reminiscence (their symphonic side of course). Not bad either.

On this album there is one excellent song. Hopefully it is the longest one (just over twelve minutes). A true progressive epic. I grant BJH to have produced such a brilliant number so long ago. But one great song (even if it last for about a third of this album) does not make a great album. The opener is also above average (but it is not difficult).

I really do not recommend this album to the ones that would like to discover BJH. It is by no means representative of their later work (as most debut albums in these ancient times). They will produce several very good albums later on (but some very poor ones as well, unfortunately). But we'll discover them one by one.

Two stars.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST is a unique band which had a long lasting carreer starting way back in 1967 in Olham ,near Manchester as first a RnB band before entering the world of prog. Not only they are still around, but better, you have now 2 different versions of BJH after the 2 main songwriters guitarist JOHN LEES and bassist LES HOLROYD decided to go separate ways.

The band also included WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME on keyboards who left the band in 1980 before coming back in 1998 with the JOHN LEES version. Drummer MEL PRITCHARD , a childhood friend from Holroyd completed BJH until his untimely death in 2004.After a serie of unsuccessful singles in the late sixties, BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST found some new musical inspiration from art rock bands such as PROCOL HARUM and the MOODY BLUES that were riding high in the charts with refined songs well arranged with a classical touch and a lot of keyboards.

Even if BARCLAY JAME HARVEST was often criticized as a ''poor man's Moody Blues'', they had their own style and were the best at creating wonderful melodies with great arrangements; i would go further and say that beside JUSTIN HAYWARD, BJH had better songwriters than the Moodies.

JOHN LEES and LES HOLROYD also had some weaknesses with their own songwriting that will prevent BJH to releases timeless materpieces, but they will come often very close anyway. JOHN LEES tried too many times to prove throughout his career that he could write ''hard rock''songs: Let's be honest: he was never a ''rocker''. On the other hand LES HOLROYD never tried to get edgier, but sadly beside writing awesome wonderful songs, he could also come up with some non-descripts, completely bland melody-less ballads.

However, with this first album, the self titled BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, the main architect of the band was then keyboardist WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME who happened to be the most proggish guy of the 4 members.Sadly, his influence within the band will decrease later when BJH will straighten their sound.

This was a bold move to release such an ambitious first album with full orchestra. The MOODY BLUES sure did it successfully with ''DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED'', but there is only ONE ''Nights in White Satin''.

To play it safe, each side of the LP opened with a potential single hit with the psychedelic rockers with beatles-esque harmonies TALKING SOME TIME ON and GOOD LOVE CHILD. Even if those 2 songs didn't chart, they are a pleasure to listen to especially TAKING SOME TIME ON with its non-stop -2- frenetic guitar soloing. Songs definitely sounding end of sixties but still remarkably fresh to my ears.

Each of those rockers are followed by 2 sweet haunting ballads with mellotron and all, 'MOTHER DEAR'' and the gorgeous ''THE IRON MAIDEN'' still played live nowadays by JOHN LEES and WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME in their BJH version. Note that the iron maiden was a medieval torture intrument and is not a reference to the hard rock band whose members were still in school at this time -1970.

The grand orchestra can be heard on these 2 beautiful symphonic tracks THE SUN WILL NEVER SHINE and the best of the album, the magnificent WHEN THE WORLD WAS CHOSEN, the lone HOLROYD composition here but what a song!! This is this kind of song that makes me love prog music, and better than that ,make me love life as you are wondering how come some musicians can create such magnificent gems which can transmit joy, happiness and well being to your inner self. THE WORLD WAS WOKEN is just plain beauty, only a few artists can come up with and BJH will create a few more like that in the future. When BJH is good, they are not just real good, they are great.

The album ends up with a 12 mns epic, the majestic DARK NOW MY SKY, a beautiful musical mixture between the band and the orchestra, no one overwhelming the other. Just listen at the hypnotic rythm section of HOLROYD and PRITCAHRD accompanying the orchestra, that's just plain divine. Sadly, this was to be their first---and last--over 10 mns epic.

This album doesn't have yet the ''classic'' BJH sound as HOLROYD hasn't found his voice yet and JOHN LEES is simply only playing guitar as the vocals are coming from WOLSTEMHOLME. That was not to last as soon LEES and HOLROYD would share the songwriting and sing their own compositions while the keyboardist role will decrease little by little.

This first album from BJH is not really representative of their career, but is a magnificent bold recording , a unique gem that i have treasured for 35 years and will cherish for the rest of my life. Wondering how Music can be so beautiful sometimes, just listen to this recording. A must-have;


Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Barclay James Harvest" is the eponymously titled debut full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Barclay James Harvest. The album was released through Harvest Records in June 1970. Barclay James Harvest was founded in Oldham, in September 1966 and released the 1968 "Early Morning / Mr. Sunshine" single through the Parlophone Records label, before signing to the Harvest Records label for the release of the 1969 "Brother Thrush / Poor Wages" single and subsequently the release of this debut album.

Stylistically the material on the 7 track, 39:06 minutes long album is progressive rock, but in the more accessible end of the scale, featuring a combination of Beatlesque melodies and The Moody Blues influenced classical orchestra instrumentation on top of guitars, bass, organ/piano/mellotron, and drums. The classical orchestra parts are most audible on "When The World Was Woken" and on the 11:54 minutes long closing track "Dark Now My Sky", and both are among the most progressive tracks on the album. The former featuring an obvious Procol Harum influence and the latter featuring an early King Crimson influence. "Taking Some Time On" and "Good Love Child" are the most hard rocking tracks on the album, while "Mother Dear" and "The Iron Maiden" are both mellow beautiful songs. The latter features a strong Moody Blues influence, but that influence is even more audible on "The Sun Will Never Shine", which could easily be mistaken for a contemporary Moody Blues song.

The band is a tight and organic playing unit and there is no doubt that they can handle their instruments and that they are also clever composers and arrangers. The vocals are pleasant and the music features loads of harmonies and choirs to compliment the lead vocal melodies. The album also features a well sounding, organic, and detailed production, which suits the material well. While it´s probably obvious from reading my above description of the music and me mentioning the influences, that Barclay James Harvest weren´t the most unique sounding act on the early 70s progresive rock scene, they were still a very well playing band, writing some memorable music. I´ve heard the band called poor man´s Moody Blues many times, but personally I think this album features more great music than the full discography of their influences left behind. So while it may not be a perfect release, it´s still a strong and memorable debut album by Barclay James Harvest, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is fully deserved.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars In the wake of two innovative bands, Moody Blues and Procol Harum, came the great imitator Barclay James Harvest. I do mean this fondly, for BJH often exceeded both of their heroes in potency and dynamism. But that would come later. On a smorgasbord of single releases prior to this debut, they displayed some of their potential in an understated manner, but on their debut LP they seemed more committed to excess for its own sake.

Remember, this is 3 years after "Days of Future Passed", and BJH still thought they could pull off something similarly grandiose and have it stick. Hence over the top tracks like "When the World was Woken", which peddles the orchestra for its own sake and is devoid of creativity, and the beached behemoth "Dark Now my Sky", bursting with MB style phrasing as well as Matthew Fisher inspired organ. It does feature some early John Lees leads that would be better developed on "After the Day" a few years later. On the flipside were plodding pedestrian rockers like "Taking Some Time On", with its proto prog feel and the horrid "Good Love Child". These were not styles at which BJH excelled, but, hey, they were finding their sound.

Thankfully, by the follow up album BJH had deduced that their success lay somewhere between these 2 rather ugly juxtapositions, a la "Iron Maiden" and "Mother Dear", sparer, richly arranged ballads that pointed the way to a fortuitous future. I believe it is Woolly singing on most of these tracks and he seemed to be the gel of the group back then; his retreat to the keys in favour of John and Les' dueling pipes seemed to belie the group's factional character and ultimately brought them down, but that would be MUCH later. The orchestra would remain but would be deployed more tastefully later on.

My review is based on the original LP, although an early double CD contained several of the tracks released as bonus cuts on the remaster. As a fan of everything else they did in the 1970s, I can say that this debut is somewhat atypical and not a good place to start, unless you already know you dislike their other 70s material and you like your meat undercooked or overcooked, rather than just right.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Best before the end of 1970!

While The Beatles, The Moody Blues and Procol Harum had, at times, come close to being Prog, they were really only Proto-Prog. Barclay James Harvest were really Prog, but they were mostly very close to being merely Proto-Prog. This debut album from 1970 was released the same year as Yes' Time And A Word, Jethro Tull's Benefit and Genesis' Trespass, and it stands up pretty very well among those albums. But while these three other bands were very soon to go on making several groundbreaking masterpieces, Barclay James Harvest never reached much higher than this.

Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull also developed very strong musical identities and personalities. The unmistakeable voice of Jon Anderson, the distinctive voice and flute sounds of Ian Anderson and the charismatic and theatrical Peter Gabriel were essential factors in these band's early success. Barclay James Harvest, on the other hand, were quite anonymous and lacking any strong identity.

It is clear today that Barclay James Harvest is nothing more than a second division Prog band, and they were never truly groundbreaking even back in the early 70's. The main influences on Barclay James Harvest were probably the three bands I mentioned at the start - The Beatles, The Moody Blues and Procol Harum. And these bands had already pioneered the use of the Mellotron and the use of symphony orchestras in a rock setting.

But Barclay James Harvest also had a Folk influence that the proto-proggers did not. On this album, the opening track Taking Some Time On is based on a folky melody played on electric guitar. Perhaps making this song the first hard rock/Folk crossover ever? This is actually one of my favourite Barclay James Harvest songs.

Mother Dear and The Iron Maiden are very mellow, soft, acoustic songs, while When The World Was Woken (another semi-favourite) and Dark Now My Sky are symphonic rock, the former featuring the typical 60's orchestral sound of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Good Love Child is the worst song on the album and the only song on which it sounds as if they were really still stuck in the 60's.

Overall, this is a good early Prog album and a very good example of what Barclay James Harvest were all about in their early days. While their second album, Once Again, is slightly better in some respects, this album might be the best one in other respects. If this band ever could claim to be an important band, it must be with this first album that they were able to make some kind of impact on the progressive world.

Good, but non-essential.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I must say that due to the musical description on some reviews and a few songs that I heard, always refused to get an album by "The Poor Man's Moody Blues" (This started as a self inflicted joke six years later to the release of the debut, but at this point sounds very precise) better known as BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, but some months ago I got five different ones and sadly there were few surprises (At least in this album).

It's not that they were bad, but there's a fine line that divides decent albums from real masterpieces, at this point of time, the guys from BJH hardly dared to cross it, IMO they didn't even decided what path to take, playing in the border that divides HERMAN'S HERMITS from THE MOODY BLUES, they were some kind of hybrid trapped in time between the British Invasion and early Psychedelia, with some good explorative moments and strong melodies but a lot of boring and extremely simple ballads.

It's hard to believe that they signed with EMI almost simultaneously with PINK FLOYD, while the Floyds were born for greatness; BJH had to improve a lot before being a good band with limited audiences and moderate success due to their lack of originality in most cases and just bad luck in others.

The album starts with "Talking Some Time On" is a simple mainstream track with some Celtic influences but a very common structure for the time, a basic chorus and a simple verse with good arrangements, but nothing innovative, lets remember that for this moment in history the Prog Pioneers were miles ahead of them, not bad but not good either.

"Mother Dear" is a strange ballad with a bit of Gospel sound at certain moments, nothing a couple of nice melodic moments but simply leaves me cold, I can't understand why they are so highly considered being that their music has nothing adventurous or radical, pretty boring.

"The Sun Will Never Shine" starts soft and calmed more or less in the vein of the previous track, but something can be said, some timid changes can be heard, but they don't take risks, they go step by step, only for some short instants they let themselves go and try something interesting, but they keep coming back to the basic tune, reminds me a bit of the British Invasion, but of course several years later.

"When the World was Woken" starts with a short and soft organ intro, but again they fall into the predictable sound with some hints of PROCOL HARUM without the inventive. An orchestral instrumental break creates some expectation but they give a step back to their comfort zone. Must say that strangely the vocals (normally one of their highest points), sound a bit out of key. Again the influence of PROCOL HARUM can be listened but it makes their limitations much more obvious being that BJH is not remotely in the level.

"Good Love Child" is a return to the mid 60's, somehow sound like THE BEATLES meet DONOVAN, not even the repetitive but nice organ and a very decent guitar section can save this song, probably this band would had been a success 6 or 7 years before their time.

"The Iron Maiden" begins with a Medieval touch, but they are not able to keep the atmosphere, the sound is so simple and eclectic that the listener can't guess what do they pretend, and this is very sad, because it's more than obvious that this guys are very competent musicians, but the problem is in the lack of ideas, not in the performance.

The album ends with the epic "Dark Now My Sky" where they seem to take more risks in search of a unique sound, and they accomplish something (at last) a very dramatic piano section is probably the highest point in the album, please, it's obvious this guys were able to do great music if they wanted, but seems they never took risks, why did they waited until the last song to prove us they are capable of more?

Some radical changes (believe it or not, they dared to make them) from soft melodic vocal passages to strong melancholic Neo Classical instrumental sections, gives some hopes for their next album.

If it wasn't for "Dark Now My Sky", I would had given this album no ore than one star, but after this very good rack, they deserve at least 2.5 stars, it's a pity we don't have that feature, so I will stay with 2 stars, being hat I have rated much more solid albums with 3 stars.

Thanks heavens some of their later albums are much better.

Review by Sean Trane
1 stars First album from one of the most enduring prog bands around and certainly most achievably so, after completing one of the weakest discography ever (I almost feel like not adding IMHO). Actually this band really survives for its status in Germany, living mostly on headlining status that large market (as does Manfred Mann's Earth Band), which is crazy enough to support not one, but two versions of Barclay Lames Hardest. One of the things I will respect most is that their line-up will remain constant, even if the "fresh air" or "new blood" factors were never of application.

With such a bunch of bad tracks such as Taking Some Time, World Was Woken (not that bad, but clearly a lifted track from Procol), Mother Dear, Sun Will Never Shines (not likely to, with such an awful track), Good Love Child, their self-titled debut album is a fairly poor affair. Even their 12-mins epic Dark Now My Sky (starting ever so catastrophically on a cheesy narration), the only real prog moment of the album) is a mix of would-be grandiose Procol drama, often drowned in some cheesy Moody string arrangements, but it's clearly the only track worth remembering. It appears that the guitarist John Lees-written tracks are often the least weakest ones (the epic is his), while keyboardist Wolstenholme's songs seems slightly worse but it's not that flagrant.

What's hard to understand is how this band can be so bad when it was influenced by The Moody Blues and Procol Harum and I'd rather think of this album as "approximate rock" than progressive rock. They've accused themselves to be poor man's Moody Blues, but I'd rather think of them as tramp's Procol Harum after their poor first showing, which comes some three years after the wave it is trying to ride on.

Review by seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars In 1970 BJH's best years still lay ahead of them with a string of classic albums for Polydor in the mid '70s. On this their eponymously titled debut album, John Lees has still to find his singing voice and Woolly Wolstenholme appears to be the main driving force behind the group's overall sound. Les Holroyd and Woolly share the lead vocals, while John's signature guitar can only be heard intermittently. Woolly's Mellotron only makes an appearance on a couple of tracks, with most orchestral parts being provided by the real thing. Much of that orchestration seems out of place and the general sound is a bit naive and dated.

Taking Some Time On is a standard guitar-based rocker; nothing more, nothing less. Mother Dear is a fairly pleasant acoustic ballad with orchestral string backing. I remember feeling embarassed listening to this song as a teenager in the early '70s, because Woolly was singing to his mother (of course the song is actually about ghostly apparitions). Mellotron finally appears on The Sun Will Never Shine, as well as fuzz guitar playing one of those gloriously plaintive riffs that John Lees excelled at. This melody is backed by swirling organ second time around... very nice, this is more like it! Things take a turn for the worse with the next track however. When The World Was Woken contains some nice alliteration in its title but musically it is dull and goes on too long. Other reviewers have already mentioned the similarity to Procol Harum, but I can also hear Thank You from Led Zeppelin II in the melody. The dissonant horns are dreadful and the orchestration in general sounds like a pastiche of A Day In The Life from Sgt Pepper!

Next up is Good Love Child, a basic Beatles rock'n'roller. The organ timbre and general vibe of this song also remind me of I'm Waiting For My Man by Velvet Underground. Seriously! The Iron Maiden is a folk inflected ballad with a pleasant melodic bass line and Mellotron. The epic Dark Now My Sky closes the album in dramatic fashion with some terrific riffing, but as for the orchestral parts and the spoken intro... oh dear.

BJH have always been one of my favourite bands and I feel as if I've slaughtered this album; sorry, but I just don't think it's particularly good. However, although it wasn't the most auspicious of starts for them the seeds had clearly been sewn for the greatness that would eventually follow. In my opinion this one is for fans only.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Last year I became a big fan of Barclay James Harvest. Originally introduced to their sound after one of my friends loaned me his copy of Once Again and it's safe to say that I was hooked to their strong melodies and the wonderful 70's mellotron sound. I bought almost all of their albums from the debut to Octoberon at once and later followed up by purchasing the remainder of their 70's catalog.

I definitely enjoy the debut album but while listening to it I always get the feeling that it could have been slightly better. It's true that Barclay James Harvest have never been a truly original band and this album is a good example of that since it borrows a great deal of its sound from the great 60's bands like The Beatles and Procol Harum to name a few. But I never really had a problem with that because this band never were clones of any particular style and their own compositions often resulted in great songwriting that even surpassed their sources of inspiration.

What I really lack on this debut is the bold statement that would put the band on the map. It's almost as if the members were uncertain of their writing so they wrote a bunch of different composition samples and crammed them all on one album. There is just no consistency here! I also think that the epic Dark Now My Sky would have worked better without the two minutes long intro that I always have to skip through to get to the good stuff. On the other hand The Sun Will Never Shine is just a marvelous tune that reminiscent of Moody Blues.

This album is a perfect example of a good album that still is non-essential to most fans of progressive rock.

***** star songs: The Sun Will Never Shine (5:04)

**** star songs: Mother Dear (3:13) When The World Was Woken (5:44) The Iron Maiden (2:39) Dark Now My Sky (11:54)

*** star songs: Taking Some Time On (5:27) Good Love Child (5:05)

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars The first Barclay James Harvest album is quite a hodgepodge of sounds covering all kinds of ground from poppy rock to acoustic folk to orchestral arrangements, all within just seven tracks covering less than forty minutes. Nearly a third of the album is consumed by the closing "Dark Now My Sky", which is likely the one track that most earned them a 'progressive' label early on.

Considering the band had nearly three years to gel and to collect material one could argue the band should have delivered something more ambitious, although to be fair all the songs here are more than decent and the production is solid, especially when compared to a lot of other music being released around the same period. Other than the pedestrian rocker "Good Love Child" every song here is imbued with tasteful orchestral accompaniment, mellotron, or both, and I for one think bassist Les Holroyd's vocals are a good fit for the band's music despite the criticism he's taken over the years for a perceived lack of range or distinctive character.

And speaking of the orchestral arrangements, the young Robert John Godfrey does a masterful job of conducting; giving fans a taste of the grandiose flair he would bring to his own band the Enid just a few short years later. Honestly I can't tell whether the subtle backing strings on "Mother Dear" are from the orchestra or mellotron, but I'm pretty sure they are real and add a depth to that ballad which lifts it from being just a folksy acoustic number and onto a higher plane. This is a distinctively different sound from the opening rocker "Taking Some Time On" and one that would show fans these guys were capable of more than just catchy guitar riffs and lively percussion.

"The Sun Will Never Shine" is also a sweeping number but one the band accomplishes more with electric guitar, drums and mellotron than with any orchestral gimmickry; while "When The World Was Woken" is a little of both with the orchestra favoring brass just a bit over the strings and the band throwing in some very Procol Harum-sounding organ for added effect. This is a very spacious song, and one that is undeniably British.

The two oddest songs on the album are also the two that are likely of most interest to progressive music fans. First, the brief and moody "The Iron Maiden" tells the tale of a homely and outcast young lass with delicate keyboards, ethereal strings and slightly tinny guitar picking. This one doesn't stand the test of time particularly well, but for 1970 it was distinctive enough to differentiate the band from most of their peers. The second, the closing mini-epic "Dark Now My Sky" is on the other hand quite prototypical of symphonic rock of that era with a broad orchestral passage that follows a rather satirical opening poetry reading and alternating transitions that move from the vocal sublime pierced by a couple of charged crescendos, all of which winds to a close amid rolling percussion, stilted horns and steady strings for a track that would certainly not have been out of place on dozens of symphonic rock band's albums anywhere from around 1969 through 1974. With this closer the band removes any doubt they merit at least a mention whenever prominent early seventies progressive bands are discussed.

I never much took to anything this band released after about 1975, and certainly this isn't by any stretch my favorite BJH album either. But for a debut it is quite solid and definitely something that should be listened to at some point by any progressive rock fan, and certainly by any fan of Barclay James Harvest. Easily three out of five stars anyway, and well recommended to just about all prog rockers.


Review by kev rowland
2 stars In 1966 John Lees, Woolly Wolstenholme, Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard first came together with two others as The Blues Keepers. A year later the others had left and a new name chosen by pulling names out of a hat. They embraced the sound of the Mellotron, and soon also gained the assistance of one Robert John Godfrey who wanted to bring together a rock group with an orchestra. Although the friendship did later end up in the courts, RJG did pull together musicians then toured with the band as The Barclay James Harvest Symphony Orchestra. The debut self-titled album was released in 1970, and showed a band who, to my ears, were still trying to find their own sound. There are songs that are rooted in the Sixties, while at others it sounds like The Moody Blues trying to sound like BJH!! There are songs that show some of the influence of BJH as he brings in dissonance while John's distinctive guitar sound is already starting to make an appearance. Originally there were seven songs on the album, but this has been expanded to 20, 7 of which are previously unavailable, and they are taken from singles and sessions of the period.

Originally appeared in Feedback #70, Oct 02

Review by VianaProghead
3 stars Review Nş 617

"Barclay James Harvest" is the debut studio album of Barclay James Harvest that was released in 1970. Barclay James Harvest is an English prog rock band with influences of symphonic rock music. The band was founded in Saddleworth, nearby Oldham, Lancashire, in 1966, by John Lees, Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme, Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard. The band was one of the pioneers of the prog rock movement and became as one of the best and most known prog rock bands in the 70's, having released ten studio works in that decade. They were able to create some of the best melodic prog rock music at the time and they were one of the first bands to use an orchestra on their musical compositions.

Their self-titled debut studio album seemed although to be more in the vein of late 60's psychedelic rock with a few progressive tendencies. The two main song writers of the band were John Lees and Les Holroyd, and they would usually sing on their own songs. The keyboardist Stewart "Wooly" Wolstenholme contributed with lots of grandiose and symphonic keyboard arrangements consisting of Mellotron, organ and synths, giving the prog touch to their music.

The line up on "Barclay James Harvest" is John Lees (vocals, guitars and recorder), Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme (vocals, keyboards, Mellotron, guitar and harmonica), Les Holroyd (vocals, bass guitar, guitar and cello) and Mel Pritchard (drums and percussion).

"Barclay James Harvest" has seven tracks. The first track "Taking Some Time On" written by John Lees is a based guitar rock song very simple and with a very common musical structure so usual in those times. It's a classic song with good musical arrangements, nothing innovative and that sounds to the 60's. However, it's a nice and pleasant song to hear, but far away from their future progressive music. The second track "Mother Dear" written by John Lees is a very pretty song that reminds me the sound of The Beatles. It's another very pleasant and beautiful song to hear that features a nice strings arrangement. This is another song that sounds to the 60's but it doesn't matter because it's incredibly beautiful and we mustn't forget that at this moment we are only in the rising of the progressive rock music. The third track "The Sun Will Never Shine" written by Woolly Wolstenholme is another good song with great harmony vocals made by a beautiful choral work. It's another simple and classic song very well constructed but built always in the same musical line, without running great risks of change, and where we only can feel some timid changes. We only can feel it for very brief instants. The fourth track "When The World Was Woken" written by Les Holroyd represents one of the best musical moments on this album. We can say that this is the first song where we can clearly see some real progressive signs on the album. It's a great track where the orchestra plays the big part on it and we can feel some influences from the music of Procol Harum and The Moody Blues. This track represents one of the best and finest musical moments on this album. The fifth track "Good Love Child" written by John Lees is a psychedelic classic hard rock song, very repetitive and without too little variations and based on a guitar riff. Again, this is a song that reminds me strongly The Beatles and represents a return to the music of the 60's. Despite being a good and nice song to hear, I sincerely think that it represents a low point on the album. The sixth track "The Iron Maiden" written by Woolly Wolstenholme is a song that begins with a Medieval and peaceful pastoral feel. It's a very short, simple and beautiful song, with nice harmony and beautiful chorus. This is, in reality, a quiet and celestial ballad that represents, in my humble opinion, one of the two highlights on this album. The seventh track "Dark Now My Sky" written by John Lees is the lengthiest song on the album. It's a mini-epic, the first composed by them, and represents the only progressive song on the album. This song represents the highlight of the album and delivers a bombastic orchestral work beautiful guitar work, nice vocals, and great piano and church organ. It's really a great song of the band and represents the first great musical moment performed by Barclay James Harvest. This is the best close this debut studio album could have.

Conclusion: Of all studio albums released by Barclay James Harvest in the 70's, their four previous studio albums, the albums released to Harvest Records, were the last to be bought and known by me. In relation to "Barclay James Harvest" I must say that I was very pleased with it. "Barclay James Harvest" is a good debut album, very cohesive and balanced that shows the talent in the composition of this great band and it's also a promise of plenty of more to come. It's true that "Barclay James Harvest" sounds too much to the music of the 60's really, but we can't forget that the progressive music just was born in that time. My version of "Barclay James Harvest" is the re-mastered version and so, it has thirteen bonus tracks. As usual, I don't review bonus tracks. Although, I must say that they're all good and an excellent addition to the album, especially for those who liked the sound of the good music made in the end of the 60's.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

4 stars Barclay James Harvest had very good albuns through all the seventies, but I would say it is the best example of progressive rock. They have some prog tracks here and there, but most of the time it is the exception, not the norm. The first album might be the most interesting from a prog point of ... (read more)

Report this review (#2589434) | Posted by mickcoxinha | Thursday, August 26, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I agree with the Progrewier LOSERBOY when he say in his review #22596 (Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004) Barclay James Harvest first album is mainly inspired by The Beatles ,The Moody Blues and Procol Harum... . This is easily perceived in all tracks of this first album, as for instance "Ta ... (read more)

Report this review (#1679601) | Posted by maryes | Friday, January 13, 2017 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "Which one of you is Barclay ?" My first ever meeting with this band after buying ten of their albums last year. The albums then went into cold storage. I have always had problems with really understanding where this band fits into the scene. After listening to this album, I guess art-rock ... (read more)

Report this review (#566097) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Friday, November 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I got to learn this band through their superb 1974 album ´Everyone is everybody else´ and worked my way through their back catalogue since then. Which meant that I listened to their debut for the first time somewhere in the late seventies. It sounded great but also somewhat outdated. And it stil ... (read more)

Report this review (#158665) | Posted by Theo Verstrael | Tuesday, January 15, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Whilst perhaps not as successful as Once Again and Other Short Stories (their second and third albums) this first album of Barclay James Harvest still sounds good today, nearly forty years after its release. The trademark BJH sound, the beautiful understated melodies, is there in some superb s ... (read more)

Report this review (#156457) | Posted by alextorres2 | Monday, December 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An alternative to Heavy Metal ? I just wanted to open this review with this question, not only because of a song named "The Iron Maiden" featured on BJH's debut-album... Why ? There's several ways to deal with the yearnings, disappointments and demands of adolescence, but best you can do is ... (read more)

Report this review (#69854) | Posted by rupert | Saturday, February 18, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Debut album announced in 1970 "Barclay James Harvest". It is a content to which the variety was abundant. There are not the entire so many impacts of the album. The stained glass that makes the butterfly a motif is being treated by the album jacket.It is a content of the album that feels the p ... (read more)

Report this review (#44850) | Posted by braindamage | Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars There are three Barclay James Harvest: first in Harvest label; second in Polydor label and the last when Wooly (and the mellotrons) left the band in 1978. This album is the first LP but the band was recorded two singles in 1968 and 1969. This album commenced at Abbey Road Studios in 1969 but s ... (read more)

Report this review (#22597) | Posted by | Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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