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Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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Barclay James  Harvest Octoberon album cover
3.79 | 282 ratings | 31 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The World Goes On (6:27)
2. May Day (7:57)
3. Ra (7:18)
4. Rock'N'Roll Star (5:17)
5. Polk Street Rag (5:37)
6. Believe In Me (4:21)
7. Suicide? (7:56)

Total Time: 44:53

Bonus tracks on Polydor remaster (2003):
8. Rock 'n' Roll Star (Early Mix) (4:53)
9. Polk Street Rag (First Mix) (5:30)
10. Ra (First Mix) (7:20)
11. Rock 'n' Roll Star (3:15) *
12. Suicide? (First Mix) (7:53)

Total time 73:44

* Recorded At Marquee Studios - Playback version for "Top Of The Pops"

Line-up / Musicians

- John Lees / lead & backing vocals,acoustic & electric guitars
- Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme / vocals, keyboards
- Les Holroyd / lead & backing vocals, bass, acoustic guitar
- Mel Pritchard / drums, percussion

- The Capriol Singers / choir (2)
- Gerald Brown / choir director
- Ritchie Close / choir and strings (1) arranger & conductor

Releases information

LP Polydor 2442 144 (1976, UK)
LP Polydor SPELP 13 (1983, UK)

CD Polydor 821 930-2 (1984, Germany)
CD Polydor/Universal 065 399-2 (2003, UK) Remastered by Paschal Byrne

ArtWork: Brunnings

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Octoberon ratings distribution

(282 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Marcelo
4 stars Maybe the most symphonic album of BJH. The song "May Day" is a progressive gem, and just to listen it (specially the chorus at the end) the purchase of the cd is a treat. But not only "May Day" is a superb piece: the melancholic "The World Goes On", the strange "Ra" and the emotive "Suicide" are really high points. The rest is more in another BJH vein, a blend of mellow rock and folk. Overall, a very good album.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Let me move my car

BJH reverted to their more powerful and indeed progressive style with this album, with side one (of the LP) consisting of just 3 longer tracks.

"May day" includes a complex choral pastiche of various traditional British anthems, while "The world goes on" is more orthodox BJH, complete with full orchestration. Woolly Wolstenholme's "Ra" is a not unlike his "Beyond the grave" from "Time Honoured Ghosts" but builds from a quiet start to a thunderous ending.

The second side of album includes the highly commercial "Rock'n'roll" star, although interestingly the single release of this track was taken from the "Live tapes" album. The live version is indeed superior, but the album track is nonetheless an excellent piece of up tempo pop rock.

The final standout track is "Suicide", a chillingly real description of someone committing the act by jumping from a tall building. The track is complete with ironic observations such as the guy who wants to move his car out of the way, and the club charging a life subscription for the brief use of their premises. The music has a suitably maudlin sound, building menacingly to the final act. The track closes with the whole event played out in real time through sound effects. This must have seemed like a good idea at the time!

All in all, an excellent album, diverse but coherent.

Review by loserboy
4 stars With their classic line-up, BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST's "Octoberon" is a classic and represents in my opinion of their greatest pieces of work. Soft and yet expressively progressive throughout, "Octoberon" will please your ears with some highly skilled song writing and strong musicianship. Octoberon is abundant in memorable songs written by Les Holroyd , John Lees and John Wolstenholme who each bring a slightly different emotion into each song. Standout track for me is "Ra" which seems to push all the right buttons, bringing forward highly progressive elements and actually carrying a slight CAMEL feel with it. Overall "Octoberon" is a great album and one which I would certainly encourage all music lovers to ask for as a Christmas stocking stuffer
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Octoberon" is IMO the most sophisticated album of BJH. It is among their best ones too. Very rock and folk, it is also slightly progressive. The keyboards can be symphonic and floating. The lead vocals are mellow, reminding a bit David Gilmour's voice on the smooth FLOYD songs.

Some parts are mellow, folk and sad ("Ra", "Suicide", "The World Goes On"), while others are more rock and rythmic ("Polk Street Rag", "Rock'n Roll Star"). "Suicide" is particularly good, very floating and rythmic too: what do you thing happens at the end of the song?

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars For me this album is fantastic, a summa of Barclay James Harvest kind of music. It opens with a classic with an optimistic note from the pen of Les Holroyd titled "The World Goes On". This is the first use of the orchestra from Moonwater (1972). Other two Holroyd's' contributions are Believe In Me and Rock'n'Roll Star which is a beautiful live classic for the band, with an obvious reference to the Byrds "So You Wanna Be A Rock'n'Roll Star". It was also compared to the Eagles "One Of These Nights". John Lees' pieces are all very good, expecially the explosive Polk Street Rag, inspired by the porno film Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace (Polk Street is in San Francisco's red light district). The final song Suicide? is simply one of the best songs for John Lees. This beautiful ballad, in predominant acoustic guitar, ends with sounds effect of the death of the character of the songs, falling from the top of a building. The question, marked in the titled, underline the central point: did he jump or was he pushed?. Stuart "Wooly" Wolsteholme composition is the epic of ancient Egypt "Ra" wich demonstrates the high synphonic ideas of this great composer.

Octoberon (only n.19 in the U.K. charts) is a title that combine the fact that is the eight album for Barclay james Harvest and the shakespearen character Oberon.

I highly recommend this pearl to all the people who love melodic/synphonic/prog.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Of all BJH albums, "Octoberon" is my favorite ones. By now the band had already made their statement and signature quite clear in the world of art rock, so everything you hear in this album will stay deeply related to previous and later albums during the BJH's golden era. 'The World Goes On' is a beautiful, introspective ballad that shows Holroyd's taste for soft melodic lines and a simplistic use of melancholic moods: the orchestral arrangements stay well arrayed in the background so they don't dominate the song's general ambience. 'May Day' is the first Lees-penned song here, a bit more uplifting than its predecessor in spirit, although with an identical tempo. The organ chords appear subtly featured during the choruses, which provides a feel of constrained strength. The same goes for the brief synth-and-guitar interlude, although I must add that it perhaps should have been more developed before the following sung section, since it suggests the emergence of a middle climax that eventually stays way behind, like a fantasy unremembered. The final choral section, on the other hand, is amazing and majestic. 'Ra' is arguably the most accomplished Wostenholme composition ever. Its opening motif, later reprised in the coda, shows a perfect dialogue between the synth and the orchestra while the remaining band players keep a tight dynamics for the track. In between, a slow sung section that bears some sort of resemblance to the introspective side of vintage Pink Floyd - Lee's slide guitar effects sure help to create this impression. This is one of the absolute highlights of BJH's entire career, and definitely, an undisputed peak for this particular album. The second half of the album is less impressive, but it also has valuable musical merits within the BJH standards. 'Rock'n'Roll Star' is a mid-tempo rocker, one of many written by Holroyd. Nice and clean, with pretty string synthesizer layers in the background and a Clapton- like solo sharply done by Lees. 'Polk Street Rag' sounds like a pop-rock version of classic The Who, neatly adorned by occasional synthesizer orchestrations and a very good guitar lead that makes its way playfully onto the fade-out. 'Believe in Me' is a country- rock number that includes elegant vocal harmonies: it starts mid-tempo and later on, slows down. 'Suicide?' is an emotionally charged Lees song that sets yet another example of BJH's sense of moderate bombast: it is this very sense that helps the band to develop a potential average ballad into a solid power ballad. The explicit finale gives a cinematographic closure to the album. "Octoberon" is a very interesting item that should be highly appreciated by lovers of plain melodic art rock.
Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Octoberon is BJH's last contender for the accolade of Prog masterpiece but neither is it flawless nor wall-to-wall Prog. Not a Prog masterpiece then, but nevertheless a classic in other repects, one of the best in a long career. While containing similarities to its predecessor, this self-produced album has much greater depth. Songs are given space to breathe and allowed to develop organically to a natural conclusion, though a little self-restraint may have been beneficial to a couple.

As always it contains some simpler songs, yet Octoberon is a welcome return to earlier values for a band which once was able to construct such mini-epics as Mocking Bird and She Said. Woolly's Ra stands head-and-shoulders above all else in this respect, a towering giant of a song that could just be the best he has ever written! Opening with an introductory theme that builds to an early crescendo, it soon settles into an eerie atmospheric piece with lovely tones of Hammond and spacey guitar effects, briefly interrupted by a short mid-song solo from John. The coda launches into a reprise of the opening theme, building to a stunning climactic finale.

The other obvious talking point is John's infamous Suicide?, basically a story-board song asking "did he jump, or was he pushed?" though I am not what sentiment he was trying to convey. It is a slow sprawling ballad, developing from a sparsely arranged first verse to a dramatic full-band final verse, interspersed with soaring guitar interludes. The long coda has an almost ambient rendition of the melody as a backdrop to a re-enactment of the song's story [by Woolly - except for the last bit!].

May Day, another lengthy song from John with lyrics that can be read on a politcal or personal level, has several twists before entering a strange coda where a 'choir' sings excerpts of six songs simultaneously. Interesting idea but it needed a good pruning. The remaining songs are all very high quality examples of the simpler songs that have always been a part of BJH's make-up, accompanied by inventive and busy arrangements, awash with myriad small details that lift them way above the ordinary. My favourite is John's Polk St Rag, an energetic rocker blessed with x-rated lyrics, though it really needs a harder production to emphasize the song's power, but the crowd's favourite would be Rock N Roll star, an above average pop-rocker from Les.

Octoberon is all about camaraderie backed by solid musicianship, a band at the peak of its creativity, its members pulling in [more or less] the same direction, its songs all contributing to a cohesive identity. It is music that touches the heart as much as the head, a journey of warmth and emotion, of sheer pleasure and, ultimately, peace. Anywhere else it would be a masterpiece .....

Review by Tom Ozric
3 stars Barclay James Harvest, sometimes referred to as a 'poor man's Moody Blues' thanks to their similar sounding (often) mellotron driven symphonic rock - BJH never attained the mass popularity as many of their contemporaries of the classic '70's period had garnered (who am I to say?....) but I have listened to many of their albums in detail, ( most of the 70's releases,) and I only hold onto my Octoberon LP (being a hot-headed vinyl junkie) copy mainly for the superb tracks 'Ra' and 'Rock & Roll Star', also the lovely embossed cover art is inspired. To me, those 2 tracks are worth the price of admission alone. Whilst technical virtuosity isn't this band's strong-point, the guys can occasionally compose a seriously 'knock-out' track. Opening with a rather pretty, orchestrated ballad, 'The World Goes On', (Alan Parsons does as good, if not better in this field), hopes of a truly adventurous listen may quickly diminish, courtesy of the rather syrupy arrangement, but things pick up a little when 'May Day' kicks in. Not a bad track by any means, just a little overdone - a lot of work has gone into it, particularly with the complex chorale during the end section. 'Ra' is a majestic prog epic ; superbly crafted and without the shallow pomposity (if that word is in the dictionary) that many epics can be - keyboardist Woolley Wolstenholm really shines here, and the rest of the band are no slouches either, really showing off their talent to the fullest - not complicated, but tasteful and correct. The softer parts of this track are on par with any 'head music' sections of the mighty Floyd, and the track also finishes in grand fashion. Woolley's Mellotron is noticeable almost throughout this track. Side 2 starts out with 'Rock and Roll Star', which has a little of 'The Eagles' flavour in it, with Woolley's Mellotron and synth work playing a large part in the rather 'floating' sound the track generates, particularly during the chorus. 'Polk Street Rag' is a rather standard rock song, 'Believe in Me' is a pleasant track, a little commercial perhaps, but highly melodic and enjoyable. 'Suicide' reminds me of the first track, and at 7min 56secs, outstays its welcome a tad, even if it has quite a majestic melody, I suppose it's the dark nature of the track. Not a bad album, but I'm not their biggest fan, either. 3.5 stars
Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars The symph pop prog "Time Honoured Ghosts" was a bit of a deception for me. I would have hoped that BJH would follow the mellotronish music developped in their fantastic "Live 74".

The opener "The World Goes On" reminds me more their early days than their first and great Polydor album ("Everyone"). A folk ballad, melodious but too mellowish. Just average. It seems that their "love" for orchestration stroke back on this number. I had hoped to get rid of this for all and for good. But I was apparently wrong.

Fortunately, we'll get a good follower with "May Day". One of my favourite when I bought this vinyl album at the time of release. Compositions are longer on this album, which is good when the track is great and boring when it is not. But "May Day" even if not a great track, is far from being boring.

Whoolly is doing a great job here. Then the long finale. A sort of Christian choir chanting traditional music. If I do not usually like these religious moods (remember my comments about "Sweet Jesus" in their previous release), I feel just shaked when I listen to this part. A full symphony. Marvelous in its emotion and brilliant it the interpretation. A highlight, and believe me I usually am not so found of these sounds but I am just knocked down after this section.

But it is time to get up and be prepared for "Ra", the god of sun in the Egyptian mythology. Actually, you can feel the sun while listening to this track. Heavy, burning everything standing in front of him (the sun, I mean). I have been to Egypt once in July and I can tell you that this slow, monotone song describes pretty well one's feeling while being in the desert around noon. You are glued to the ground and each of your movement is a serious effort. Only easier when it cools a bit in the late afternoon; as the song which will be rockier as the time goes by. A very special mood indeed. I have always liked "Ra". A great closing number for this first side of the original album.

"Rock'n Roll Star" renew with a more rocking sound, mixed with a very catchy melody. But BJH has been a master in writing nice songs. Not always essential, but just beautiful. I guess no one could blame a band because of writing beautiful pieces of music. Not the best track of the album, but a very pleasant poppy one. Fully symphonic. I guess that to have placed BJH in the art rock genre is not the most brilliant idea. They have invented the true symphonic rock and that's the only place in which they should fit in.

With "Polk Street Rag" BJH is trying to write a pure rock song with an attempt of a Stones riff. That's probably not their best idea on this work. We could of course not escape to the Fab Four influence on this album, so don't worry : "Believe In Me" will probably remind them to you (at least it does to me). Melodic vocal parts (so much Crosby, Stills and Nash oriented - you know Judy Blue Eyes) and a very nice mellotron in the background.

The closing number "Suicide ?" has always been my favourite of this album (and still is more than thirty years later - for once getting old brings you this type of privilege). One of my top five favourite from BJH all time. It is a marvelous song. One of the most poignant I have ever heard (hence the title). An incredible descritption of a person who will commit suicide. Absolutely sad. The backing vocals are just superb. I have physically cried a lot of time while listening to this song. The end is extremely emotional; while the main character takes the elevator and jumps (?). The sound of the falling at the very end of the song is so vibrant and desperate that the listener is transported into the utmost sadness when hearing "Just In Time".

I thought to finish my night session with this track but I really cannot go to bed after this (it is 2 AM by now). You definitley need something optimistic to change your mood, otherwise you might take the elevator and jump.

For stars.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

OCTOBERON is widely considered as one of the best BJH releases by BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, but i guess i will be in the minority on this one. I bought the LP back then with big expectations and never really cared for it. 30 years later, i bought the re- mastered CD version and had hoped for the light to finally appear, but sadly to no success.

EVERYONE IS EVERYBODY ELSE and TIME HONOURED GHOSTS had some kind of musical unity driving the whole albums in the same direction even if some songs could be Beatles-esque and others had a west coast flavor. With OCTOBERON, you run from insipid ballads to grandiose prog arrangements to pseudo hard-rock tune , not forgetting a big attempt at a commercial single; You can find music for every taste on this LP.

The problems lies on the shoulder of the 2 main song writers showing the first signs of their respective Achille's heals that will sometimes alter the quality of their future recordings. LES HOLROYD is well known for writing beautiful haunting ballads like NEGATIVE EARTH or JONATHAN, but he also will be remembered coming out with non-descript dull songs. Not that they are bad, no it's just empty, build out of nothing. The perfect example here is the opener WHEN THE WORLD GOES ON, a ballad with absolutely NO melody. Just stop the song on your system and try to sing or whistle something after that! Unpossible!!! A song build out of emptyness coated by a TON of syrup!! Yes, the orchestra is back on this one, i guess the financial debts of the band have been paid at this time. Oh god! how ovewhelming are those orchestra arrangements can be!! And you would think 3 or 4 minutes of this agonizing syrupy track would be enough?? Mind you, you are treated for a 6'27'' torture.

LES HOLROYD is not the only culprit here, JOHN LEES also has his own Achille's heal. He thinks that occasionally, he can compose some good hard-rock tunes. I love JOHN LEES for all what he has done with this band, hie epics. his great symphonic ballads, his lyrics and of course his great voice but when he decides to look for a good strong guitar riff , i prefer run the other way. Thanks god, he hasn't tried to follow that direction many times but you will find a few turkeys this kind throughout the career of the band.

The disaster here is POLK STREET RAG , a song that definitely doesn't fit the artistic personality of the author. Those poor guitar riffs don't sound natural at all, it's like JOHN LEES is forcing himself to produce something catchy, but it just doesn't work.

ROCK N ROLL STAR would be issued as a single, but not this version as Polydor will use a live rendition of this track which would sound more energetic and more upbeat . Not a bad song, this is well sung by HOLROYD with a lot of Californian influences once again,just a kind of song BJH will produce a lot in the future always pleasant , if not mind blowing!

WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME has been allowed one song, the superb RA, the most proggish moment of the album as it it sounds as a return to the grandiose sound of the old Harvest times. 7 mns of sheer happiness with a great melody, a wonderful symphonic athmosphere. one of the highlight of OCTOBERON !

The 2 other highlights are the 2 other JOHN LEES tracks very different from each other. MAY DAY is another very prog mini- symphony with a magnificent , yes pompous intro, but so good. John Lees comes up with another great melody sung with force and conviction, yet still melodic sliced by surprising strong guitar breaks followed by a more surprising appearnce of a whole choir to end the song. Oh ! such a picture perfect of good old quaint England!

The other beauty of OCTOBERON is the closer SUICIDE which as the title indicates is not a funny song, but a slow- tempo haunting melody, one of the best JOHN LEES would come up during his career. IT has a sad athmosphere, a very poignant song, John' voice delivers with his heart out! Sad ending as well when the music stops, the record don't! you are '' treated'' to the sounds of the last moments of the life of the poor man before he decided to ''jump'' for good.

So to keep it short, half of the album is very good keeping up with the high standarts set by the 2 precedent albums, but a few mishaps mostly by HOLROYD and a big one from LEES make OCTOBERON just an average record going in to many different directions.


Review by kenethlevine
5 stars Combining the extended and more symphonic format of "Once Again" with the consistency and accessibility of "Everyone is Everybody Else", BJH produced what was arguably their best album in the mystical "Octoberon". It was also their best produced album up to that time, with the cleanest sound in which all instruments and vocals can be discerned as part of a concerted whole. It is hard to mount more than a minor criticism of any aspect of this brilliantly constructed and emotional album. My review is based on the original LP.

From the opening notes of "The World Goes On", we sense a change in attitude. Lengthy and essentially simple, it is not boring at all, and stands as one of Holroyd's best efforts as both singer and songwriter. The orchestration returns like a mature old friend, adding an elegant touch without smothering the song, which had previously been a bit of an issue for the band. The next two tracks are the best on the album; "Mayday" is both lyrically and musically stunning, even without choral section that serves as its epilog. While the "song" part owes to John Lees in every respect, Woolly Wolstenholme is the genius behind the miraculous crescendo, in which segments of a number of well known traditional and classical songs are sung at the same time. Its ending leaves one breathless, and luckily "Ra" starts ignominiously. This is Woolly's track all the way - almost entirely instrumental, it uses synthesizers, bass, a minimalist lead guitar "chorus", and a nailbiting buildup to start and end the proceedings. "Ra" easily ranks as one of Woolly's best pieces.

"Rock'n Roll Star", like some earlier material, pays homage to the Byrds in title and inspiration, and also borrows liberally from the Eagles, but in the end sounds so much spacier than either of those bands could ever conceive. The mellotron sparkles around Holroyd's description of the ups and downs of the rock star life, and turns the experience into something far more philosophical and cosmic than drunken and drug riddled, although it is perhaps all of these. "Polk Street Rag" would be just a typical John Lees hard rock misstep on any other album but it actually fits in here, thanks to its gritty simplistic delivery. "Believe in Me" showcases the band's fine harmonies enhanced by Woolly's shimmering mellotron and a few well placed rhythm guitar riffs. It could be argued that BJH would be nothing without the tron but this song is impactful both before and after the mini orchestra kicks in. Finally, "Suicide?" describes the sad plight of a poor loser before he jumps, or is pushed, off the balcony of his club. If he is pushed, is it a real push or a symbolic one? After the heavenly melody fades out, we are subject to a re-enactment of the events in non-musical, non verbal form. It's a bit of a novelty that does not wear particularly well after a few listens, but the innovation in its presentation in a rock format is undeniable.

"Octoberon" set the stage for the major, if localized, commercial harvest that was to follow shortly thereafter, and remains the most consistently brilliant album in the BJH canon.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Where's Jesus?

Barclay James Harvest made something of a habit out of putting at least one real stinker on each album. This time it is Believe in Me, but Polk Street Rag is closely behind it. The rest, however, is pretty good this time around! The first three tracks might not seem very impressive on a first listen, but (like some older Barclay James Harvest songs) they have a tendency to grow on you. Rock 'n' Roll Star is similar in style to Child Of The Universe, and even if not quite as good as that song, it is still a decent song. Suicide? too is a good song.

The lyrics stand out this time as being the best I've heard from Barclay James Harvest - no songs here with 'Jesus' in the lyrics (like Sweet Jesus from the previous album and Hymn from the follow up); also no songs with references to other bands (like Titles from the previous album and Poor Man's Moody Blues from the follow up). But, of course, they just couldn't avoid writing another song about prostitutes, but you can't have everything can you?

From the lyrical point of view, May Day stands out as the best of all Barclay James Harvest songs in my opinion. I usually don't put a lot of focus on the lyrics in my reviews, but some of Barclay James Harvest's lyrics (on other albums) really put me off, they don't so much on this album.

Musically, Octoberon is more interesting than Time Honoured Ghosts or Gone To Earth. For example, they use an orchestra on one track, a choir on another. Certainly, one of the best from the Polydor years and one of my favourite from Barclay James Harvest overall.

Review by Kotro
3 stars Please for God's sake let me cover my ears

The reason for my reviewing hiatus was this sudden urge to get more Barclay James Harvest before moving on. Not wanting to order from the web, I searched the stores in search of some pre- Time Honoured Ghosts material. Couldn't find any. Therefore I settled for Octoberon, an album which turns out it's one of the bands most well regarded efforts. And I can't figure out why.

The album opens with The World Goes On, a track reminiscent of some of the mellower work on Time Honoured Ghosts, but which appears to have been given a Do They Know Its Christmas treatment 8 years before Bob Geldof even thought of that. Terribly dull vocals, cheesy orchestrations and a guitar that, no matter how hard it tries, just can't save this track. Yuck. May Day is a nice improvement over the first track, even though the Steve Harley-like vocals cause a bit of a bad impression at first. Great keyboard and guitar work in the chorus, providing a very uplifting atmosphere, something that was quite lacking on the first track. After the first section, we are interrupted by an awesome interlude of fiery guitar riffs and blasting keyboard bursts. The songs returns to the initial formula, a bit faster, and complemented with a fuzz guitar solo, before resuming cruise speed. Three minutes into the end, an operatic choir kicks in, this time with the correct orchestral arrangements. Verdi would be pleased. Percussion and a synth give it a bit of punch towards the end, but nothing to be upset about. Symphonic Rock bliss. Ra comes next, introduced by a spacey keyboard passage and. a Bonanza-style guitar lick? Okay. Gosh, this is great keyboard work. A spacey slide guitar complements the song as the soothing and quite adequate vocals enter the scene. Great harmonies. Slow build-up into the excellent instrumental chorus. This structure repeats itself one more time, this time with more emphasis on the guitar solo of the chorus. The track then ends in the same keyboard-driven atmosphere that opened it. So, Side One is up. A stinker opener and two awesome tracks. Side Two (or second half for the CD generation) is opened by Rock n'Roll Star, a funky piece of symphonic rock, slightly reminding me of In My Life from the previous album, mostly due to the guitar work. Absolutely stunning chorus, again featuring excellent vocal harmonies. Love the guitar solo.

This is where things get nasty once more. Polk Street Rag is a crappy excuse for a rocker (and I'm not even talking about the theme - once more, I couldn't give a rat's ass about the lyrical content of Prog albums). This is BJH clearly trying to chart in America with a piece that would probably be better treated in the hands of some Southern Rock band. The only high point is the guitar solo towards the end, an unusual case of technicality over substance. Believe in Me is just to wimpy for me to enjoy - and I DO like the mellower side of BJH. Occasional glimpses of musical brilliance, once again coming from the guitar, but the vocals are simply horrible. Oh well. A final track with a title like Suicide? usually has you jumping with anticipation - but after hearing what preceded it, I knew I has going to get the über-mellow treatment. From the first notes this song is a musical wrist-slasher. The concept is interesting enough, and the sound effects in the end summing up the whole song are really well done - but couldn't they do a better work musically? Sure it does convey a feeling of despair, and the arrangements are top notch - every instrument in the right place at the right time - but apart from the ending (after the elevator and before the fall), it is just too dreary and weepy and sobby. A pity.

Some of the incredible arrangements on this album might be of extreme interest to any prog-lover. But the album is simply too uneven, and the ending (the last three songs) is completely unrewarding. I would be tempted into stretching my rating up to four stars, but that's the rating I gave their previous album, and there is no way this album is as good as Time Honoured Ghosts in my book.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Felt the quick push, felt the air rush, felt the sidewalk, fell in line... Another great release by Barclay James Harvest! Although the effect and quality of the great Everyone Is Everybody Else was wearing off with each new album they still managed to get some great material for this particular release.

The album starts surprisingly on a soft note with the wonderful The World Goes On which is definitely my favorite Les Holroyd composition with Berlin in a close second spot. The material from here on doesn't disappoint with the slight exception of Polk Street Rag which I find somewhat forgettable. Octoberon closes on another highlight with Suicide? where John Lees demonstrates that he can do some great concept compositions with a lot of wit.

It's a real pity that so few have heard of this amazing band since I believe that their music would probably be enjoyed by more people if they only had the right promotion. The song Rock 'n Roll Star was actually a minor hit in UK and was featured on Top Of The Pops, but with a talent like that they should have gone much further.

Overall it's great to see Barclay James Harvest giving lengthier compositions another chance with many wonderful interludes and guitar solos especially since most of their future material will keep close to the 3-4 minute formula from here on.

***** star songs: The World Goes On (6:27) Rock 'n Roll Star (5:17) Suicide? (7:56)

**** star songs: May Day (7:57) Ra (7:18) Believe In Me (4:21)

*** star songs: Polk Street Rag (5:37)

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars This was my first taste of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, and while it has always been an enjoyable listen it's just too light and commercial sounding for my tastes. I'm not sure what they were thinking with the album cover either. There is some mellotron on 3 tracks but like the music it's not in my face enough.

"The World Goes On" opens with strummed guitar and reserved vocals as these orchestral sounds come in. Drums and a fuller sound before 2 minutes and these contrasts continue. "May Day" has a guitar melody throughout that I like. It settles when the vocals arrive but the tempo will continue to shift back and forth occasionally. Good song although I don't like the multi-vocals late.

"RA" begins and ends with orchestral-like sounds. Drums come in and build before it calms right down with organ, soft vocals and light drums. Some brief guitar after 3 1/2 minutes. "Rock N Roll Star" is mid-paced and catchy with vocals, drums and organ standing out. A tasteful guitar solo after 3 1/2 minutes. "Polk Street Rag" features some surprisingly raw guitar throughout. This one's also catchy. "Believe In Me" is another light tune and this one has backing vocals. Too poppy. "Suicide?" is led eventually by strummed guitar and laid back vocals. This is ballad-like until it gets fuller with orchestral sounds. Samples end it.

I have to agree with Tom Ozric here, this isn't a bad album. It's just not that great either.

Review by friso
3 stars Barclay James Harvest - Octoberon (1976)

Yet another outstanding sleeve..

I just reviewed Time Honoured Ghosts and it inspired me to listen to some more BJH. Follow-up Octoberon continues the road traveled on the preceding album. The band plays light symphonic rock with a sentimental approach to song-writing. Octoberon is less balanced, which is a good thing in this case! The production is however still very polished.

Opening track The World Goes On is a good rock song with an amazing symphonic land- scape. A gentle bombastic song. Some melodic electric guitar parts are very catchy.

Follow-up May Day is a song that amazes me. The main parts of the track can be seen as a real manifestation of song-writing and arranging talent. The opening parts are amazing with the fuzzy-guitars. The vocals are great and the atmosphere is hopeful with a twist. The real attraction of this song should have been the extremely bombastic middle section with an orchestra and a big choir, but something went terrible wrong here. The choirs is very false and some parts of the vocal departments are totally out of pitch. I want to like the amazing composition here, I want to enjoy the vision of the band, but I get a pain all over my body whilst listening to the horrible pitched male section of the choir. Such a pity! I'm very surprised no other reviewers wrote about this aspect of the album.

Ra is the third track of the album. Luckily the band now reaches what they aimed for; a bombastic symphonic rock masterpiece of a song. This is easily my favorite BJH track. The great keys in the opening section, the amazing couplet theme with it's extremely catchy vocals, the amazing guitars... everything is great about this song! Very atmospheric. Recommend for download for everybody who reads this review.

On side two we get some more symphonic rock songs. I'm not going to describe them since they are less impressive than most songs on side one.

Conclusion. This album shows BJH aiming for the highest possible, this is a very good symphonic rock record. The song-writing is often strong and the recording is good. I'm very fond of 'Ra', which is my favorite song of the band. Three stars. If only the choirs on May Day had been recorded properly...

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars This was supposed to have been the second consecutive album produced by American Elliot Mazer, best known as the longtime producer for Neil Young as well as Linda Ronstadt, Gordon Lightfoot and Janis Joplin among many others. But Mazer was busy putting together actor and pop-star David Soul's first record so after cutting a few backing vocals for that album the members of Barclay James Harvest trucked on back to England and ensconced themselves in Strawberry Studios for most of the spring and early summer of 1976 determined to produce the album themselves. Not surprisingly the tone of the music shifted dramatically from the heavily American country/folk-rock influenced 'Time Honoured Ghosts' and back to the sort of classically-tinged music the band cut their teeth on in the early days.

And for the first time since 1971's 'BJH and other Short Stories' the band employs an orchestra and arranger (in this case the late Ritchie Close) along with sound engineer David Rohl of Mandalaband. Both close and BJH would return the favor by participating in the Mandalaband revival project 'The Eye Of Wendor: Prophecies' several years later, along with former members of 10cc and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.

Like I said, this album is much more like the early BJH albums than the last two. Orchestral as well as choral arrangements abound throughout, and the songs are quite a bit longer than their more radio-friendly stuff of the mid-seventies. There are only seven tracks on the original vinyl release, despite this being one of the band's longer studio releases. The opening track "The World Goes On" finds the band in familiar sound territory with an arrangement that emphasized orchestral strings and Lees' distinctive electric guitar work in a song that could easily have fit on one of their earlier albums alongside the lush Robert John Godfrey-arranged orchestra pieces. "May Day" offers more of the same but also introduces extensive choral passages led by Close and including vocal contributions by both Rohl as well. The choral passages are renditions of several traditional folk standards layered over Lees' odd tale of a nameless soul seeking 'truth' amid a world of partisan zealots. It's a beautiful BJH piece that was perhaps overshadowed by another even more stunning work, the Woolly Wolstenholme-penned "Ra" which grabs the listener's attention by melding intricate orchestral work with Woolly's inimitable keyboard forays.

"Rock 'n' Roll Star" was reportedly inspired by the Byrds tune "So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star" and has a similar theme, although the Lees guitar riff in the middle is an unmistakable lift from the Eagles' 1975 #1 hit "One of These Nights" and perhaps a holdover from the band's experiences on the U.S. West Coast during the same period that song was topping the charts. "Believe in Me" is another song later on the album that seems to have been inspired by pop music of the period and doesn't quite fit with the rest of the songs on the record, although Woolly's keyboards and particularly piano along with some faint strings manage to give it at least an inkling of the BJH sound.

"Polk Street Rag" is another more rocking tune without orchestral or choral accompaniment, possibly intended as a single and also hearkening back to the band's San Francisco experience since Polk Street is the hooker district there and the song is about prostitution. The closing tune "One Night" from 'Time Honoured Ghosts' (another Lees song) was also about prostitution so one has to wonder what he was doing with his spare time while recording that album in the spring of 1975.

The closing "Suicide?" isn't one of the most recognizable songs for casual Barclay James Harvest fans, but it is one that is often called out as the highlight of this album by reviewers. I tend to agree even though the subject matter is depressing and it's intentionally unclear if the poor soul who is out milking a broken heart has jumped or been pushed to his death. The lengthy closing bit with footsteps and whispering leading up to the fall could probably have been condensed somewhat, but given the timeframe in which this was recorded it's surprising that the band was able to get this one past the label, there being all kinds of dramatic sequences in rock music at the time thanks to the likes of Meat Loaf, Queen and even Kansas.

I like this album. The songs are easily recognizable as Barclay James Harvest compositions, with the possible exception of "Rock 'n' Roll Star", and the band acquitted themselves quite well in producing it themselves. I also liked the direction they took on the prior 'Time Honoured Ghosts' but realize that this the orchestral and keyboard-heavy approach was more in line with both the band's comfort level and fans' expectations, so some accommodation has to be made for that. I have an old vinyl copy of this one that I picked up at a used record store a few years ago, and I have to admit feeling really good about holding the textured, solid cover in my hands with its elaborate artwork and throwback progressive style. This is an album that makes an excellent addition to any progressive rock collection you may find it in, and I would suggest you should find it in yours. Four stars and highly recommended.


Review by Warthur
2 stars Ew, guys, no. Barclay James Harvest's Octoberon sees the band moving to counterbalance the soft rock influences that had crept into their sound by amping up the orchestral content of their music, but this is applied tastelessly and occasionally simply to provide filler. Too often the band are entirely overwhelmed and you're just left with the orchestra noodling away prettily but aimlessly, as though they are performing the into for a song which never quite starts. There's indications of rifts opening up within the band too, with the different songwriters' contributions not really coming together to form a cohesive aesthetic whole - Polk Street Rag, for instance, really doesn't fit the rest of the album, or the band's direction in general. Tasteless bilge.
Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nş 681

"Octoberon" is the seventh studio album of Barclay James Harvest and itwas released in 1976. After the success of the release of their previous studio album "Time Honoured Ghosts" that was recorded at the His Masters Wheels studio in San Francisco, Polydor, suggested that the next studio work of the band should also be recorded in the same place and with the same producer, Elliot Mazer. However, it wasn't possible because he was engaged in work on other musical projects, and so Barclay James Harvest recorded "Octoberon" in their own land, at the Strawberry Studios, Stockport.

"Octoberon" has seven tracks. The first track "The World Goes On" written by Les Holroyd provides the album's opening track and is the first song that use an orchestra on a Barclays James Harvest studio album since "Moonwater" from their fourth studio album "Baby James Harvest". This is a more orthodox Barclay James Harvest song, completed with a full orchestration. It's a beautiful and an introspective ballad that shows perfectly well the taste of Les Holroyd for soft and melodic songs, very simple and melancholic too. On the song, I think that deserve special highlights the orchestral arrangements which are totally irreproachable. The second track "May Day" written by John Lees is an anti-extremist song that criticized two sides of the policy, the politically extreme left wing and extreme right wing schools of political thought. It's a great song with some complex, beautiful and perfect choral arrangements, sung by the Capriol Singers, which provides to the song a great final climax to this lengthy, grandiose and epic piece of music. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed by John Lees. The third track "Ra" written by Woolly Wolstenholme represents the traditional and only personal contribution of Woolly Wolstenholme to this album. This is a piece of music inspired by the Egyptian God of the Sun, of the Ancient Egypt. It's a song also inspired by Gustav Mahler's first symphony and it's perhaps one of his finest musical compositions. It's a completely different piece of music, compared with "Maestoso (A Hymn In The Roof Of The World)", the song recorded to be part of "Everyone Is Everybody Else" but that was never part of it and "Beyond The Grave" of "Time Honoured Ghosts". "Ra" was build from a quiet start to an epic and grandiose ending. The fourth track "Rock & Roll Star" written by Les Holroyd is an obvious reference and a tribute to The Byrds' song "So You Want To Be A Rock'N'Roll Star", included on The Byrds' fourth studio album "Younger Than Yesterday". It's a magnificent rock track with great keyboards and nice guitar work. This is a very beautiful song, not a great song and not the best song on the album, but nice and pleasant enough to be heard as a beautiful piece of music. This is also a song that reminds me strongly the sound of the Eagles. The fifth track "Polk Street Rag" written by John Lees is a song that takes its name on Polk Street, which is a street in San Francisco, California, where John Lees conceived the song. It takes its inspiration on the most famous porno film of all time "Deep Throat", where participated the famous celebrity female porno film star, Linda Lovelace. This is another standard rock track without any type of choral or orchestral accompaniment. This is probably a song influenced by the American west coast rock, when the band was in San Francisco. It's a good song, but like the previous song, it isn't for sure one of the best moments on the album. The sixth track "Believe In Me" written by Les Holroyd is another song that also it seems to have been inspired by the American west coast rock. This is another good song with a beautiful final, a nice light tune and with beautiful backing vocals, despite the voice of Les Holroyd. It's also a song with fine harmonies, good keyboard work and a hand of good rhythm guitar riffs. The seventh and last track "Suicide?" written by John Lees is a song built around a description of someone committing suicide by jumping from a tall building. This is a very dark song that relates the suicide of a man, with ironic observations such as the guy who wants to move is car out of the way before the jump. The concept of the song is very original and interesting and sincerely I think this is one of the highest points of this album. The music is sweet, beautiful and melancholic from the beginning to the final act. The track closes with the special effects of the disturbing sound of a body hitting the ground. This is a great close to the album, really.

Conclusion: I know "Octoberon" since it was released and I have a vinyl copy of it since that time. "Octoberon" was always my favourite album from Barclay James Harvest and I've always been convinced that "Octoberon" is their best studio album and that it's also their most progressive work. However, "Octoberon" isn't a masterpiece. In my humble opinion, despite I like very much of Barclay James Harvest, they never released any studio album as a masterpiece. Still, "Octoberon" was very close of being one. "Octoberon" is an excellent album, very cohesive, very well balanced, and is one of the most progressive and sophisticated albums of Barclay James Harvest. The band would never again be more focused than they were on this album, and it represents the band at their peak in the 70's. It's an amazing album.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

4 stars BJH or how a second rate group was able to bring prog to a more commercial place, a vital paradox in this decade?! 1 The World Goes On acoustic guitar and off we go with the suave voice, the BJH sound is already in battle order, the violins arrive, we are of course melodic prog, with no other pre ... (read more)

Report this review (#2899772) | Posted by alainPP | Thursday, March 16, 2023 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The song goes on forever.............. After the relatively mainstream but immensely enjoyable "Time Honoured Ghosts", BJH decided to get ambitious again with their eighth album, the aptly named "Octoberon".With only seven tracks three of which exceed the seven minute mark and one over six mi ... (read more)

Report this review (#2485152) | Posted by Lupton | Monday, December 14, 2020 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Some variations please? After all this is prog rock, isn't it? This is an album of mediocre quality, with some good songs, but also very weak moments. The atmosphere of the songs are more or less always the same and this monotony overall harm to the album, especially after several plays. Anot ... (read more)

Report this review (#449385) | Posted by Dark Nazgul | Wednesday, May 18, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 'Octoberon' is probably the best illustration from their long and impressing career that Barclay James Harvest was at their absolute peak during the first years of the Polydor contract. Having delivered a stunning and by that time hugely underrated 'rock' album with 'Everyone is everybody else', ... (read more)

Report this review (#195254) | Posted by Theo Verstrael | Saturday, December 27, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Octoberon is and amazing album and the first Barclay James Harvest album i have heard. It is more emotioanally charged than many prog bands that perhaps concentrate so much on virtuosity that they lose some of the impact. It is beautiful and uses instrumentation to great effect. For example on Ra ... (read more)

Report this review (#79323) | Posted by Psychedelia | Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After nice, but song oriented "Time Honoured Ghosts", here comes the best Barclay James Harvest studio album since "Once Again", and certainly their greatest progressive effort. Like on no any other album, except famous 1974 "Live", the band succeeded in making characteristic sound atmosphere ... (read more)

Report this review (#79249) | Posted by cedo | Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars When Octoberon was released in October 1976 BJH were one of if not the best British prog bands going. A bold statement perhaps but lets face it most of the classic prog bands eg Yes, Genesis, Tull and even rather more debateably Floyd had released their best work by this date. BJH even managed ... (read more)

Report this review (#72068) | Posted by Tonbridge Man | Thursday, March 16, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If you're into BJH-music, apart from "Live Tapes" this is the greatest BJH-album ever, flawless ( "Believe in me"s not quite AS good as the rest but makes it for variety here ) and emotional. The original A-Side of the Album is just one great flight into heaven but keeping your brains at work ... (read more)

Report this review (#64957) | Posted by rupert | Monday, January 16, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The eighth work released in 1976 "Octoberon". The fourth work in POLYDOR label. A long tune has increased. However, there is basically no big change in the style. A mysterious arrangement that handles the orchestral music orchestra and the mixed chorus is bound in the melody line to make pecul ... (read more)

Report this review (#60154) | Posted by braindamage | Monday, December 12, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is the most symphonic and more sophisticated album of BJH . From the mysterious "RA", to the dark of "Mayday"and to beauty simplicity of "The World" and "Suicide"? Barclay James Harvest show how the band is very good in seventies old days! The first side of vinyl is perfect: beauty ... (read more)

Report this review (#22649) | Posted by | Monday, February 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4 stars... mainly because of the track *SUICIDE*. It is original, and very VERY moving. Headphones or a very good sound-system recommended. FFS the track really becomes an original concept when the music ends and the sounds take over. (IMHO) Stunning. ... (read more)

Report this review (#22646) | Posted by NyghtOwl | Tuesday, June 8, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars From the mysterious RA, to the dark and moody Mayday the Barclays touched their progressive peak with Octoberon. A seriously good album, flowing symphonic lines, spellbinding moods and more. The track Suicide? is, what its called, a record of someone falling from a high building but with an enigma, ... (read more)

Report this review (#22642) | Posted by | Thursday, February 19, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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