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Barclay James Harvest

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Barclay James  Harvest Eyes Of The Universe album cover
3.00 | 135 ratings | 17 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Love On The Line (4:40)
2. Alright Down Get Boogie (3:57)
3. The Song (They Love To Sing) (6:04)
4. Skin Flicks (6:51)
5. Sperratus (4:59)
6. Rock 'N' Roll Lady (4:27)
7. Capricorn (4:33)
8. Play To The World (7:02)

Total Time: 42:33

Bonus tracks on Eclectic remaster (2006):
9. Sperratus (Single Edit) (3:23) *
10. Rock 'n' Roll Lady (Single Edit) (3:23) *
11. Capricorn (A-side 1980 Single) (3:37)
12. Play To The World (Single edit) (3:52) *

* Previously unreleased

Line-up / Musicians

- John Lees / acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, lead (2,4,5,7) & backing vocals
- Les Holroyd / bass, electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, lead (1,3,6,8) & backing vocals
- Mel Pritchard / drums, percussion

- Kevin McAlea / grand piano & Mini Moog (3), Hammond organ & Yamaha CS80 synth (5)
- Alan Fawkes / saxophone (8)

Releases information

Artwork: Alwyn Clayden with John Shaw (photo)

LP Polydor - POLD 5029 (1979, UK)

CD Polydor - 821 591-2 (1984, Germany)
CD Eclectic Discs - ECLCD 1049 (2006, Europe) Remastered by Paschal Byrne with 4 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Eyes Of The Universe Music

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Eyes Of The Universe ratings distribution

(135 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (44%)
Collectors/fans only (14%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Eyes Of The Universe reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
4 stars "Eyes of the Universe" offers some gorgeous prog moments very reminiscent of the best ALAN PARSONS PROJECT work. At times I get a slight PINK FLOYD feel as well, but never enough to become too obvious. The songs are exceptionally well written and are quite varied, hitting a wide spectrum of emotions. A couple of tracks actually hit close to heaven for me and rank as some of the most enduring prog tracks in my collection. Much of this album is soft and seems to have a caressing space-like feel to it.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Where's Woolly?

A fairly average offering from BJH, saved by a couple of classic tracks. "The song (they love to sing)" and "Play to the world" are similar sounding Les Holroyd penned songs. They both come from the BJH ballad stable, with swirling keyboards, and excellent vocals by Holroyd.

During initial sessions for the album, Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme, whose symphonic influences had always given the band an extra dimension, left the group. He cited the usual "musical differences" as the reason, apparently dissatisfied with the direction in which the band was going. This was the first change in the BJH line up since they had formed in the late 1960's. Rather than replace him, the remaining three members decided to carry on as a trio. Kevin McAlea was however brought in during the recording of this album to add some keyboard parts, and Alan Fawkes adds some wonderful sax to "Play to the world".

"Eyes of the Universe" was recorded 1979 and released 1980. With Woolstenholme gone, the songwriting credits and indeed vocals, are split down the middle. Holroyd and Lees write four each, and each sing his own songs. In true democratic fashion, their songs are presented alternately on the album, but was all this overt democracy perhaps the first sign the of unrest between the two which would ultimately lead to their acrimonious split?

Other than the two tracks mentioned above, the rest are among the most commercial the bands had made to date. Tracks like "Love on the line" and "Rock'n'roll lady" are lightweight pop rock. "Sperratus" appears to be Lees' attempt to keep the Woolstenholme style going, and is largely successful, with soaring guitars, and walls of sound.

While all but ignored in their homeland, "Eyes of the Universe" found great success in Germany leading to the massive "Berlin" concert the band performed there.

A decent if unremarkable BJH album, largely devoid of their early inspiration, but with a couple of notable tracks.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars BJH's first post-Wostenholme album, "Eyes of the Universe" finds the band undeterred, determined to continue on the same path of melodic art rock with a prog twist that they had been nurturing for years. The final result is very good, despite the fact that such a crucial member was gone (to Earth?). 'Love on the Line' kicks off the album with a sense of splendour instilled by the massive synth layers and guitar riffs: the basic melody is catchy, fitting writer Holroyd's timber quite rightly. Also from his pen came 'The Song (They Love to Sing)', which in my opinion is the most outstanding track in the album - starting with a theme of eerie synth used in a percussive manner, the song turns into a mid tempo chant in honor of the warmth and devotion provided by the fans. The same subject is treated with equally grateful candor in the closing track 'Play to the World', which assumes a more anthem-like mood, and with a more distant attitude in 'Sperratus' assuming the adored performer's point of view. The latter is Lee's most prominent contribution to this album, creating a perfect convergence between the orchestral drive of symphonic prog and the distinct energy of pomp rock: endless fiery guitar solos, fluid links between the various sections - a great rocker, indeed! 'Capricorn' and 'Skin Flicks' are the most melodic-driven tracks in the album, both designed to show BJH's sensitive side: the former is a pretty tune whose lyrics present a reflection on humankind's capability for violence an destruction, while the latter is a Moody Blues' 'Question'-inspired portrait of the life and times of a centerfold babe. The remaining two tracks that I haven't mentioned so far are not really that impressive. 'Rock 'n' Roll Lady' is just an average rocker, not energetic enough to be catchy, fine to a certain degree, but mostly vulgar as its title may suggest. But sometimes it's better to have a vulgar title than a ridiculous one: 'Alright Down Get Boogie (Muala Rusic)' it is (you see, I felt ashamed just to write it down in this review). This Lee-penned kind of mockery toward the ambience and music of disco-age fails to transcend beyond the laughable aspect of parody and make something genius out of it (you know, like Procol Harum's 'In Held 'Twas in I', Genesis' 'Supper's Ready', or Jethro Tull's 'Fat Man'): it is just laughable, and its wildest aspirations must conform to achieving guilty pleasure status, nothing more. Well, all in all, the impact caused by the strong points surpasses the letdowns caused by tracks 2 and 6, so my general balance is basically positive - good, not essential, enjoyable, pleasant, and really great at times.
Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I don't mind why this one is so low rated! Eyes of the universe is a very interesting album. Even if the absence of Wolstenholme is evidente, I have to say that the songs represents the natural development of the previous works. Capricorn, Skin Flicks and Sperratus are my favourites, but also Rock'n'Roll Lady and Play To The World are at the top of the Les' production. Enjoy it!
Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Although BJH's first album without Woolly, in spirit Eyes Of The Universe still belongs to his time with the band - the sound, feel, songwriting and arrangements all have a strong family resemblance to the other late 70s albums rather than Turn Of The Tide and its successors. It may or may not be significant that this was the last of four albums recorded at Stockport's Strawberry Studios! New hands [Kevin McAlea's] and sequencers are clearly playing the keyboard parts, a portent of things to come, but otherwise it is business as usual, with guitars in various guises to the fore on most songs.

Of course, the days of towering Mellotron drenched anthems were long gone, but this is a good album in the context of the band's smoother, slicker, lighter output of the later 70s, amongst the best post-Woolly releases, and only a couple of weaker songs prevent it from a higher position in the BJH canon. Les's songs are by far the strongest on this occasion, perhaps he revelled in their new circumstances, producing several easy-flowing melodies with some inventive arrangements, whereas John seems to have lost his way a little resorting to some old musical clichés and hackneyed lyrics.

Starting the album with a nice fat pulsating synth, Les's jaunty love song Love On The Line sets the scene with an ideal blend of guitars and synths. The Song (They Love To Sing), poetically recalling the mystique of live performance, is the first appearance of what would become a Les stereotype - a fluid synth-based mid-paced ballad with gentle rolling rhythm and a pastoral/ethereal mood. This is a very superior and underrated example which contains a clever lyrical trick. With some lovely plummy rhythm guitar phrases, Rock N Roll Lady is a classic BJH-style mid-paced rolling rocker about hangers-on who are attracted to the glamour of stardom.

By some margin the album's stand-out track, Les's Play To The World is a BJH classic, following the theme and musical ambience of The Song (They Love To Sing) but taking it onto a higher plain altogether with gorgeous atmospheric guitar work and a wonderful sax solo in an extended spacey coda. It has a chord structure constructed in such a way as to produce a false lift after every cycle [there must be some technical term for this phenomenon], a brilliant device which deceives the listener into believing the song is soaring into the heavens. A spiritually uplifting song and an ecstatic end to the album.

John's contributions are a mixed bag. Alright Down Get Boogie is meant to be a light-hearted comment on the disco craze but is somewhat unsuccessful in all respects. Skin Flicks, a self-explanatory subject, has an unconvincing heavy-handed start-stop-start arrangement that only really picks up with a nice guitar solo in the coda. Sperratus - another song on the theme of performers, this time from the perspective of a superstar - is John's best song, based on a nice slow verse melody that picks up pace and aggression for the refrains. Capricorn, a beautiful song with meaningless lyrics, has a good progressing melody leading to a catchy chorus but ultimately has little substance.

When both songwriters were on form, the 3-man version of BJH was a very good AOR soft-rock-pop outfit capable of producing some fine albums. On this occasion, Les hadn't yet fallen into the mire of cliché and stereotype that would bedevil his later work: his songs sound fresh and vibrant, albeit a little vapid lyrically. By contrast, John's contributions are relatively weak and unrepresentative. Overall, an enjoyable album, though don't expect to find much in the way of Prog!

Review by ZowieZiggy

Well, well, well !

The lasts BJH studio releases were average and the worse could be feared with Woolly's departure. And, unfortunately, we'll get the worse as expected.

"Alright down Get Boogie" is truely ridiculous. Anytime that BJH has tried to be somewhat rockier, they made a fool of themselves. If you have any doubt, do me a favour : just listen to this track to be convinced. If this is not sufficient, do me another fave : just listen to " Rock 'n' Roll Lady" and its very poor vocals to be convinced for the second time.

If you are looking at some good BJH songs, maybe ..."The Song" could match this description ? But do not expect too much. It is all repetitiveness during six minutes. Still, it is one of the very few prog moments in this ocean of crap, really.

BJH belongs to the bands that have marked my youth (75-76). They were symphonic, simple, melodic. In one word, nice to listen to. After "Octoberon", BJH marked a serious change in their musical direction and produced rather average albums (studio or live). This one is the worst so far.

I used to be one of their fans, but not blind. If I compared this work even with their initial Harvest years, there is nothing here to mark one's memory. The stupid "Skin Flinks" is absolutely useless during almost seven minutes and "Capricorn" is another example of a very dispensible song.

Some bearable tracks : "Sperratus" & "Play to the World". Apart from those tracks, there is really nothing that is worth writing about (but I have already wrote too much).

This is BJH at its low (?). One star.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

This is not really a new-look BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST release we have with EYES OF THE UNIVERSE. Sure, WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME left with all his mellotrons, but had he stayed i don't think it would have mattered anyway. His influence was relegated to one or 2 credits in a good day and the sound has been updated slowly but surely already with their prior albums.

Also this is 1980 now and we know what it means. A lot of prog bands, even the mighty ones had to adapt to the new musical world if they wanted to survive. There were not too many choices: ''Mama'' and ''Lonely heart'' or trying to find a new job at the supermarket next door.So the same goes with BJH but the change is not as drastic as it was for other bands. Why? because first BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST was always on the light side of prog, more interested writing simple melodic songs backed up by some prog elements such as the mellotron or other orchestral arrangements.

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST music has never been about musical experiments, adventurous improvisations or esoteric vocals. This is a band writing beautifuls songs well arranged sure to please you and your grand-mother (almost). So why the 80s would be bad for such a band?. Yes, they turned more and more commercial with blatant attempts at reaching the stars with potential ''hits'', but i think they always tried to keep true to themselves and their level of integrity. ''XII'' was a perfect example for that where ''loving is easy'' meddles well with ''the streets of San Francisco'' or ''Nova Lepidoptera''. Not that it was a 5 star album, but a good , decent one nonetheless.

So what about EYES OF THE UNIVERSE?.There is is still a lot of keyboards! Of course, no mellotron or grandiose organ, but sadly quite a few modern synth well in the 80s style. WOOLY hasn't been replaced as the band is now a trio with some help from studio or guests musicians.But you know what! i do like this album and i listen to it well more often than XII or OCTOBERON. Why? because the band , LEES and HOLROYD i mean, have not lost their touch at creating nice songs with great melodies well in the classic BJH style. Don't get me wrong! BJH would come in the future with very average, sometimes poor releases, starting with the next one but EYES OF THE UNIVERSE is not one of them.

I haven't said either it is a masterpiece as there are some songs, well not that great like ALLRIGHT DOWN GET BOOGIE another JOHN LEES tentative at sounding ''rock''. I mentioned in other reviews LEES and Rock N Roll don't mix!!LES HOLROYD is definitely the guy trying hard to get ''hits'' and he is trying with LOVE ON THE LINE, a tune ALAN PARSONS PROJECT would be proud of. Not bad anyway, very predictable for sure but well arranged as usual.

But i am a sucker for nice melodies, nice harmonies, nice arrangements and BJH has not lost this edge because we are now venturing into the 80s. JOHN LEES still knows how to compose strong melodic songs like SPERRATUS or CAPRICORN which are vintage BJH. And how can i not enjoy the beautiful HOLROYD penned ballad PLAY TO THE WORLD? This is as good as any great ''classic'' BJH song from the past! Holroyd at his best! THE SONG ( THEY LOVE TO SING) is another ballad from him, not as good but still very pleasurable to listen to.The sound quality of EYES OF THE UNIVERSE is awesome, the vocals are crystal clear, so pure Holroyd seems to sing like an angel ( if only i knew how an angel sings!)

Democracy is plainly established within the band! 4 songs for each songwriter down to the middle. HOLROYD follows LEES who follows HOLROYD who follows.........!EYES OF THE UNIVERSE is not an album that broke new ground, just BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST doing what they know best: composing and performing cute melodic songs!Not a necessary listening, just a pleasant one sure to please old (and new) BJH fans.


Review by kenethlevine
2 stars As I remember it, at the time I did not recognize the huge decline from "XII" represented by "Eyes of the Universe". My 21 year old brain had misgivings about "XII", and when this one came along, it seemed a bit heavier and less progressive but really pretty much in line. The schism between the 1970s and 1980s BJH was something that took a while to recognize, but in retrospect it was partly a function of the times, partly the loss of their full time keyboard player and his significant influence, and partly a dessication of their creative well.

The band would continue to produce good songs, with some of the later albums producing more of them than "Eyes", but much of the magic seemed gone. Whereas a soaring melody or harmony might have turned a basic song into something stellar, on the 1980s BJH, too often the good songs just don't take off. Moreover, we now have two songwriters backing each other up on their own songs, rather than a band. And such is the difference between 2-3 star, and 4-5 star albums.

Most of the songs here are decent, except for "Skin Flicks", but none here have entered the elite of BJH songs for me. Some start very well, like "The Song they Love to Sing" and "Rock 'n Roll Lady", but don't really develop like they might have a few short years before. "Love on the Line" is an OK "hit" in a substandard Alan Parsons Project sort of way. "Play to the World" is long and boring and cannot be saved even by a rare sax appearance. Probably the best song is "Capricorn", which almost sounds like classic John Lees fare. I suspect the harder edged production was actually detrimental to the group's sound as everything just seems to be miked way too high, and is not appropriate for a group that had hitherto survived on understatement and subtlety.

I take a pretty dim view of "Eyes", which was the first and irreversible marker of the group's descent on many levels, and the worst album since their debut.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Alright Down Get Woolly

This is the first Barclay James Harvest album without Wolly Wolstenholme but it is not as bad as people say! Sure, Alright Down Get Boogie is a truly horrible song, but it is hardly the first time Barclay James Harvest have included an awful song on an album, is it? Do you remember Loving is Easy from the last album? Friend of Mine from Gone to Earth? Believe in Me from Octoberon? etc. It was indeed something of a habit of theirs, and Alright Down Get Boogie is not any worse than those, horrible though it is.

The absence of Wolly cannot pass by unnoticed, he was often the one that kept the band at least broadly progressive. But the style of the band is here not yet transformed into the commercial band they later became.

The opener Love On The Line sounds very much like an Alan Parsons Project cut; would have fitted nicely on I Robot. It is alright, I suppose. But Sperratus and Play To The World are the highlights here, both very good songs with great guitar sound. The addition of sax gives a Pink Floyd feeling and sound.

Overall, this is a good album that I actually enjoy more than some earlier albums of theirs.

Review by ClemofNazareth
2 stars I'm really somewhat tired of writing reviews of these sorts of albums here in the 21st century and having the benefit of hindsight on the decade that dares not speak its name. Technically this album isn't part of that decade since it was recorded and released in 1979; still, the sound and the back story here are painfully familiar and were being repeated all over the progressive and art music spectrums around this time.

The story is pretty straightforward: longstanding band lineup (emphasis on the word "band") begins to fracture as the record label tightens its belt and looks for ways to either improve the top-line revenue of the act, or at least decrease bottom-line expenses. A rapidly emerging visual and vapid music scene driven by the likes of hyper-hyped MTV and mega-tours bankrolled through heavy commercial sponsorship creates pressure for aging rockers to reinvent their personas in a mildly pathetic attempt to garner mass appeal and thus to salvage tenuous record label contracts as well as to try and capitalize on profitable commercial media, endorsement and touring markets. And the dumbing down of once majestic, complex and heartfelt music into something that instead inspires overwhelming feelings of intense apathy.

Don't get me wrong, I don't blame the musicians all that much. After all, most of them were in this to make a living back then, and in a consumer-driven economy one has to adapt to the market or die. Some preferred to labor on in idealistic obscurity, while others moved behind the mixing board or out of the music business altogether. But there were plenty of prog-rock gods of the seventies who donned poly fabrics in primary colors, wove their skullets into something resembling a hair wave (or weave), and ditched expensive luxuries such as in-studio orchestras and exotic instrumentation in favor of synthesized equivalents while working hard to suck in their guts and add enough panache to their thinking-man's to be able to compete, if not keep up with, the young commercial Turks. Yes ('90125', 'Big Generator'), ELP ('Love Beach'), Moody Blues ('Long Distance Voyager'), ELO ('Time', 'Secret Messages'), Kansas ('Vinyl Confessions', 'Drastic Measures') and Jethro Tull ('Broadsword and the Beast') all succumbed to the industry peer pressure to make friends with the new, highly sanitized and radio-friendly versions of themselves. Most of these bands wouldn't survive the decade, nor did virtually all of the bands that started displacing them around 1978.

So if you get the idea I don't like this album much, you'd be right. Nothing exciting here, either musically or lyrically. When Barclay James Harvest or any other band resorts to writing self-absorbed ditties about the music industry ("The Song (They Love To Sing)", "Sperratus", "Rock 'n' Roll Lady", "Play To The World") or cheesy relationship songs ("Love on the Line", "Skin Flicks"), you know the magic is basically gone and the remaining trio (Woolly Wolstenholme had departed after 'XII' a year prior) are simply punching a ticket. Pretty harsh I guess but that's how this one sounds after all these years, and probably would have sounded then to anyone who was really playing attention.

The only tracks here even worth a listen are "Skin Flicks" with its glossy but somewhat appealing shifts between folk-influenced harmonizing and pretty Moody Blues-sounding synthesized orchestral sounds I'm pretty sure weren't even played by a band member (Kevin McAlea guested on that track); and "Play to the World" for largely the same reason but also a great saxophone passage that once again wasn't played by a band member (Alan Fawkes stars on this song).

So in the end this is one of the more forgettable Barclay James Harvest albums, although for my money 'Victims of Circumstance' stoops even lower and some of the stuff the Holroyd and Lees did under the BJH banner after they split is even more suspect.

But you don't give more stars for one album just because another one suck more, or at least that's not the way these things are supposed to work. In any event this one can't be considered more than a fans' curio, so in that light I'll award two stars and avoid a recommendation altogether.


Latest members reviews

5 stars 1. Love On The Line extra-terrestrial intro, which comes from the wormhole of the cover...and a conventional tune, ah too bad yes well they were starting to be exhausted since their debut; voices that of Les here which will explain their separation... too; in short a good aerial entry and a guitar s ... (read more)

Report this review (#2899776) | Posted by alainPP | Thursday, March 16, 2023 | Review Permanlink

2 stars A difficult album. Because the times were changing, also the taste of the public was changing. Here the band tries to create some disco, tongue-in-cheek-rock songs, but still with the typical BJH-sound. Except for the absence of Woolly. The band tried to record the album as a trio, but brought i ... (read more)

Report this review (#430788) | Posted by Kingsnake | Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Living in Germany you couldn't ignore this album otherwise you were deaf dumb and blind. I always liked this one, not necessarily as a classic prog-album although it has it's proggy moments. This one is more easy listening pop/rock style taking the band in a new direction after Wooly Wolstenho ... (read more)

Report this review (#67822) | Posted by Achim | Wednesday, February 1, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Yes, "Eyes" is an underrated one, it's got a great flow and tightness offering some of Les Holroyd's finest songs - hard to choose which of the four are best, but Prog-Lovers may, just as me, prefer "Play to the World" and "The Song ( they Love to sing )", while the Single "Love on the Line" h ... (read more)

Report this review (#67168) | Posted by rupert | Saturday, January 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Eyes of the universe is one of my favourites in the extensive BJH catalogue. It contains a well-balanced mix of ballads, up-tempo rock songs and things in-between. And it also showed that keyboard based songs (Holroyd) and guitar-based songs (Lees) can be combined quite well. Highlight on the ... (read more)

Report this review (#22681) | Posted by Theo Verstrael | Friday, April 22, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is the BJH's first post-Wostenholme album, "Eyes of the Universe" finds the band to continue on the same melodic art rock with pop touch. Without mellotron of Wooly the band show a music more open and commercial but don´t missed your style. Les Holroys is now the pop-men of the band:"Love ... (read more)

Report this review (#22679) | Posted by | Monday, February 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A mix of well made pop tunes (All right down get boogie, Rock n Roll Lady) and haunting synphonic-esque songs (The song (they love to sing), Play to the world) which make up a good combination as way to enter the dreaded 80's... ... (read more)

Report this review (#22675) | Posted by | Tuesday, December 9, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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