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Barclay James Harvest

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Barclay James  Harvest Welcome To The Show album cover
2.92 | 79 ratings | 13 reviews | 8% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1990

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Life You Lead (3:49)
2. Lady MacBeth (4:34)
3. Cheap The Bullet (4:30)
4. Welcome To The Show (4:15)
5. John Lennon's Guitar (5:41)
6. Halfway To Freedom (4:37)
7. African Nights (5:26)
8. Psychedelic Child (3:41)
9. Where Do We Go (5:09)
10. Origin Earth (4:57) *
11. If Love Is King (6:02)
12. Shadows On The Sky (5:26) *

* Not on LP

Total Time: 58:07

Bonus tracks on Eclectic remaster (2006):
13. John Lennon's Guitar (Live) (8:17)
14. Alone In The Night (Live) (5:53)
15. Poor Man's Moody Blues (Live) (7:18)

Line-up / Musicians

- John Lees / guitars, vocals
- Les Holroyd / bass, keyboards, vocals
- Mel Pritchard / drums, percussion

- Ritchie Close / piano
- Steve Pigott / keyboards
- Andy Hamilton / sax
- Ian Wilson / backing vocals
- Steve Butler / backing vocals
- Jon Astley / Fairlight programming, co-producer
- Andy MacPherson / Fairlight programming, co-producer
- Darrin Tidsey / Fairlight programming assistant
- Mike Hehir / guitar sounds

Releases information

Artwork: Storm Thorgerson for Nexus with Peter Chatertton (photo)

LP Polydor ‎- 841 751 1 (1990, UK)

CD Polydor ‎- 841 751-2 (1990, Germany) With 2 tracks not on LP
CD Eclectic Discs ‎- ECLCD 1052 (2006, Europe) Remastered by Paschal Byrne with 3 bonus tracks recorded Live at The Town And Country Club, London on February 1992

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Welcome To The Show ratings distribution

(79 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(8%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (22%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Welcome To The Show reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by daveconn
3 stars A t this stage, the "show" was relegated to a continental cult of listeners whose musical tastes belonged to a bygone era. And it was for them that BJH continued to release fresh works every year or so, covering familiar ground while availing themselves of what new bells and whistles they could lay their hands on. "Welcome To The Show" sounds modern by BARCLAY's outmoded standards, suggesting any number of artists whose prog sensibilities had long since succumbed to the allure of well-crafted albeit timid pop music (e.g., Mike + The Mechanics). The final product is remarkably inoffensive, as if the band set out with the goal of not writing bad songs rather than writing good ones. Alternating between compositions from John Lees and Les Holroyd, it appears that neither really has anything important to say. The closing "Halfway To Freedom" addresses the post-Wall Germany (Halfway to Poland would have been way funnier), "Cheap The Bullet" addresses society's cycle of violence and its effect on our youth, but these social issues were well handled themes by 1990.

The remaining material deals with generic topics (love, being in a rock band) plus a pair of tracks ("John Lennon's Guitar," "African Nights") tantamount to diary entries. Pleasant harmonies and pretty melodies aren't the problem, lyrics are. BJH has always held a brittle command of their mother tongue, suggesting a too literal translation from German into English (which may explain their appeal to non-English speaking audiences). Rhyme schemes are often absent, and some lines are simply embarrassing. Case in point, take this line from "Love Is King" (please): "If music be the food of love / Then someone ate the crown". I don't even want to know what that means. If the cover suggests latter-day PINK FLOYD, the a alogy holds within as well. "Welcome To The Show" is more interested in keeping the machine going by slapping a new coat of paint on the body rather than rebuilding the engine. Here, they let their creative engines idle, a ploy which implies the band knew they were running out of gas.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Lukewarm

By the time of "Welcome to the show", BJH were almost forgotten in their UK homeland, outwith their small but faithful band of followers. Their reputation in continental Europe, and Germany in particular, however meant that there was still a market for their albums. Consequently, this release was very much geared towards fans in that country. Germany was going through major changes at the time with reunification just around the corner, so the track "Halfway to freedom" may be seen as opportunistic or sympathetic, depending on your level of cynicism. The song bears the dedication "To the people of Germany 1989". The timing could not have been better, as it was written before the wall came down, but the album was released after. The song then featured on the first unified broadcast to the former East and West Germany from Berlin. But I am getting ahead of myself, since I'm on to track six already.

The problem with later BJH albums such as this is threefold: - The fire and ice of Lees and Holroyd is no longer tempered by the lukewarm water of Wooly Woolstenholme (with apologies to "Spinal tap!) - The division between Lees and Holroyd was getting ever wider, to the extent that it seems their contributions to each others songs was kept to a minimum - The songs themselves were becoming more and more bland and formulaic. The inspiration which had brought about compositions such as "She said", "Mocking bird", "Dark now my sky" etc. had long since dried up, to be replaced by an apparent willingness to accept the ordinary.

Here we have 12 songs all of around 4 to 5 minutes, and all with basic verse chorus structures. Lees sings his songs, Holroyd his, and while they are not sequenced alternately, there's no more than two by either one of them in succession.

For me, Les Holroyd's songs are the weaker. The opening "The life you lead" is an up tempo pop song, which sounds all too like the Bee Gees, especially the a-cappella harmonies. The title track, the aforementioned "Halfway to freedom", and "Where do we go" are all typical BJH plodders, which cry out for an injection of enthusiasm. On the latter, Andy Hamilton adds some nice sax, similar to that on "Play to the world".

John Lees songs are generally more diverse and for me the more appealing. At times the lyrics can be all to literal, to the point of seeming juvenile. "John Lennon's guitar" is the worst case. The story is rather touching, Lees was in the studio recording "Galadreil" for "once again" when engineer Norman "Hurricane" Smith ("Don't let it die") took Lennon's guitar from a cupboard and allowed Lees to play it. The lyrics go on to explain " As I played on my borrowed guitar, how could I know the Beatles would split the next day". The track has a Lennon like piano backing, but there is little sign of much in the way of guitar!

"If music is the food of love, someone ate the crown" is an example of the nonsense lyrics of "If love is king", another average song which benefits from some decent guitar work. On the plus side, "Lady Macbeth" is a darker number with obscure lyrics about an unidentified person. "Cheap the bullet" is an upbeat song with a "Child of the universe" like protest theme, while " Psychedelic child" keeps the pace up with pastiche lyrics relating to the flower power period. "Origin earth" has some nice background effects the lyrics being based on a science fiction novel Lees read.

And that's about it. The most noticeable thing about the album is the Storm Thorgerson sleeve photos, which are reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Momentary lapse of reason" (also his work I believe). For some reason, the album was recorded during the middle part of 1989, but not released until March 1990. I may be wrong, but it could be that the band or the label or both, had doubts about the quality of the album. Such doubts would have been justified as, while there is nothing inherently bad about "Welcome to the show", neither is there anything memorable or distinguishing.

Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is generally considered to be the best of BJH's post-Woolly albums from the 80s & 90s and I would concur. Musically it occupies familiar melodic AOR territory, but for me, Welcome To The Show is brimful of superior songs from both Lees and Holroyd, and packed with inventive touches [eg a backward guitar solo in Shadows On The Sky]. There are several Beatles references, musically and lyrically, and most songs have basic drum patterns bared back to the bone, but otherwise it is business as usual.

The accusation of writing to a formula has often been levelled at the band, and Welcome To The Show is no different as it too contains its regulation slow ballads, up-tempo rockers and catchy singalongs, and more-or-less alternates between Les and John's contributions. Here, though, each of these has its own distinct character and is amongst the best in its class, oozing quality and creativity from beginning to end, but, as always with BJH albums from this era, be aware that the Prog quotient is lower than you might prefer.

The band's lyrical concerns haven't changed much either, ranging from unambiguous 'important' message or plain English narrative story-telling to wilfully indecipherable. Cheap The Bullet is the hardest hitting, a powerful thrusting rocker taking a strong stance against a modern 'gun culture', while Halfway To Freedom, an emotional ballad featuring an excellent guitar solo, and Shadows On The Sky, with its one bar repeating drum pattern, are somewhat more oblique, making use of metaphor and imagery to get their messages across. Some songs are interesting because their lyrics are so obtuse: the eerie Lady Macbeth is transformed by a magnificent guitar solo, as also is the wonderful mellow If Love Is King, but neither can be translated with any confidence.

A high standard is maintained throughout the album though the guitar drenched rocker Psychedelic Child [ZZ Top anyone?], and African Nights, which becomes swamped by drums and percussion, are the least successful and together form a little mid-album low spot. From there though it is a high all the way to the finish, including Les's dreamy ballad Where Do We Go despite its soppy lyrics and John's sublime lilting Origin Earth complete with Mellotron choir. Good stuff!

Clearly not a high-flying Prog album, yet it has much to commend it to Prog lovers, especially those who appreciate the band's less overtly Prog material from the later 70s.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Studio albums are really scarce in these days for BJH. "Welcome To The Show" is released three years after "Face To Face" and three before "Caught In The Light".

The Lees - Holroyd situation is extremely well depicted by Easy Livin' in his review. So, what about the music ?

Well...There has been ages that I haven't been enthusiast about a BJH album and when I listen the opening track "The Life You Lead", I can only expect the worse. Poor AOR music, almost all the way through.

A few songs will break these awful noises. "Lady Macbeth" is probably the best number on this album. Very pleasant melody, it sounds as a good old BJH song. But don't put too much hope in this one, because it is a very isolated moment in this ocean of extremely poor stuff.

It is a very simple excercise, the one of mentionning the bad tracks : you take basically the whole and just deduct two or three numbers : you'll get the most straight-forward idea of the material you can get here. "John Lennon's Guitar" is one of them, even if the lyrics are childish. The Beatles having been a major source of inspiration from the very start of their career, John Lees will here and there produce a song full of emotion about them. I guess we can call this respect and admiration.

One of the woret song featured is "Halfway To Freedom". A useless tune invaded by orchestration. Just skip it, to avoid to suffer like hell ! You'll then drop into another blunder : "African Nights". BJH plays ethnic ! It is quite an experience, I tell you !

Under these circumstances, "Psychedelic Child" has to be considered as an OK track. A rocking one with some good guitar riff as well as a bearable melody. Same might apply to "Where Do We Go". A soft ballad with nice sax. The melody is above par but of course not to be compared with their great work of the mid- to end seventies.

What is really sad in here, is that most of the songs featured have absolutely nothing to offer. Listen to "Origin Earth" : mellowish to death, syrupous, empty. "If Love Is King" will raise the general level. But this is an easy task here. This song features a very good guitar solo. Extremely welcome, should I say. Another good song.

To get over with this record, you'll still need to go through "Shadows On The Sky". Not a nice job, believe me.

The only positive feeling I have about this album, is that I am now one step further in my reviewing process for BJH. Only a few more to go to have finished with their catalogue. This record is difficult to listen from start to finish. But so were several BJH albums. Basically, this one is not the poorest one of their discography. Two stars.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

And not the way we expected! Can you imagine that after all these years, John Lees FINALLY got it right when it comes to compose ''hard rock'' songs! No this is not Tony Iommi or Randy Rhoads yet, but now i am able to listen to the 2 ''hard'' songs from WELCOME TO THE SHOW and even enjoy them !Patience is a virtue!

WELCOME TO THE SHOW is considered by some as the best BJH album of the 80s (it was recorded in 1989, but released the following year). I still think FACE TO FACE has the stronger material as AFRICAN, HE SAID LOVE, KIEV or other ALONE IN THE NIGHT were on par with their best songs of the past. Also it has been mentioned that it was some kind of a return to the roots! I won't go that far as WELCOME TO THE SHOW is still a very modern album using the best new recording technologies of the time.

What makes this album interesting comes down to the vital element of a good record: good or superior songwriting!JOHN LEES as usual delivers some quality songs. Even if there are no new MOCKINGBIRD or HYMN, all (yes, i said all!!) of his 6 songs are pleasant to go through as there are no real turkeys from him on WELCOME TO THE SHOW. LEES 2 rock songs even have diversity to the album and enhance its overall quality! Finally, LEES mastered the guitar riff intro technic after failed attempts like on POLK STREET RAG or other CRAZY CITY. Just listen to CHEAP THE BULLET or PSYCHEDELIC CHILD; there are strong riffs and the rythm section finally help carry the tunes with energy and precision.

I thought i would never able to say that before: BJH's 2 ''rock'' tracks help to make this album BETTER!But LEES hasn't lost his touch on his 'safe zone' compositions either. LADY MCBETH is a typical LEES ballad, not the best he ever wrote, but it won't hurt you! A lot has been written already about JOHN LENNON'S GUITAR with its autobiagraphic incident which happened one day before the Beatles broke up!JOHN LEES touches one day LENNON's guitar at Abbey Road and....damnation! no more Beatles! The lyrics are kind of awkward, i mean singing ''the producer was Norman Smith who'd engineered with the Beatles and John....''. Those are comments worth more for a story telling in front of the fireplace than placed in a song, i think! But this is JOHN LEES, nothing new with that as he likes to share with us his personal stories.

ORIGIN EARTH and especially IF LOVE IS KING, if not very original are pleasant mid-tempo ballads beautifully sung and played.IF LOVE IS KING reminds me a lot of the PINK FLOYD of this time led by GILMOUR, especially the nice athmospherique guitar solo that ends the song.

What about LES HOLROYD now? Is there some kind of songwriting improvement after so many dull compositions he ''offered'' us the last decade? Yes and no!! No because we still have all those uniform sugary ballads which are difficult to separate from each other. WHERE DO WE GO or SHADOW ON THE SKY are perfect examples of this enduring problem! 80s CHICAGO anyone?? But there is 1 big good point about HOLROYD's work! The bassist just remembered he was still playing in a band and is not just bringing his solo songs to be shared with LEES ones under the BJH flag. So, if a lot of them are still structured around synths and other keyboards, the presence of JOHN LEES and his guitar is finally felt throughout. The title track benefits a lot of this partnership which sounds like a group effort. The same goes for the opener THE LIFE YOU LEAD, another electro pop tune the kind like WAITING ON THE BORDERLINE or other LOVE ON THE LINE but at least sound improved ( a little bit) thanks to John's guitar.

Of course, Holroyd songs as i said, still sound the same,kind of generic tunes with not much personality, but at least don't destroy the flow of this record as it is a group effort finally! So which one of FACE TO FACE or WELCOME TO THE SHOW is the best? FACE TO FACE has better songs, but sounds like 2 solo artists sharing the same space, going from one height to the low song after song because of HOLROYD weak tracks (except KIEV). WELCOME TO THE SHOW on the other hand sounds more even, you don't need to have the remote in your hand to skip the next one as it's an overall listenable pleasure, but the songwriting is not as strong (i am talking about John Lees songs of course) as the great tunes featured on FACE TO FACE.

Last point: BJH albums were always well produced with great sound quality, but they outdid themselves on this record. I don't know of too many albums sounding so good. A pleasure for the ears!.The voice of JOHN LEES sounds so pure , so clear, it's amazing! Also the synths if they are still present start to sound better than on the previous albums. I guess we were entering the 90s !! No!WELCOME TO THE SHOW is not a return to the glorious 70s!However this is a good quality album from a mature band living in 1990!


Review by kenethlevine
2 stars With their audience slowly dwindling, BJH found fewer reasons to play, and stay together. They could still muster enough for a half of a decent album but no more. That half would include "The Life You Lead", the gothic "Lady MacBeth", the uplifting if pandering African Nights, the sci fi follow up "Origin Earth" (closest to their older style), and the threatening "If Love is King". It would not include the pathetic "John Lennon's guitar" or the insipid "Cheap the Bullet". While every BJH album includes some good material, we had to wade through so much mediocre fluff in this later period that it effectively negates the occasional gem and leaves me wishing they had fizzled out a lot earlier.

With "Welcome to the Show" BJH opens the 1990s much as they ended the 1980s, and that can't be a good thing for long time fans, to whom it was starting to sound like the show that never ends.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars At least the cover art is nice!

The Barclay James Harvest output is pretty extensive and I sometimes wonder how I made it this far into their discography! Welcome To The Show is the band's 15th studio album and it is yet another in a long series of less-than-good albums. But apparently there is something about this band that makes me want to hear more and there is usually at least one or two good songs on most of their albums. The previous album, for example, had a beautiful song called Kiev. The present album is no exception either as it has the pretty strong Lady Macbeth. It is an interesting idea to consider how good an album the band could have made if they put all their very best compositions of the 80's and 90's onto one and the same album. Sadly this is not the case and all these albums have fillers. Again, Welcome To The Show is no exception here. Indeed, most of the songs here deserve to be called fillers!

Needless to say there is nothing out of the ordinary here and absolutely nothing that will impress the general Prog fan. I will not comment on each individual track as many are similar to each other and many are generic and middle of the road material. Most of the songs are decent and follow closely in the tradition of the band's previous albums. While only one song here is truly awful, the rest are at least listenable even if mostly totally unremarkable. The (most) awful one is easily John Lennon's Guitar. The lyrics to this song are absolutely immature and naive and could easily have been written by a six year old! Lyrics have always been a problem for this band, but this might be their worst lyric of all time.

The strong 80's Pop sound of the two previous albums has been toned down a little bit for this album and they do sound slightly fresher here. Welcome To The Show is indeed the band's best album since 1983's Ring Of Changes, but it must be pointed out how very easy it is to better such albums as Victim Of Changes and Face To Face.

This album is only recommended for fans and collectors of the band. The only great thing about it is the cover art!

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Best Bee-Gees album since 'Trafalgar'!

That's not really a slight; it's just that the vocals (mostly Les Holroyd's I believe) sound remarkably like the non-disco version of the brothers Gibb. Not everywhere on the album, but this is quite noticeable on the opening "The Life You Lead", "Welcome to the Show" and "African Nights" (all Holroyd compositions by the way). On the other hand the band pulls off a dead-on Eddie Money with "Psychedelic Child" including power chords along with Money's confused not-quite-country vocals. And "Where Do We Go" sounds suspiciously like a Peter Cetera-era Chicago tune, complete with a slow, dramatic ballad tempo and horn fills.

Seriously though, this album, coming more than three years after their last release and the longest recording break for the band in their twenty-plus year history to that point is easily their most varied and energetic since 'Gone to Earth' some thirteen years prior. The band sounds as if they were actually enjoying themselves in the studio and came prepared to put out something that aimed for more than simply satiating overly-loyal fans and padding their discography.

I should mention there's pretty much nothing progressive here at all, but as a cohesive and creative collection of music it far exceeds what most fans should have expected at this point. The band had released one decent and four lackluster studio albums since the departure of keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme at the end of the seventies, and I for one had long given up on them and assumed they were basically riding the wave of their legend and would end up either retiring gracefully or plugging away on the oldies circuit eventually. Turns out there was a little gas left in the tank after all.

Musically there's some fluff here, especially with the more languid tunes like the plodding "Origin Earth" and the rather cryptic closer "Shadows on the Sky". But Holyroyd, John Lees and drummer Mel Pritchard prove they can still put together cogent arrangements that accentuate their vast musical talents, even if they don't exactly push themselves to any new heights of exploration. I almost feel like they were sampling hit sounds of the new decade, proving to themselves and to any potential new fans that they were still musically relevant and could duplicate just about anything their contemporaries could, even at their advancing age. Not a problem in the end; for the most part they pulled it off.

There are a few memorably sappy moments like "John Lennon's Guitar", a tribute to the time when John Lees got a chance to jam a bit on Lennon's actual blonde Epiphone. One of my kids has an Epiphone and I tried closing my eyes and strumming it while listening to this yesterday. Imagine!

And "Halfway to Freedom" will probably bring a lump to the throat of anyone who witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall (even if only via satellite) and recalls the swell of emotion and goodwill feelings that spread like sunshine throughout the world in those heady days. Those who understand the connection Lees and Holroyd had with their fans in Berlin during the lean times can especially appreciate the sentiments on this one.

I still prefer the more experimental, artsy/folk music of the band's early days, but I have to admit the band outdid themselves for the first time in years with 'Welcome to the Show', and producer Jon Astley did a marvelous job bringing out the creative side of a rather jaded band and with a musical genre far removed from his prior experience. A great choice of songs, of producer and of themes. A solid three star effort and well recommended to fans as well as those who are riding the fan fence.


Latest members reviews

5 stars "Welcome to the Show", issued in 1990 some 22 years after their first ever record release, is Barclay James Harvest's late period masterpiece. Their early period, under the influence of their inspirational keyboards player Woolly Wolstenholme, had been dominated by a distinctive, very English ... (read more)

Report this review (#125984) | Posted by alextorres2 | Saturday, June 16, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An impressive, even sublime. achievement indeed for a band whose classic work was more than a decade past. Many of the post Wolstenholme albums were dissappointing and brought down by a sameness, song after song. True, a few very good songs would appear, but albums in toto could not be conside ... (read more)

Report this review (#83726) | Posted by CaptPike | Friday, July 14, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars First impressions often lie... when I heard this album first, I was close to discarting it, I didn't like it for being so cold... and "John lennon's guitar" ( about which a Journalist in germany wrote that "John Lennon would be turning in his grave" ! ) as well as "Shadows on the Sky" were awf ... (read more)

Report this review (#66537) | Posted by rupert | Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars At times I feel like running into the street and shouting 'for gods sake listen this is a bloody good band' for action speaks louder than words. Aristocrats of rock Barclay James Harvest once again produced a superlative album that stands the test of time. From the gentle, where do we go, to ... (read more)

Report this review (#53625) | Posted by | Thursday, October 27, 2005 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This is one of the worse albums of the band. After the Wooly departure the albums of BJH are good songs and bad songs. In this album the good songs are: "John Lennon's Guitar" (a beautiful ballad about the times when the Band was in Abbey Road Studios with The Beatles); "Halfway To Freedom" (a ... (read more)

Report this review (#22715) | Posted by | Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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