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Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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Barclay James  Harvest John Lees' Barclay James Harvest: North album cover
3.06 | 55 ratings | 3 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2013

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. If You Were Here Now (5:48)
2. Ancient Waves (7:10)
3. In Wonderland (5:49)
4. On Leave (9:11)
5. The Real Deal (5:48)
6. On Top of the World (5:40)
7. Unreservedly Yours (4:51)
8. North (8:29)
9. The End of the Day (2:34)

Total Time 55:20

Line-up / Musicians

- John Lees / electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
- Jez Smith / keyboards, vocals
- Craig Fletcher / bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Kevin Whitehead / drums, percussion, vocals

- Graham "Batts" Batley / cornet (6)
- Jolyon Stead / euphonium (6)
- Bruce Jones / trombone (6)
- John J Lees / cornet (6), flugelhorn (9)

Releases information

Artwork: Phil Smee

CD Esoteric Antenna - EANTCD 1023 (2013, Europe)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST John Lees' Barclay James Harvest: North Music

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST John Lees' Barclay James Harvest: North ratings distribution

(55 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (40%)
Collectors/fans only (20%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST John Lees' Barclay James Harvest: North reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars The best Barclay James Harvest album in three decades, yet still not all that good!

Released in 2013, North is the first proper studio album to be released under the name of John Lees' Barclay James Harvest. (1999's Nexus was a mixture of original material and re-recordings of classic Barclay James Harvest songs; and besides it was released under the alternative name of "Barclay James Harvest Through The Eyes Of John Lees".) Before he passed away in 2010, Woolly Wolstenholme was involved in this version of the band (which can be seen on the very good live DVD Legacy - Live At The Shepherd's Bush Empire released in 2007). The John Lees' Barclay James Harvest moniker is thus more appropriate than it was when it started as John Lees is now the only original member of Barclay James Harvest involved. (Les Holroyd has his own version of the band called Barclay James Harvest Featuring Les Holroyd, which included the fourth original member Mel Pritchard before he passed away.)

Nonetheless, North is a full-fledged Barclay James Harvest album in sound and appearance and is indeed the best studio album that (any version of) the band has produced in a long, long time. Almost all the songs bear the trademark Barclay James Harvest sound embodied in the voice and guitar sound of John Lees. The opening track If You Were Here Now does however not have this sound and I wonder if it is not bass player Craig Fletcher who sings lead here (?). It is a rather weak song which does not leave a good impression.

The album continues with Ancient Waves which was previously familiar to me from the live album Live In Concert At Metropolis Studios, London. This is one out of three good songs on this album, the other two being the title track and On Leave. The latter is the longest track on the album which leaves room for some tasteful guitar and keyboard work. These three songs easily rank among the best songs that the band has produced since the 1970's. Unfortunately the album as a whole is not up to that standard.

Unreservedly Yours was released as a single to promote this album. It has a rather standard, Beatles- esque melody and failed to leave any lasting impressions. On Top Of The World is a decent symphonic ballad which is pleasant enough, but again hardly impressive. Is it Fletcher singing again?

The real embarrassments of the album have not yet been mentioned however. In Wonderland is an absolute miss, especially the lyrics are cringe-worthy implicitly criticising the age of information technology by urging us to switch our phones off making the band appear like some old Luddites. With lines like "Facebook, YouTube, you loose" and "Schmetterlings for brains" this is best avoided by contemporary beings. The Real Deal is another weak track, a dull, middle of the road rocker.

With some strong moments, some decent moments, and some really weak moments, North could certainly have been a lot better than it is. If you are a fan of the band, by all means check this out, but for most people this is far from essential.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars After a period of mourning the tragic loss of Woolly Wolstenholme, a founding member of the original BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, the John Lees faction decided to soldier on, and "North" is the first progeny of that resilient group, to which long time BJH fan Jez Smith was added on keyboards. It is in fact the first disk of entirely new material under the BJH name since the late 1990s split.

First of all, the mere title of the album speaks volumes, alluding to the pastoral Oldham origins of the group, which somehow adhered to the mellotron soaked sound like chocolate to almonds. What's enlightening to me is how, for the first time, if only at times, BJH sounds closer to a low voltage kiltless version of a few Scottish acts I could name, as they draw more than usual, which is to say, more than not at all, from the traditions of their surroundings. As such, it's difficult to compare this disk to any other era of the group, as it represents a bold renaissance of their identity, that, while not always captivating, is commendable in anyone past middle age.

Of note, Lees' vocals remain readily identifiable and effective within a wisely preset narrow range, and bassist Craig Fletcher sings on several tracks for variety, his voice more suited to conventional rock. Lees' guitar has mellowed, opting for melodic phrasings a la MARK KNOPFLER. Jez Smith shines particularly on piano on several tracks but also on organ and of course mellotron, though its use does not approach that triple washed sheen of early BJH albums, nor does it attempt to. A luxuriant breath of styles is afforded, including epics, basic blues, jazz rock, romantic ballad, and even an ambient brass song. From the perspective of most prog listeners, the lengthiest tracks will offer the best mileage, the best of these being "On Leave", a tribute to Wolstenholme, which is as intricate a composition and arrangement as anything the band has done in any era. Of special note is a frantic call and response midsection that acquiesces to their departed friend's confusions, standing with him without judgement, as true friends.

Even the more conventional tracks often yield unexpected pleasures. The STEELY DAN influenced "In Wonderland" includes a symphonic break that STEELY could not have conceived. "Unreservedly Yours" reminds me of GORDON LIGHTFOOT, but with a simple lilting chorus that delights. "On Top of the World" reaps glory out of its initial lassitude.

While BJH will probably never glisten again like they did in the glory years, "North" succeeds because it sets its internal compass onward and upward, respecting the past but refusing to be haunted by it.

Latest members reviews

4 stars It was a long wait .. but a rewarding one!! After 14 years and turbulent developments, with the tragic deaths of founder members Mel Pritchard and Woolly Wolstenholme to whose memories 'North' is dedicated, the John Lees' version of BJH return with a glorious album that is full of great melodi ... (read more)

Report this review (#1063695) | Posted by Theo Verstrael | Sunday, October 20, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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