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JOHN LEES

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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John Lees biography
John Lees is best known as guitarist and vocalist with Barclay James Harvest. Born in Oldham in the north of England in 1947, he began playing guitar at the age of 14. He met Stuart "Wooly" Wolstenholme at Oldham School of Art in 1964, and the pair went on to play in a band called The Sorcerers. In 1966, they joined up with Les Holroyd and Mel Prichard plus two others to form The Blues Keepers. The band became a four piece and changed their name to Barclay James Harvest.

Lees has remained a member of that band ever since, although these days his version of the band is known as "Barclay James Harvest through the eyes of John Lees", Les Holroyd recording and touring separately with his own version.

To date, Lees has only released one solo album, "A major fancy". This was recorded in 1972 around the time the band was moving from Harvest records to Polydor, and was therefore shelved without being released. It eventually gained a commercial release in 1977 on the Harvest Heritage label. A single was recorded in 1974 containing cover versions of The Eagles "Best of my love" and Eric Clapton's "You can't get it". The single is now very collectible, but the songs can be heard on the CD release of the album.

Bob McBeath (Easy livin)
With thanks to the official Barclay James Harvest website.

See also:
- Barclay James Harvest
- Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme




Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
John Lees is a founding member of Barclay James Harvest, who are listed on this site. His sole solo album is rooted in Art Rock.



Discography:
A Major Fancy (1977) Studio Album

John Lees official website

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2.56 | 16 ratings
A Major Fancy
1977

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JOHN LEES Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 A Major Fancy by LEES, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.56 | 16 ratings

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A Major Fancy
John Lees Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Untitled

A Major Fancy is the one and only solo album by Barclay James Harvest man John Lees. Apparently it was recorded in 1972, but held back from release until 1977. One most interesting fact is that it was on this album that the original version of Child Of The Universe appeared. This song later ended up, in a different version, on Barclay James Harvest's Everyone Is Everybody Else in 1974 and has since become one of the band's most recognized songs.

My expectations before hearing A Major Fancy were rather low, but this album is not a disaster. The style of music is more funky than what you would expect from Barclay James Harvest. Rod Argent hands in some nice organ on the nearly 8 minute opening track, Untitled No. 1. The weakest aspect of this otherwise rather good track is the banal lyrics. Child Of The Universe I have already mentioned. This older version is not as good as the subsequent band version, but it is a good song. This flows into Kes, a brief and inoffensive instrumental.

So far A Major Fancy is rather good, but after this point things start to get problematic. Untitled No. 2 is a funky number that, despite its relatively short length, feels overlong and leaves no lasting impression. Sweet Faced Jane is however the first embarrassment. A bouncy rocker with a violin lead, and a slight Country feel. Wittburg Night is closer to Barclay James Harvest territory in its slow tempo and in the melody. However, it sounds rather like a weak Barclay James Harvest tune and leaves a lot to be desired. The lyrics are again banal and there is an unnecessary Beatles-quote! Similar comments apply to the rest of the album.

I cannot recommend this album for anyone but the most devoted Barclay James Harvest fan

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 A Major Fancy by LEES, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.56 | 16 ratings

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A Major Fancy
John Lees Crossover Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

2 stars One could have expected that John Lees would have take the opportunity to release an album which would be more guitar oriented to compensate the dominance of the Wholstenholme keyboards music which was to be experienced within BJH in the days of the recording of this album ('72).

But it not the case. The opening number (featuring a great Rod Argent on the keys), one feels the impressive organ work. The early version of Children Of The Universe also has the early BJH treat: it features an orchestra during the finale and sounds therefore more pompous than the featured track on their excellent Everyone Is Everybody Else album (one of their best IMHHO). It is another good song from this album, which won't hold that many to say the truth.

After a very dispensable instrumental track (Kes), the funky Untitled No 2 is far from the expectation one could have from a John Lees effort. But this is the tendency throughout the work. If ever you fancy some country-rock music, Sweet Faced Jane is the one for you. But I can't endorse such a song.

One of the very few BJH oriented song is probably the good Witburg Night. Same type of vocals and melancholy. I can understand of course that an artist while releasing a solo album is willing to differentiate from the work while playing with his band, but the artist also has to bear in mind that his prospects are first his own and existing fan database. An I was quite a BJH fan between '74 and '76. By '77 (date of release of this album), this solo work was completely drowned into another wave of music and was totally ignored (at least in Belgium).

One of my fave song (but there is little surprise), is the very much BJH oriented Please, Be With Me (which is a cover song though).

As a matter of fact, I wonder who would be interested by this album: the die-hard BJH won't recognize this music from one of the leaders of their beloved bands and the external (prog) rock fan wouldn't be impressed with these average songs (with a few exceptions already mentioned).

Two stars.

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 A Major Fancy by LEES, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.56 | 16 ratings

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A Major Fancy
John Lees Crossover Prog

Review by rupert

3 stars This is not a Barclay James Harvest Album, so don't be misled by expectations raised from the inclusion of "Child of the Universe" - in its original studio version cause the song had been rejected by BJH first. John Lees' 1972 Solo-Album "A Major Fancy", released on Vinyl when in 1977 BJH had their major breakthrough and EMI remembered what was hidden in their vaults, is far more an answer to those who have a hard time believing that before BJH emerged their original members had played in R'n'B ( R'n'B !!! ) Bands two of a kind before they joined forces... though some stuff of BJH's EMI catalogue points into the direction their guitar player should go here ( Blue Johns Blues f.e. ! )... but there is always a tip at the Beatles to be found in John Lees' work anyway.

A jazzy vibe's running through the two first ( of three ) "Untitled" numbers, great organ playing by Rod Argent ( of the Zombies fame, later on - with Russ Ballard - teaming up for ARGENT ) on the first and great piano ( throughout the album: Gordon Edwards ) gets you off at the second while the groove was supplied by Pretty Things' Wally Waller ( Bass ) and Skip Alan ( drums ), lending an unexpected swing also to "Long Ships".

In fact, "Child of the Universe" is the only song arranged in the vein you may expect but different to BJH still with female choir-voices haunted by a passionate ( and nowadays perhaps disturbing ) string-chart, and it has to be said that with "Untitled ( 1 )" and "Child of the Universe" this album is truly starting out great while the other tracks can't quite live up to that though, with several listens, you'll be happy with the beauty of "Witburg Night", too, and, if you're into the Eagles, you will enjoy "Sweet faced Jane" as well, a country-rocker with fiddles and - unusual but very pleasing - a soulful saxophone-solo.

The other two tracks - "Kes" is an atmospheric instrumental and the closing lovesong, untitled again - are not as strong as those but still worthwhile. As Keith Domone so distinctively wrote in the linerntes for the CD-reissue on Eagle Recods, this album "is very much a child of its time"... but every BJH-fan should have it, cause added are three extremely rare gems from the Polydor-archives, on which Les Holroyd handles the bass duties ( and B.J. Cole plays steel guitar ! )... the coverversion of the Eagles' "Best of my Love" is very beautiful, it could have been a hit for John if not Polydor would have stopped any promotional support for the single in order not to compete with BJH ( ! ) then.

When I bought this cd I first lost interest in the whole thing after the first two songs but I've come to love the whole album now, so to ME it's a four star-album, but there's not so many proggy moments so my rating is less for you.

Rupi

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 A Major Fancy by LEES, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.56 | 16 ratings

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A Major Fancy
John Lees Crossover Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Over four years between recording and release, and three tracks are still untitled!

John Lees is best known as the guitarist, vocalist, and song writer with Barclay James Harvest. While one of the two current line ups of that band now bears his name, he has only ever released one solo album, "A major fancy".

The album was recorded in 1972, when the band were in the process of moving from Harvest records, who had released their first four albums, to Polydor records. The move to Polydor was a positive one, which gave the band a new lease of life.

During their time on Harvest, Lees had accumulated a number of songs which for one reason or another were not considered right for BJH. He therefore recorded "A major fancy" without the other BJH members being involved in any way. The band's new record label were uncomfortable with the idea of Lees releasing a solo album when BJH's first album for them ("Everyone is everybody else") was about to hit the streets. "A major fancy" was therefore shelved, finally being released in 1977 on the Harvest Heritage label, usually used for re-issues of older albums at a budget price.

The album includes contributions from 10CC's Kevin Godley and Eric Stewart, along with Rod Argent of the Zombies and Argent. It was produced by Wally Waller of the Pretty Things, who also contributes bass, mellotron, moog and harmony vocals.

This is however very much Lee's project. The sound is noticeably different to that of BJH although some of the songs could easily have been recorded by that band, indeed "Child of the universe" was used on "Everyone is everybody else". While the melody of that song is instantly recognisable here, and the vocals are still the distinctive voice of Lees, this version is quite different. The song is sympathetically orchestrated with an extended choral ending rendering it far less acidic than the BJH version.

Three of the pieces are "Untitled", perhaps implying they are demos or works in progress. In fact they are most definitely finished products. "Untitled number 1- heritage" (is that not a title?) opens the album with some fine piano by Gordon Edwards leading to the distinctive tones of Lees' guitar. The vocal sections are functional but the track features a wonderful organ solo by Rod Argent. "Untitled no 3", which closes the album, is a pleasant light piece slightly reminiscent of BJH's "One night". The instrumental credits indicate that it is the sole track to feature melotron, but its presence is difficult, if not impossible, to detect.

"Sweet faced Jane" is a country/folk tinged song, with strong hints of "Poor boy blues" which featured on "Everyone is everybody else". "Whitburg night", with its soft, slightly distorted vocals and typical Lees guitar would have sounded at home on BJH's early albums, perhaps in place of the similar "Harry's song".

There are weaker moments on the album. "Untitled no 2" is a light, throwaway number with semi-whispered vocals and a funky beat. "Long ships" is a rather ordinary mid- paced number, with an unexciting melody but interesting lyrics. The track segues into a brief, but far more exciting guitar run entitled "Link piece".

In all, an album which will be of substantial interest to BJH fans. While by no means a long lost BJH album, Lees distinctive vocals and guitars make for a fine, if occasionally uneven, album.

The CD version includes three extra tracks. Two of these are cover versions of songs by the Eagles and Eric Clapton which were released as a now collectable single.

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