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Prog Folk • United Kingdom

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Roy Harper biography
Born June 12, 1941 (Rusholme, Manchester, UK)

In the mid sixties Roy Harper played guitar and sang at the Les Cousin folk club and came into contact with artists like Nick Drake. Harper's teenage years were pretty erratic to say the least with discharge from the military for ' insanity' reasons. This was an early indicator of his erratic and somewhat hard define, career in music. Throughout the years Roy Harper constantly refused to be controlled by record companies which earned a huge amount of respect from his peers.

His first solo album was released in 1966, The Sophisticated Beggar and by 1970 he had met up with Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner and signed to the EMI label. Roy Harper's music can be best defined as progressive folk, but as his work is so varied there are many instances where his music transgressed these genre confinements. He worked alongside greats like Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, The Nice, Kate Bush and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

In 1971 Roy Harper released what critics and fans regard as his best work, Stormcock. In 1980 Harper left the EMI label after The Commercial Break release and started his own label. He again returned to EMI briefly in 1986 only again to reform his own label but continues to record and play to this present day ably assisted by his son Nick Harper. Roy Harper is also recognised for his vocal contribution on ' Have A Cigar'off Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here release.

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Science Friction 2013
$13.88 (used)
Science Friction 2001
$22.24 (used)
Flashes from the Archives of OblivionFlashes from the Archives of Oblivion
Science Friction 2013
$6.02 (used)
HQ (When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease)HQ (When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease)
Science Friction 1998
$24.99 (used)
Science Friction 1995
$9.60 (used)
Man And MythMan And Myth
Pias America 2013
$5.49 (used)
$64.98 (used)
Griffin Records 1994
$4.98 (used)
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ROY HARPER discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

ROY HARPER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.45 | 29 ratings
Sophisticated Beggar
2.50 | 19 ratings
Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith [Aka: The Early Years]
3.77 | 37 ratings
3.62 | 35 ratings
Flat Baroque And Berserk
4.02 | 172 ratings
3.74 | 38 ratings
3.54 | 48 ratings
HQ [Aka: When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease]
2.94 | 31 ratings
Bullinamingvase [Aka: One Of Those Days In England]
3.06 | 13 ratings
The Unknown Soldier
3.40 | 10 ratings
The Roy Harper Band: Work Of Heart
3.56 | 9 ratings
Born In Captivity
3.72 | 25 ratings
Roy Harper & Jimmy Page: Whatever Happened To Jugula ?
2.86 | 7 ratings
Descendants Of Smith [Aka: Garden Of Uranium]
3.85 | 11 ratings
3.63 | 10 ratings
Death Or Glory ?
2.65 | 8 ratings
The Dream Society
4.18 | 13 ratings
The Green Man
3.73 | 17 ratings
Man & Myth

ROY HARPER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 9 ratings
Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion
2.00 | 3 ratings
In Between Every Line
3.13 | 6 ratings
2.00 | 1 ratings
Live At Les Cousins

ROY HARPER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ROY HARPER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.47 | 12 ratings
0.00 | 0 ratings
2.25 | 4 ratings
Loony On The Bus
3.03 | 5 ratings
Hats Off
3.91 | 3 ratings
Counter Culture
4.92 | 3 ratings
Songs of Love and Loss

ROY HARPER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Short And Sweet (featuring David Gilmour)
0.00 | 0 ratings
Playing Games (featuring David Gilmour)
0.00 | 0 ratings
Roy Harper & Jimmy Page: Elizabeth
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Death Of God


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Stormcock by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.02 | 172 ratings

Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by poet3434

5 stars Objectively, Roy Harper's masterpiece (although he preferred HQ personally).

Perhaps the only totally consistent Roy Harper album with no bad tracks (it only has 4). It's just him in the main, with some help from Jimmy Page on "The Same old Rock", and some light orchestration from Peter Jenner on the closing epic "Me and My Woman". The opener H'or D'oerve's, and one of Roy Harper's signiture live cuts, One Man Rock and Roll Band are just Roy, doing Roy.

Everything on the record has a reason to bere there, and this is truly one of the few albums I listen to from start to finish everytime and find something new and exciting each time, even after 30 years.

This is a must have masterpiece from the most under-rated artist of the 1970s. If you enjoy, then move onto HQ, Lifemask, Valentine, Bullinamingvase and his earlier albums. I love them all, but this is without question the most special.

 Stormcock by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.02 | 172 ratings

Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by moorw003

5 stars This is one of the greatest albums of all time. Forget that it's a folk record, or a rock record, or a prog record. It's a masterpiece from begin to end.

Hor D'oerves is a song Roy Harper described in interviews as being lightweight. Compared with what came in the last 3 songs, that might be true, but it's a fine, laid back and rivetting start to the album.

The Same Old Rock is where the meat of the album really starts. An angry lament about the folly of organised religion, it weaves in and out before knocking you down with a killer coda (something the final track does too).

One Man Rock and Roll Band, probably is Roy Harper's second most played song live, after Cricketer from a different album. The Eastern influence and multiple ways it can be played is clearly fun to play. This version is probably the weakest of any, but that's not really a dig. It's a great, punchy song with distorted vocals.

Me and my Woman is a love song. Roy didn't write many, but what a song. Multiple different segments in here, the most progressive and probably the best song here (which is saying something). It's coda, the last 4 minutes or so is just spine tinglingly good.

 Stormcock by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.02 | 172 ratings

Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by aglasshouse

4 stars Folk music is a genre as time-weathered as the most ancient forms of music out there. It's spanned generations at yet never faced a particular decline. Sure, the 20th century beckoned innovation left and right, such as the inception of jazz and rock as a pop culture medium. These genres, even though existing for a few decades, have been tampered with to the point of ridiculousness, discovering countless avant-garde pathways of musical experimentation. Yet folk hasn't really gone through a mainstream upheaval. Granted a genre as vast as folk is doubtless to maneuver through less traveled territories, which is definitely did in many different cultural landscapes. These ambitious takes on the genre were never financially popular. Most mainstream folk musicians were and are still content to patter out the same material as they were a hundred years ago, mainly because of society's familiarity and comfort with folk staying inside the proverbial box.

The 1970's ushered in the most eclectic and experimental period in recent history. Genres were not being introduced- rather they were being reintroduced in new clothes. Rock morphed itself into such genres as punk rock, disco, funk, and progressive rock (to a smaller extent). Jazz was delving deeper into perplexing territory on one side, but on the other hand genres like smooth jazz began to erupt in popularity. Hell, the two combined in the late 60's into jazz-rock, another newly-discovered music form. Still though, folk remained pinned in normalcy. Sure, psychedelic injections in the genre came from artists like Donovan, but the traditionalism still overshadowed it in popularity with acts like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. One artist tried to break this glass ceiling, however. Roy Harper.

To be fair, Mr. Harper doesn't necessarily require a grandiose introduction like some exalted king of tunes, but the man is quite the interesting fellow. In an interview, Harper states that he himself is not a fan of traditional folk music, and "was never really a bone fide member of the folk scene". Harper's difference from his peers becomes quite stark when delving into his music. He doesn't play like a romanticized pretty boy sticking to a linear set of sparing phrases that can be sung to make the crowd swoon, as much as he does a poet or a bard. Harper is a fan of John Keats, an 18th/17th century romantic poet, and it definitely translates fluidly into his work. He sticks mainly to lengthy songs, usually over the 8 minute mark, each filled with colorful language and rich stories. If you want to find good examples of these said songs, look no further than what is perhaps Harper's 1971 opus, Stormcock.

Stormcock is as progressive as they come. First, it has a short set of 4 tracks. Second, each track is individually lengthy, with the longest track being over 13 minutes. Third and finally, upon it's release, it was practically loathed by the labels. Marketing was practically impossible as radios refused to air it's tracks. Financially, Stormcock was a flop. A big flop. But honestly- who cares what the radios think in the end? Stormcock has since then has gained somewhat of a cult following and for good reason. It's influence has stretched quite a way to bands like The Smiths and modern folk/indie band Fleet Foxes. The album itself doesn't feature much diversity musician-wise other than Harper himself, except for Jimmy Page's under-contract-cameo as "S. Flavius Mercurius" and orchestral arrangements by David Bedford (who has worked with Kevin Ayers of Soft Machine). Roy Harper's musicianship is unique and extremely intricate. His guitar skill coupled with his sort of Ian Anderson-esque rasp color vivid literary pictures on each track. As someone who likes a bit of zesty writing, Harper is absolutely my medicine. The production is something highly praised, but personally I think it's rather rough at times. 'Same Old Rock' I know features far too blunt audio-balancing techniques and are usually just acceptable at best. I will give credit where credit is due though; the large production staff managed to master the art of atmosphere, particularly on the last track 'Me and My Woman' (we'll be coming back to this one). The echo of each instrument lends great power to every song, as well as giving it a great personality. More or less this album is guitar-centric, structured around Harper's overlapping acoustic and vocals but given different and interesting effects. If that sounded like something hackneyed to you, I'll admit that it is a bit. But usually where most 70's folk-cheese falls flat is that is becomes overly self-indulgent and you can no longer take it seriously. Stormcock has a certain subtlety to it that gives it a sense of maturity over it's contemporaries. This is mainly shown on the closer, 'Me and My Woman', which I've become convinced is one of the greatest musical compositions of the 1970s. Each movement in the song (especially the opening) flows almost perfectly into each-other, and the orchestral accompaniment does wonders to the piece. I'd really suggest checking it out on your own as it's one of the most worthwhile experiences I can recommend on this site.

Are you looking for an escape, my musically-frustrated friend? Then to reiterate: look no further than Roy Harper's Stormcock. It features some of the most soulful music to come out of the 70's folk scene, and is definitely top quality progressive material. Godspeed.

4.5 rounded to a 4 (mostly because of the production inconsistencies but also for the sake of this site's ratings system).

 Folkjokeopus by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.77 | 37 ratings

Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Folkjokeopus is probably Harper's most schizophrenic piece, alternating between campy, drugged-up music hall and the haunting all-encompassing completeness that would characterise his work from here on. Two of the pieces on it are completely unmissable, most of the others are fair to good, a couple are kinda regrettable.

Let's start with the good, One For All is a devastating flatpicking guitar piece wrapped around a gloriously spacey lyric. Probably Harper's finest performance with the technique, the Celto-Arabic hammer-ons and pull- offs taking on a significance on different plane to the notes themselves, intercut with thundering chords. McGoohan's Blues is a 20 minute stream of consciousness howl over a thundering acoustic Am riff, along with the scalar interludes of Harper's early work and a beautiful major(ish) resolution featuring a little more of a band. The vocal is just extraordinary, natural, almost conversational, uniquely English, full of the high twang and ethereal notes typical of Harper's later 70s work. The lyrics are simply a masterwork, the moral thundering fourteeners of a Kipling turned into an immaculate skewering of the way of life the form implies.

And the village is making its Sunday collection in church The church wobbles 'twixt hell and heaven's crumbling perch Unnoticed the money box loudly endorses the shame As the world that Christ fought is supported by using his name

Every verse is this good.

The rest of the album never really hits the same giddy heights; She's The One has its moments and a great bass part but as a whole piece, the ill-advised high notes, slightly befuddled lyrics and tone never really come together. Composer of Life and In The Time of Water are a bit dinky but not unpleasant as a venture into oriental instrumentation, which I don't think Harper ever really revisited. The opening Sergeant Sunshine is probably the most Dylan-esque of Harper's pieces but nonetheless very fine, in a slightly odd timing with beautiful female vocals over the top and some extraordinary rhymes ('joins the endless next last waltz/says he loves his liver salts'). Exercising Some Control is a campy Noel Coward type affair based on a great pun but it's the giggly stoner and not the cerebral mystic at work. Manana is definitely an inexplicable comedown after McGoohan's Blues blows everything out of the park. There's something to it but I'm not really sure what it is.

Overall, this is probably the most sophomoric of all sophomore albums with the gems and inconsistencies and slight uncertainty about direction really exaggerated from Harper's rather good debut but Christ alive the highs are some of the highlights of Roy Harper's career and the whole English singer-songwriter scene from the time. I can't really give the end product as many stars as those pieces deserve but seriously give One For All and McGoohan's Blues a listen. The storm was gathering here.

 Bullinamingvase [Aka: One Of Those Days In England] by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.94 | 31 ratings

Bullinamingvase [Aka: One Of Those Days In England]
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by GruvanDahlman
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

3 stars Roy Harper holds a real excentric and genuine talent. That goes, really, without saying. And while I do appreciate folk-rock and progressive folk my feelings towards the bulk of Harper's work are divided. The album prior to this one, HQ, is a great album, of sorts. I gave it four stars, mainly due to the outstanding ending, 'When an old cricketer leaves the crease'. So, I was really excited to hear this one. Supposedly this ought to hold similar brilliance. Having said this I guessed that it would also hold songs of less interest to me. I was right.

Being an anglophile I do love when songs hold that very specific british tone. The opener, 'One of those days in England', hits the spot perfectly. Sublime and gentle it really touches me. A great song that opens the album in the most humble of ways. The songs following are more or less in the same vein, folky songs with more or less complex arrangements. Though it need to be said, there are not any overly complex compositions to be found on the first four songs. They are simply great folk inspired songs with a hint of rock and splashes of prog. The only song I disapprove of is 'Watford gap'. It created some sort of stir back in the day but that does not make the song any better. I could easily live without that one.

And then it comes, the rumbling epic of 'One of those days in England (parts 2-10)'. This is the true progressive folk number of the album. In this epic work Harper throws in ideas of all sorts. It really is an accomplished number, tying the opener to the ending track by including the theme. There is a rock'n'roll section I disagree with but apart from that it is a really interesting and great track.

The real reward on this album is, really, 'One of those days in England (parts 1-10)'. Apart from 'Watford gap' there is not a bad song on here BUT apart from the 10-part epic the other tracks are too much in the same way. Nice to listen to but I forget them too easily. So, 'Bullinamingvase' is an interesting album and I really enjoy it but in the end I have to face the truth and I cannot give this album more than three stars. I recommend you to listen to the 10-part epic, though. That is truly brilliant stuff.

 Stormcock by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.02 | 172 ratings

Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Stormcock is an unusual folk album for the fact that it has only four songs and that they are all performed, for the most part, by one artist (no offense, David BEDFORD and Jimmy PAGE). Roy and his engineering/production team are quite creative and adventurous with their rendering of background, support, and incidental musical support throughout the album, but moreso, on Side 2, with the heavy "Donovan-warble" effects placed upon Roy's voice and on he and Jimmy's guitars on 3. "One Man Rock and Roll Band" (7:23) (9/10) and on the album's highpoint, the haunting multi-faceted suite, 4. "Me and My Woman" (13:01) (10/10). (Did I mention how brilliant David Bedford is?) Despite this discrepancy between Side 2 and Side 1, Side 1 is still very good. The opener, "Hors d'oeuvres" (8:37) relies on Roy's DONOVAN-like voice dirging over a very repetitive foundation of two guitars riffing the same riffs over and over for the entire song. At the 3:00 mark background "choir" of mulit-tracked, heavily treated voices (all sounding like those of Roy, himself) begin accompanying the guitars and lead vocal. Around 4:30 an organ joins in the accompaniment in the background followed by an electric guitar solo in the final 45 seconds--after the vocal has ended. The song is also quite notable for the 5:50 point at which Roy acknowledges--in the very lyrics that he is singing--that his lyrics will most likely prevent the song from ever seeing radio play. (9/10) 2. "The Same Old Rock" (12:25) must rely more on its lyrical content for its appeal cuz, up until the 6:50 mark, I find it quite boring. (8/10) A fairly recent discovery for me, I liked it immediately and like the way increasing familiarity has helped it to grow even more in my esteem. Definitely a four star album, maybe even worthy of five.
 Bullinamingvase [Aka: One Of Those Days In England] by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.94 | 31 ratings

Bullinamingvase [Aka: One Of Those Days In England]
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Prog Folk: a progressive rock subgenre. At least as defined by Prog Archives. But it amazes me that few grasp exactly what this infers, even with PA's definition. It's simply what it claims to be, a combination of progressive rock and folk rock.

And few albums better exhibit this musical hybrid than Bullinamigvase (Bull-in-a-ming-vase) by Roy Harper, alternately titled One Of Those Days In England due to it's fantastic multipart suite like song of the same name.

Bullinamingvase was recorded at Harper's UK home in Hereford with Studer tape machines borrowed from Abby Road along with talented producer/engineer John Leckie. One Of Those Days In England Part l is a sweet but short album opener that features Paul McCartney and Wings on backing vocals and never hints at the poetic and deeper topic of it's longer multi part album closer that containing Parts ll-X and features juxtaposed soft and harder rocking sections with acoustic slide guitar, electric lead, piano accompaniment and a brief but dramatic string and harp backing score. The song is very Anglo centric and is a celebration by Harper of the history and myths of Great Britain, while simultaneously commenting on the modern realities of the then ruling Thatcher government, unemployment and union/labor problems, IRA terrorism and possible anarchist terrorism. Harper acknowledges 'a sword in every lake' and King Alfred the Great while he satirizes terrorists who want to 'plant a bomb in the street to change law and order and when we've killed all those who resisted the call, we'll discover a brand new wall at the border.'

The key to the catchy melodicism of these suite like songs is Harper finally combining his past overtly acoustic folk songs with the extremely harsh and strident hard rock of his last album H.Q. Equal parts soft and hard rock with polished hooks sells the material as does his brilliant combination of acoustic guitar leads, played by Harper and Andy Roberts before switching gears to a hard rocking vocal and electric guitar assault by Henry McCullough and Alvin Lee, supported by a deft rhythm section on the outstanding ode to romantic rejection Cherishing The Lonesome.

Harper switches gears again for a sublime commentary on failed marriage on Naked Flame which combines more deft acoustic guitar work with the legendary BJ Cole supplanting the music with gorgeous but non intrusive pedal steel guitar leads. The upbeat music is a great contrast to Harper commenting that "lawyers now lurk where lovers one kissed."

If there's any downside to Bullinamingvase, its that residents of countries like America cannot fully comprehend the "Englishness' of Harper's lyrics at times, which I agree can make some Harper's songs quite impenetrable as so much depends on Harper's lyrics, and this will always be Harper's great undoing, I'm afraid.

Bullinamingvase's excellently recorded, mixed and mastered sound helps push this album into the "must have" folk prog category of 4 star albums.

 Flat Baroque And Berserk by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.62 | 35 ratings

Flat Baroque And Berserk
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Folk, straight up with a prog chaser.

That's the best way I can describe Flat Baroque and Berserk to someone that's never heard it. There's little folk prog on this album and nothing terribly complicated, but that was the point. FBaB was Harper claiming a solid stake in the folk music world before it's appeal was forever lost to time. Unlike his British contemporaries who took acoustic folk into the world of jazz, blues, middle eastern, Indian, Moroccan and pseudo Elizabethan influences, traditional English folk, along with a 1001 alternate guitar tunings, Harper wears his American folk influences on his sleeve and owes more to Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan in both song structure and lyrical styles at times.

The lead off track Don't You Grieve is a goof on the lyrics to the Guthrie folk tune Sally Don't You Grieve, but with Roy consoling good old Judas Iscariot, as it was he that had to do the dirty work in order to achieve salvation for mankind. I'm sure that this song is a nod to Nikos Kazantzakis too.

I Hate The White Man is Harper at his socially political best as he lambasts the effects of past white colonization on much of the under developed world and also to Harper's long standing grudge with the apartheid policies that were in place at that time in South Africa. The tune is catchy, but it's over the top in a way that the late Phil Ochs would hit injustices square on the head with very little nuance, but it sounds as sincere as anything ever written and sung by Ochs.

Feeling All the Saturday and Good Bye are poems from Harper's head placed into air with catchy acoustic strums and a vocal delivery that now sounds assured and steady as Harper has dropped the near falsetto that marred sections of Folkjokeopus, the fantastic sprawling epic that was released just one year earlier.

Where we get to the highlights of this album starts with the sublime and ethereal Another Day, which has more gentle acoustic strumming by Roy, but with a magnificent string score by David Bedford that places the listener squarely in the reminiscing and extremely moving frame of mind of Harper, as he recants an old flame that has come to him with the regret that she never had one of his children. Another Day is nothing less than a standard barer for the nascent 'singer songwriter' genre that would soon emerge with the likes for James Taylor and Cat Stevens. Both of whom would shorty go on to produce songs to match Another Day in emotional content, but never bettering it. It is simply one of Harper's finest recorded achievements.

East Of the Sun and Tom Tiddler's Ground both owe a heavy debt to Dylan lyrically as they are both suggestive and metaphorical, but with great accompaniment by harmonica and recorder, respectively, and are also album highlights.

Song Of The Ages sounds just like what it's title implies. It's a beautiful ballad with a harp accompaniment that's played in unison to Roy's gentle guitar lead notes and arpeggios. As with all songs on the album, Harper's vocals are another instrument that accompanies the songs.

The brief Francesca is a thank you from Harper to a free loving woman who has left him, and the subtext of love free of entanglement and guilt is prevalent in many of the songs on Flat Baroque and Berserk, as it seems that the English people were still trying to shake off the well engrained decades old Victorian morals that permeated that era.

Just incase the average rock listener has had an overdose of folk, Harper teams up with The Nice and performs a seven minute bombastic ode to living by one's own rules inside of society on album closer Hell's Angels. Partly filler, the song does rock out with Harper even playing some very good electric guitar in an enthusiastic take that must have been as fun as it sounds. Clappy's to Keith Emerson and company for not disappointing and helping to end the album with a great prog tune.

Flat Baroque and Berserk, if not a high watermark for Harper, is certainly the anchor where his former recorded work led to and where all his future efforts were launched from, including the heralded Stromcock album which followed one year later. While not technically a progressive rock album, I give FBaB the highest possible score that can be awarded to a non prog album, 4 stars.

 The Unknown Soldier by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.06 | 13 ratings

The Unknown Soldier
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Trapped in time.

A common occurrence for many albums recorded in the late seventies, and practically all of the eighties, for a number of reasons that include a trend to bend toward the current pop styles of the day, instrumentation, recording technics and record company interference in order to promote a more 'attractive' product to their consumers.

The Unknown Soldier is one of Harper's slickest sounding albums that veers away from straight up prog folk and finds an array of musical styles that at times incorporate a distinctive Floydian influence on three of album's best songs, The Flycatcher, You and a reworked version, of his co-written song with David Gilmour, titled Short And Sweet from Gilmour's first solo album.

They are among the best tracks on the album with The Flycatcher displaying an eerie violin accompaniment written by David Bedford, while special guest Gilmour graces You with his majestic guitar. You is also a duet with the incomparable Kate Bush, another long time friend and fan of Harper. Short And Sweet features the caustic six chord opening riff found on the Gilmour version, but Roy's rearrangement features a galloping bass line and dramatic swirling strings in the song's instrumental middle section that gives the song an epic feel that Gilmour's version only hinted at.

Harper is a great vocalist and handles all of the vocals, usually overdubbed in the choruses, extremely well and is quite actually another instrument on this album.

Where the album starts to go flat is with the songs Playing Games, First Thing In The Morning, and Ten Years Ago which employ new wave-ish Yamaha synths that are supplemented with Gilmour like guitar from Andy Roberts. This is acceptable ear candy to me, but where the album really fails is that it's totally solo acoustic title track sounds like one of Harper's known for throwaway pieces and lacks the gravitas of either a song that connotes such serious subject matter, or frankly, as a song used for an album title track. This is stark contrast to album's chilling cover photo of a real skeleton taken at a war memorial site in France.

Anyone familiar with the ways of Roy Harper will know that Roy has a sweet spot for this album based on the extensive babbling liner notes that he wrote for the CD reissue. The only other album to receive this level of attention was the Dream Society released in 1998. The Unknown Soldier was an album that, I guess, Roy consciously made to be either a hit or to at least sound contemporary. He failed at achieving guess number one, but this album's style of music and sound production ensure that he achieved guess number two. 3.5 stars as it's still a worthy early period Harper album that fans should own.

 Sophisticated Beggar by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.45 | 29 ratings

Sophisticated Beggar
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars "Time is a flat circle."

So said the Nietzsche inspired cop on the first brilliant series of the HBO serial True Detective, referring to Nietzsche's theory that time repeats itself. If that's true, then Roy Harper's albums would form a perfect circle of his work.

Harper is one of the few recording artists that I know of that has an readily identifiable style and an almost unwavering commitment to quality that has never been commercially compromised. At least not intentionally.

Harper's debut album, Sophisticated Beggar, shows Harper armed with an arsenal of well composed songs and a couple of guest spots from His Les Cousins' club buddies John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Or so it's rumored as Harper never states it clearly due to record label hassles, which was common place in that era.

The lead off track China Girl starts off with the familiar opening riff heard on David Bowie's hit song of the same name. A brief homage perhaps, as Harper's tune turns immediately into an acoustic folk song with strange disembodied backwards tape sounds bracketing the choruses. A wonderful start before heading into the folkie reflective Goldfish, before the great title track that sounds exactly like the great Renbourn tossing some incendiary blues based acoustic leads from the speaker's left channel.

Big Fat Silver Aeroplane is Harper at his most cynical and comical self before the awesome Jansch (ahem, rumored) dominated song Blackpool springs forth with spiraling guitar chords and Jansch's abrasive leads and familiar string snaps. More of a mesmerizing instrumental than a song sung by Harper, it's a high point of the album and gives this album the instrumental gravitas that be absent in Harper's next three albums, until Roy teamed up with Page on Stormcock in 1971.

Legend, Girlie, My Friend, and Black Clouds are folk based songs that work given their contrasting emotional tones, music and lyrics.The album falls flat with Mr. Station Master and Committed, which showcase period style rock instrumentation and musically go no where. Both songs are briefly interrupted with Harper's first ever recording of Forever, that was recorded for the Valentine album. Both versions are stellar and it's easy to see that Harper had an emotional connection to this song about enduring love.

Rumored (again) to be recorded in a shed instead of a proper studio, the album is clear as a bell and has wonderful mastering, that much to Harper's chagrin, has a healthy dose of bass EQed into the master, giving this predominantly acoustic album a denser sound than that found on the albums that immediately followed.

Sophisticated Beggar is not as ornate as the following 'Genghis Smith' album, or as progressive as Jokefolkopus , or as good as Flat, Baroque, and Berserk. But its a great starting point to an impressive recording career by the eccentric Mr. H.

Thanks to Chris Stacey for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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