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ROY HARPER

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Roy Harper picture
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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ROY HARPER discography


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

3.45 | 30 ratings
Sophisticated Beggar
1967
2.61 | 21 ratings
Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith [Aka: The Early Years]
1967
3.71 | 42 ratings
Folkjokeopus
1969
3.64 | 37 ratings
Flat Baroque And Berserk
1970
3.95 | 191 ratings
Stormcock
1971
3.68 | 42 ratings
Lifemask
1973
3.55 | 53 ratings
HQ [Aka: When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease]
1975
2.95 | 33 ratings
Bullinamingvase [Aka: One Of Those Days In England]
1977
3.03 | 15 ratings
The Unknown Soldier
1980
3.36 | 11 ratings
The Roy Harper Band: Work Of Heart
1982
3.63 | 10 ratings
Born In Captivity
1984
3.75 | 29 ratings
Roy Harper & Jimmy Page: Whatever Happened To Jugula ?
1985
3.53 | 8 ratings
Descendants of Smith [Aka: Garden of Uranium]
1988
3.82 | 13 ratings
Once
1990
3.68 | 13 ratings
Death Or Glory ?
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
Roy Harper & Black Sheep: Commercial Breaks
1994
2.79 | 10 ratings
The Dream Society
1998
4.12 | 16 ratings
The Green Man
2000
3.74 | 19 ratings
Man & Myth
2013

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

4.10 | 11 ratings
Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion
1974
2.75 | 4 ratings
In Between Every Line
1986
3.25 | 7 ratings
Unhinged
1994
2.42 | 3 ratings
Live At Les Cousins
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
The BBC Tapes - Volume VI - In Concert 1978
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
The BBC Tapes - Volume I - 1969-1973
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
The BBC Tapes - Volume II - In Concert 1974
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
The BBC Tapes - Volume III - 1974
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
The BBC Tapes - Volume IV - In Concert 1975
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
The BBC Tapes - Volume V - 1975-1978
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
Royal Festival Hall London June 10 2001
2001

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Beyond the Door
2005

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

3.50 | 13 ratings
Valentine
1974
5.00 | 1 ratings
1970-1975
1978
3.50 | 5 ratings
Loony on the Bus
1988
3.03 | 5 ratings
Hats Off
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Today is Yesterday
2002
3.91 | 3 ratings
Counter Culture
2005
4.92 | 4 ratings
Songs of Love and Loss
2011

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)
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Playing Games (featuring David Gilmour)
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Roy Harper & Jimmy Page: Elizabeth
1985
3.00 | 2 ratings
Burn the World
1990
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Death Of God
2005

ROY HARPER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Burn the World by HARPER, ROY album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1990
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Burn the World
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

2 stars Burn The World is a multi suite song by Harper that he has bemoaned since is was given a less than stellar reception by EMI Records when Roy presented it them, in demo form, back in 1988. Roy claims the reaction was due to the song's long length and less than commercial stance. That said, I feel that EMI probably rejected the 20 minute song based on the fact that it is disjointed and not one of Roy's more melodious works. Judge for yourself to see if it's par with Roy's 70s output like Stormcock or even Jugular form the 80s. This CD contains only the demo of the song and a live solo version. Both start promisingly enough with rapid sing-song rhyming verses, with Roy bemoaning the brutal state of the world before devolving into more obscure lyrics and musical themes that are not very riveting. Flashes of synths, percussion and proto electronica supplement this acoustic guitar based song. Roy even throws in a piece of music that he had been chucking around for awhile called "Desert Island" in the hope of adding some spice, but this upbeat section, with a Caribbean feel (!), seems totally out of place both lyrically and musically. Even a scorching brief lead guitar solo by Roy's son Nick (not credited), after the first two sections, can't add excitement to the confusing meandering that follows.

The live version is preferable over the home studio demo as it helps to showcase Harper's impressive guitar skills but that's all. Sometimes Roy, the record people are right. 2 stars.

 Loony on the Bus by HARPER, ROY album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1988
3.50 | 5 ratings

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Loony on the Bus
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by Mortte

4 stars What a great self-irony Roy had with this album name and it's cover!! It came from some reviewer, who has referred him as 'Loony on the Bus'. But instead shaming himself he made a song of that title and even named this compilation of it! There is wrong information about this album in Wikipedia. It says album includes tracks from 'Commercial Break' that EMI refused to release in 1978. As a matter fact there are only six tracks from that album, also one of them is re-recorded and re-named in 1982. Anyway these all tracks are released first time in this compilation. Roy released 'Commercial Breaks' as a whole in his own 'Science Friction'-label in 1994.

This compilation really is a mix of maybe the most aggressive pieces and also very typical, calm pieces of Roy. First 'No Change (Ten Years Ago), recorded in 1980, opens the album in a very strong way and is both musically & lyrically very in it's recording time. Next 'Playing Prison' is very opposite reminding great pieces of 'Stormcock'. It's recorded year before as the first one. But 'punk' direction continues in 'I Wanna Be Part Of the News'. Song has really catchy chorus and in the lyrics Roy is possibly critisizing EMI about how they're waiting him to act in publicity. 'Burn the World (part 1)' really connects Roy's acoustic style and aggression. Roy seems to be fully in this text in a fundamental person world, on the other hand this could be also statement against nuclear power. 'Casuality' from 1982 reminds a lot Talking Heads of the same year.

'Cora' starts the B-side, it's from the abandoned album of 1977 and again really catchy! Then come very black humor title piece, it's quite acoustic, but has also aggression. Roy really empathizes 'loony's' world! 'Come Up and See Me' & 'The Flycatcher' are both very beautiful pieces from that abandoned album, but specially the latter one really would have a hit potential! The first time I heard I thought I have heard it before, but then I noticed it has lots in common for much later came Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds pieces 'I Let Love In' & 'Where the Wild Roses Grow'. Also in chorus there is something same as 'Do You Believe the Day' in Jethro's Thick as a Brick. Roy re-recorded 'The Flycatcher' in his 'The Unknown Soldier'-album, but some reason EMI didn't release it as single. 'Square Boxes' ends this great compilation in a very 'loony' way asking 'more tea vicar?'.

I don't quite understand why there were difficulties in the relations of Roy and EMI from the beginning (it seems EMI didn't want to support Roy's great album 'Stormcock' at all when it came, although his earlier album sold quite well). I believe Roy could have got punk/new wave fans into his 'Commercial Break' album in 1978. Really all the old artists weren't unfamiliar that time (not for example David Bowie, Lou Reed & Iggy Pop, this Roy's album really seems to fit in that group). But maybe EMI just had then bad attitudes towards all kind of punk/new wave music, as far as I know they didn't sign many punk/new wave artists that time.

Although Roy wasn't on the everybody's lips in the eghties, he has never been truly 'loony on the bus'. Not even he didn't ever made the international breakthrough as for example Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. There has been plenty of musicians respected him and influenced by him, for example Ian Anderson, Jimmy Page & Dave Gilmour. Also he has always got small, but loyal fanbase. Although this compilation is not a masterpiece, it's very essential & great album!

 Burn the World by HARPER, ROY album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1990
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Burn the World
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by Mortte

4 stars I am not sure is this single or E.P at all. I believe reason it has put in album section in Discogs is that hereīs two almost 20 minute pieces. Although the first one is demo-version of the epic "Burn the World" and another live version of it, I think this is one of the most interesting piece from Harper after seventies and hard to understand why it seems to be very ignored. Roy made a song called "Burn the World" already in the seventies, but it was released in his "Looney On the Bus"-compilation 1988. It has same atmosphere as this epic, but itīs different and got Part 1 in the parathesis. Really when these are listened in a row the epic one sounds like a continuum. Roy made the demo heard this record when making album "Descendants Of Smith" but as I thought in that album review, EMI didnīt saw any commercial potention in it and in the album was only a part of it as song "Desert Island".

Although the A-side is just demo recording, I think itīs really high level made. There has added some electro elements and Daft Brush is adding exotic percussive instruments. There is really great short guitar solo, that was originally said to be played by Dave Gilmour, but Harper has later said to be played by Tony Franklin. But the main role in this piece as in many Royīs epicīs is in Royīs great vocals & acoustic guitar playing. B-side live recording is even more naked than studio, but intensity of Royīs performing is higher, so these both versions really are worthwhile to hear!

I donīt know is the reason to ignore this Royīs great piece thinking that Roy exhorts people to terrorism in this piece. How I have understand the words itīs more Roy is showing the reasonīs for the peopleīs fundamental behavior. Also he isnīt just totally pessimistic of the worldīs situtation, he still seems to see there is a chance to change. And the last words canīt be misunderstood: "the poems in the wind whispering why burn the world?".

To me this album rise into level of Royīs best works!! Really like to give it five stars, but there are few moments in both versions that would have needed something. We never knew, how the final studio version would have sounded, if EMI had left Roy record this great piece in his album. All way I think this is must to all who loves Roy īs music!

 Descendants of Smith [Aka: Garden of Uranium] by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.53 | 8 ratings

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Descendants of Smith [Aka: Garden of Uranium]
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by Mortte

4 stars This was Harper's last album he made to EMI. His contract to EMI had already finished after 'Unknown Soldier' album, but he got new one when he's album with Jimmy Page got popularity. If I understood right, Harper was one of those who unfairly suffered to become 'a hippie relic' in the eighties. Harper even made promosingles from this album piece with the wrong name to the press, they were interested, but when found him to be Harper, they wrote bitter reviews. As his seventies albums, this great album didn't sell well and so Harper changed into smaller 'Awaraness Records'. Have to mention about this album there was playing also Roy's son Nick who was first time with his father in that Page-collaboration album.

I believe record company put pressures to Roy about making hit. 'Laughing Inside' sounds like 'hit'. There is Stuart Elliot playing drums, but it sounds like they've made with the drum machine. The song is the most mediocre, but beautiful lovesong and includes anyway really great vocals. But I am really glad direction changes in next one. 'Garden Of Uranium' sounds just like Roy Harper should sound, it is beautiful, but complex acoustic piece. Same direction continues in 'Still Life', but it has really modern synth base. Song tells about short winter of UK and really you got picture of that from the music. 'Pinches Of Salt' is again great acoustic piece. 'Desert Island' should have been part of the longer piece called 'Burn the World', but I can imagine EMI to say no about 20 minutes epic, so there is just this four minutes part with band playing in it. Song has something in common with Talking Heads. Roy made the epic later in 'Awareness Records'.

B-side starts with really sad acoustic piece 'Goverment Surplus'. 'Surplus Liquorice' is short electro passage with two songs. Direction changes totally in 'Liquorice Alltime', it's kind of electro-funk and reminding again lots of Talking Heads. Roy proves in that piece he can beat really many MC`s when putting words there really fast. In the end song changes really melodic. 'Maile Lei' is beautiful acoustic lovesong, like this much more than the 'hit' one. 'Same Shoes' is again a great band piece. The title song ends this album really spiritual way, as some other pieces it has really touching lyrics with it's awasome music.

Kate Bush has said Roy the greatest UK songmaker and I agree with her, to me he is bigger than Dylan or Cohen. Also I think he really wasn't any 'relic of the seventies' in the eighties, his albums sounds much fresher than for example Floyd, Yes or Genesis albums from that time. I believe main fault of his unsuccess was that he has always made really spiritual, also quite introvert music. But so has done Dylan & Cohen, so what's the problem? The lack of promotion of the big record company? Of course this album is not new 'Stormcock', but anyway really close to it (but sounding of course eighties) so it really is four stars. I think those few who have given 1-3 in PA ratings just don't understand Roy's greatness at all.

 Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith [Aka: The Early Years] by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1967
2.61 | 21 ratings

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Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith [Aka: The Early Years]
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Roy Harper refers to Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith, his second studio album, as a skeleton in his closet and rarely, if ever, played any of these songs live in concert. On the whole, it's not quite the disastrous album that Harper would have us believe. Sure, it's his first of album of social protest that's a bit awkward as words supersede the importance of the music, but it's quite listenable, mostly, in another of Britain's sixtie's acoustic based folk rock albums. The lead off track "Freak Street" is more noteworthy for it's topic of freaky Greek Street in Soho during Roy's tenure at the celebrated, at the time, folk club Les Cousins The song features choruses that morph into Arabian scales raga in both the music and vocals and is interesting in it's oddness, but it's straight up acoustic folk rock arrangements of "You Don't Need Money", "Ageing River" and "In A Beautiful Rambling Mess" that follow that put's Roy back on solid folk rock footing with songs similar to the ones found on Roy's debut album Sophisticated Beggar, but they're not quite on par with that album's song quality. A bit of the sophomore album syndrome is showing.

"All You Need Is", despite it's heavy handed condemnation of women who use their sex and sex appeal to get ahead, is a marvelous baroque synthesis of swelling strings with a jazz like stand up bass and drums accompaniment, and is the highlight of the album. "Circle" is a long dissertation on the evils of social conformity, while the title track states all the trials awaiting someone who's born into "the system." Heady stuff but a bit verbose and long winded. Still, it's like nothing else from Roy's British folk revival buddies from that era like Bert Jansch or Wizz Jones. Skeleton in the closet? I would say that Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith is more like a sleeping man in the bedroom. Forgettable but harmless if awakened. 3 stars.

 Folkjokeopus by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.71 | 42 ratings

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Folkjokeopus
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars It may be folk, it may be a joke but this is no opus.

Roy Harper decided to go mojo gonzo on this, his third studio album with psychedelic lyrics, sitar playing, and his old stand by, stream of consciousness musings that pass for both spoken word pieces and song lyrics proper. Roy also became fixated with the high, annoying almost dog whistle range of his voice, which unfortunately is not very pleasant and Roy soon dropped the vocal hijinks after this album. Thank God. That one annoying trait really kills "She's The One" on this infectious song's chorus. How super producer Shel Talmy (Kinks, Who, Pentangle) let Roy fly with this is a mystery. Talmy often said that he had to hem Roy in and I can only wonder what Roy would have committed to vinyl without Talmy's guidance! The lead off track "Sgt. Sunshine" is exactly what you would expect from a post Sgt. Pepper's era British folk singer, and that could be said of "In The Time Of All" and "Composer Of Life" too. "One For All"is both an exception and a highlight featuring some of the best Celtic/Arabian tuning and finger picking found on any British folk rock album of that era.

The opus that Roy is referring to is "McGoohan's Blues" with it's lengthy folk style solo acoustic and voice that gives way to Roy's spoken word stream of consciousness musing before more solo acoustic guitar and voice suddenly morphs into a song with full rock music accompaniment. In mid verse, no less. Unexpected? Yes. Pleasant to listen to? No.

Roy would return to more (at least for him) traditional folk fair on this album's follow up Flat, Baroque and Berserk before combining the two directions more coherently on his true magnum opus Stormcock a year later. But for now, Roy is content with just being out there, as if he really needed more of an excursion into madness. Folkjokeopus is not the worst album in Roy's canon but it's a far cry from later classic albums like Stormcock or Lifemask. 3 stars.

 Stormcock by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.95 | 191 ratings

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Stormcock
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Roy Harper's 'Folkjokeopus' from '69 is one of my favorite folkrock albums and I expected the celebrated 'Stormcock' to be at least halve as mind-piercingly energetic as that energy you find on songs like 'She's the One' and 'McGoohan's Blues'. I was quite surprised to find four low-energy songs that drag on endlessly. No arrangements, no band, no variation, nothing particularly psychedelic or progressive, no mad performances by Harper. The sharp and harsh recording sound isn't that good either. Roy Harper has never been a very subtle or technical singer and without his eccentric enthusiasm he's just mediocre, to the point of singing out of tune way too much for my taste. Perhaps this is an extraordinary singer/songwriter album of sorts, but after listening to it a couple of times I had to restrain myself from lifting the needle and putting on something else. I like nothing about this record and I just can't get my head around how people might actually prefer it over 'Folkjokeopus'. I guess that without knowledge of its legacy (which can't be denied), I would have given this album a single star.
 Lifemask by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.68 | 42 ratings

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Lifemask
Roy Harper Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Harper's 1973 studio album is often considered one of his early essential as it directly follows his celebrated Stormcock album released in 1971. While staying with the long winded folk formula of Stormcock on this album's centerpiece, titled "The Lord's Prayer", old Roy took his first tentative steps into full blown prog rock by subtlety adding bass and drum accompaniment to several tracks in what sounds like a half-hearted exercise. Specifically on the opening track "Highway Blues", which often comes off better in concert with just Roy's acoustic guitar as accompaniment. The same treatment is also added to "The Lord's Prayer". Psychedelic treatments to Roy's backing vocals also helps to keep up the interest and tension of this long verbose song that starts off with a spoken poem introduction. That "The Lord's Prayer" is still fascinating to me some four decades after first hearing it can only be credited to Harper's impassioned vocals and Jimmy Page's tasty guitar leads that punctuate the song. Indeed, it is worthy to be the album's centerpiece and album closer. Equally sublime is "South Africa" which is a love song to the country that is unique in it's delivery and doesn't come off as pretentious, no matter how much Roy wears his anti-apartheid passion on his sleeves.

Less successful are "Northern Island", "Little Lady" and "Bank of the Dead", which take most of the album's first side. Concerning these, Harper fails to maintain his sense of sincerity and interest so the songs come off as either trite or plodding. I personally find that Lifemask follows both Flat, Broke Berserk, from 1970, and Stormcock not only chronologically and in also being successful artistically. However, I can't imagine listening one of these albums without the other two, so I would have to agree that even with it's faults Lifemask is also another early Harper essential. So, 3 stars for this album the song's that work.

 Stormcock by HARPER, ROY album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.95 | 191 ratings

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Stormcock
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
3.95 | 191 ratings

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Stormcock
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.

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

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