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BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Barclay James Harvest biography
In 1966 two R & B bands local to Oldham (UK) merged to form a blues outfit THE BLUES KEEPERS. With sponsorship from a local businessman (also their manager) they rented an 18th century farmhouse where they practised extensively, gradually moving towards a progressive rock style then beginning to emerge. On turning professional the name BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST was adopted, and the line-up stabilised as JOHN LEES (guitars, vocals), LES HOLROYD (bass, rhythm guitar, vocals), STUART "WOOLLY" WOLSTENHOLME (keyboards, vocals) and MEL PRITCHARD (drums). After releasing their first single in April 1968, the band joined the legendary progressive HARVEST label, quickly expanding their musical horizons, chiefly by experimenting with longer evolving song structures and orchestrations. Initially this involved the use of woodwind, strings and brass before acquiring a MELLOTRON, but by the time of the release of their first album 'Barclay James Harvest' in 1970 they were employing an orchestra, the grandly titled BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA led by ROBERT GODFREY who later became a member of THE ENID.

Though producing some of their best melodic progressive work at this time, the orchestra proved to be too expensive and very nearly bankrupted the band, but in 1973 a move to the POLYDOR label saw an upturn in their fortunes. With increasing commercial success, their music began to develop towards simpler song structures with stronger arrangements which caused detractors to dub them 'The Poor Man's Moody Blues'! By 1979 WOOLLY left the band because he had become disillusioned that they had moved away from their Prog roots. They continued into the 1980s as a 3-piece augmented by hired musicians, and with a string of melodic AOR albums finally made a commercial break-through in Europe, particularly in Germany where they played several major outdoor concerts, beginning with a massive free concert on the steps of the historic Reichstag in August 1980.

By the end of the decade the band's popularity was starting to wane. In the 1990s, a traumatic court case and widening musical differences between band members took its toll. In 1998 the two songwriters HOLROYD and LEES agreed to go their separate ways while continuing to work under the umbrella of the old band name. Thus was born the two outfits which remain today: BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST FEATURING LES HOLROYD perseveres with the AOR style of their later work; while JOHN LEES' BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST (JLBJH) ...
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BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST discography


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

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.19 | 121 ratings
Barclay James Harvest
1970
3.77 | 185 ratings
Once Again
1971
3.21 | 94 ratings
BJH And Other Short Stories
1971
2.96 | 97 ratings
Baby James Harvest
1972
3.86 | 180 ratings
Everyone Is Everybody Else
1974
3.61 | 142 ratings
Time Honoured Ghosts
1975
3.73 | 177 ratings
Octoberon
1976
3.37 | 132 ratings
Gone To Earth
1977
3.56 | 110 ratings
XII
1978
2.94 | 77 ratings
Eyes Of The Universe
1979
2.56 | 68 ratings
Turn Of The Tide
1981
2.66 | 63 ratings
Ring Of Changes
1983
2.26 | 60 ratings
Victims Of Circumstance
1984
2.56 | 62 ratings
Face To Face
1987
2.90 | 57 ratings
Welcome To The Show
1990
2.52 | 44 ratings
Caught In The Light
1993
2.20 | 45 ratings
River Of Dreams
1997
3.04 | 34 ratings
BJH Through The Eyes Of John Lees: Nexus
1999
2.25 | 30 ratings
BJH Featuring Les Holroyd: Revolution Days
2003
2.93 | 26 ratings
John Lees Barclay James Harvest: North
2013

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.38 | 81 ratings
Barclay James Harvest Live
1974
3.71 | 56 ratings
Live Tapes
1978
3.14 | 50 ratings
A Concert For The People (Berlin)
1982
2.90 | 22 ratings
Glasnost
1988
3.29 | 17 ratings
BJH Through The Eyes Of John Lees: Revival - Live 1999
2000
3.52 | 22 ratings
BBC In Concert 1972
2002
1.86 | 7 ratings
BJH Featuring Les Holroyd: Live In Bonn
2003
2.85 | 6 ratings
Hymn: The Best Of Barclay James Harvest Live
2003
4.00 | 9 ratings
BJH Featuring Les Holroyd: Classic Meets Rock - Live
2006
3.97 | 11 ratings
John Lees' Barclay James Harvest: Legacy - Live At The Shepherd's Bush Empire
2007
3.33 | 9 ratings
High voltage 3CD set
2011
3.16 | 6 ratings
John Lees Barclay James Harvest: Live In Concert At Metropolis Studios, London
2012

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

2.83 | 12 ratings
Caught Live
2002
3.19 | 8 ratings
BJH 25th Anniversary Concert
2003
2.10 | 2 ratings
The Ultimate Anthology
2004
2.17 | 4 ratings
BJH Featuring Les Holroyd: On The Road
2005
3.13 | 5 ratings
Glasnost And Victims Of Circumstance
2006
3.55 | 7 ratings
BJH Featuring Les Holroyd: Classic Meets Rock
2006
4.43 | 8 ratings
John Lees Barclay James Harvest: Legacy - Live At The Shepherds Bush Empire (DVD)
2007
4.12 | 6 ratings
Berlin - A Concert For The People
2010
4.00 | 4 ratings
Classic Rock Legends
2011

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.25 | 14 ratings
Early Morning Onwards
1972
2.08 | 8 ratings
The Best Of Barclay James Harvest (1977)
1977
2.68 | 6 ratings
The Best Of Barclay James Harvest - Volume 2
1979
2.44 | 7 ratings
The Best Of Barclay James Harvest - Volume 3
1981
2.28 | 7 ratings
The Compact Story Of Barclay James Harvest
1985
2.61 | 8 ratings
Another Arable Parable
1987
1.88 | 10 ratings
Alone We Fly
1990
3.09 | 12 ratings
The Harvest Years
1991
4.02 | 6 ratings
Barclay James Harvest / Once Again
1992
3.53 | 5 ratings
And Other Short Stories / Baby James Harvest
1992
2.81 | 10 ratings
The Best Of Barclay James Harvest (1992)
1992
2.09 | 4 ratings
Sorcerers And Keepers
1993
3.57 | 4 ratings
Four Barclay James Harvest Originals
1996
3.00 | 4 ratings
Endless Dream
1996
3.00 | 1 ratings
Premium Gold Collection
1996
2.55 | 4 ratings
The Best Of Barclay James Harvest (1997)
1997
2.05 | 2 ratings
Master Series
1999
2.46 | 6 ratings
The Collection
2000
2.05 | 2 ratings
Millennium Edition
2000
2.05 | 2 ratings
Mockingbird
2001
3.30 | 6 ratings
BJH Through The Eyes Of John Lees: Brave New World
2002
2.00 | 2 ratings
BJH Through The Eyes Of John Lees: Echoes Of A Brave New World
2003
3.10 | 2 ratings
Baby James Harvest / Once Again
2003
2.50 | 2 ratings
BJH Through The Eyes Of John Lees: Gold Collection
2003
3.71 | 15 ratings
All Is Safely Gathered In - An Anthology 1967-1997
2005
3.26 | 8 ratings
After the Day: The Radio Recordings 1974-1976
2008
4.08 | 4 ratings
Taking some time on (The Parlophone-Harvest years 1968-73)
2011
3.00 | 2 ratings
Child Of The Universe, The Essential Collection
2013

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.27 | 7 ratings
Hymn / Our Kid's Kid
1977
5.00 | 2 ratings
Live EP
1977
4.00 | 4 ratings
Life Is For Living
1980

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Once Again by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.77 | 185 ratings

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Once Again
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by MJAben

3 stars The version of the album that I am basing this review off of is the 2002 remastered version, how this differs from the original in terms of production quality I do not know, but being unable to get my hands on the original the remastered version will have to suffice. Once Again is one of BJH's best albums in my (and it seems many others) opinion. This is helped in no small part to the mammoth opener to the album, She Said. Although the album does dip for a bit, it does reach this height once again with the wonderful Mockingbird.

Other songs on the album are good for the most part, Song For Dying and Lady Loves feel sub-par, while Happy Old World feels, well, sub-sub-par. The rest of the music however is extremely enjoyable with a couple of real highlights scattered here and there.

Nevertheless, this album suffers from the same thing that every BJH album suffers from, they pay great homage to all of their influences but, most of the time, wind up sounding like merely a pale image of them, and switch styles so readily that they don't seem to have any continuous flow, or a recognizable sound.

Nevertheless this is definitely one of their stronger efforts here with a couple of real winners. Still a mixed bag. Still Barclay James Harvest.

3/5 stars.

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 John Lees Barclay James Harvest: North by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.93 | 26 ratings

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John Lees Barclay James Harvest: North
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

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.

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 Baby James Harvest by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.96 | 97 ratings

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Baby James Harvest
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by MJAben

2 stars I remember sort of skimming through the Barclay James Harvest discography and, for the most part, I was left unimpressed, there were some good moments and good ideas but nothing terribly original or extraordinary. Nevertheless, the band functioned perfectly for background music as it was diverse enough to keep me engaged in whatever task I was doing but wasn't so interesting that the music distracted me.

As a result of my experience I was a little bit confused when I saw how this album was almost unanimously thought of as one of the poorest albums from early BJH. As a result I wanted to see why this album was thought of as poor, or at least poorer, than the bands other releases. To tell the truth, I don't think the songwriting or the performance from the band is any poorer here than on any other releases, the music is perhaps a bit more fragmented and there are songs that could be argued to not be progressive but I'd say that this is not uncommon throughout the bands discography.

On the whole I wouldn't say that this is a strong record 'Crazy (Over You)' and 'Thank You' are simply straight-forward rock songs and although they aren't inherently bad they seem a bit out of place when compared to songs such as 'Summer Soldier' or 'Moonwater'. 'One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out', despite being a song I thoroughly enjoy, owes a large debt to David Bowie and is far from original. 'Summer Soldier' is a well written BJH song for half of its duration with the other half seeming to be an extended tribute to King Crimson. In fact, there are only two songs here than I can wholeheartedly recommend, 'Moonwater' and the absolutely fantastic 'Delph Town Morn'.

'Delph Town Morn' is nothing more than an interesting and well written song with some wonderful brass driving the song along and is a real treat to listen to. 'Moonwater' is a, perhaps sprawling, piece that features intricate orchestration and although the recording doesn't quite match the depth contained in the song it is a wonderfully written piece nonetheless. As a whole though, the album feels erratic and haphazardly pieced together with songs that seem to blatantly copy their influences. As a result this album couldn't hope to achieve a mark higher than 2 stars.

If you enjoy the band you will likely find something to enjoy in this album and the music is certainly palatable but it ultimately falls short in album form.

2/5 stars.

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 Baby James Harvest by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.96 | 97 ratings

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Baby James Harvest
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Baby James Harvest" is the 4th full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Barclay James Harvest. The album was released through Harvest Records in November 1972. All tracks were recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport (in the case of "Delph Town Morn" featuring a 13-man brass orchestra conducted by Brian Day) except the closing track "Moonwater (Poco Adagio)" which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London with a 60-man classical orchestra.

Stylistically the music on "Baby James Harvest" continues the semi-progressive rock style of itīs predecessors. Strong vocals and harmonies, catchy songwriting, organic playing and the occasional use of mellotron, which provides the music with an epic dimension. While the band do produce more simple rocking tracks like "Crazy (Over You)" and "Thank You", there is a sophistication to the songwriting thatīs umistakably a progressive rock trait. In the case of "Crazy (Over You)" itīs especially the harmony guitars that provide the sophistication to the track. Itīs mostly the 10:23 minutes long "Summer Soldier" that falls under the progressive rock catagory and maybe the closing orchestra heavy "Moonwater (Poco Adagio)".

The album features an organic sound production, which is pleasant and inviting and suits the music well. The high level musicianship are, as always when weīre dealing with Barclay James Harvest, one of the great assets on "Baby James Harvest" and upon conclusion the album is another quality release by the band. Itīs not quite as interesting as the first couple of releases by band, but still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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 Baby James Harvest by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.96 | 97 ratings

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Baby James Harvest
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Baby James Harvest is an album I have owned for a fair old number of years, now, and, each time I play it, the more it plays as a sort of curiosity, something I am never quite sure how much to take seriously.

At the time, it was really serious for the band. This was to prove the last of their four albums for the EMI imprint Harvest (they had helped with the name!), but poor sales, and the enormous amount of money chucked away with the touring and recording orchestra, meant that they had become a commercial liability. They left and signed for Polydor after this.

It is a good album but really nothing more, and certainly, in my opinion, the weakest of this particular period, although there are some aspects that serve to keep us all interested. I like the experiment with brass instrumentation on Delphi Town Mum, and, of course, as scions of Northern towns, the boys will have been familiar with the magnificent colliery bands that flourished thereabouts.

There is a genuine classic, and a track which makes the price of the album worth its entrance price alone, in Summer Soldier, widely believed to be a (bitter) commentary on the escalating Troubles of Northern Ireland of the time, and this track, perhaps more than most others, added to the long held satirical blast of BJH as kaftan clad, hopeless, hippies. I love this track, and, in truth, the lyrics were rather brave at the time, commenting as they did on just how damned awful the times were from all perspectives, and how a little bit of peace and love might just be the answer. Oh well, only 30 years ahead of its time. Musically, it was a mix of the experimental (certainly in the way that it was, in reality, two distinct tracks in one) and classic symphonic psych prog, and, all told, it came off very well indeed, and stands up very well in 2014.

Elsewhere, Woolly only really contributed largely to album closer, Moonwater, which was recorded with orchestra separately from the remainder of the album, and this also stands up extremely well as a delicate, pastoral piece of beauty, musically and lyrically.

The remainder is fine, without being remotely exciting or memorable, more like BJH by numbers, I suppose. Thank You, especially, is a strange one, with a glam sort of backdrop, thanking the entire globe for riches had and to come, and Les Holroyd produces a sort of Poor Man's (pardon the pun) David Bowie in One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out

Two tracks, then, which were, and are, superlative, amongst competence and pleasantness, something which could, I think, rather be the final epitaph of this act when we write the final narrative.

Three stars. A good album which fans will have to have, and others might wish to.

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 Turn Of The Tide by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.56 | 68 ratings

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Turn Of The Tide
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

2 stars The 1980's had arrived, Woolly had left, kaftan in tow, obviously rather peeved at the direction being taken by the band, and, indeed, with the two replacements on keyboards there is an indisputable eighties feel to proceedings, not that I think there is anything inherently wrong with that, and it certainly did absolutely no harm to record sales in continental Europe, Germany especially on the back of the Berlin concerts, whilst being virtually completely ignored back in dear old Blighty.

Of this series of albums, I prefer the successor, Ring of Changes, but there is still enough to keep fans of the band interested here, although this album marked, for me, the beginning of the end between the two main writers, Lees and Holroyd, who, a la Davies and Hodgson, were now writing completely separately, giving rise to the feel of two acts making one album. Who you prefer is obviously a matter of individual taste. Actually, both can stray into blandness too often for comfort, Back to the Wall being perhaps the stick out example for Holroyd, whilst Death of a City is a rather feeble attempt at a Lees rocking track.

Holroyd does, though, fully redeem himself with the gorgeous ballad Echoes and Shadows, which has a full, rich vocal, amply supported by lush keys. It is, perhaps, this type of track which many find objectionable, but I find just a lovely listening experience. In addition, Life is for Living was a big hit single in Europe, and is a very decent BJH pop track.

As regards Lees, his best are saved until the last two, with the quirky Doctor, Doctor, which has some very intricate grooves and ideas at its heart, and In Memory of the Martyrs, dedicated to those who perished attempting to cross from East to West Berlin. Rich, with lush guitars and symphonic backing keys, full of feeling and sympathy for its subject, and lavishly produced, this is my favourite track of the album, and certainly the closest it came to rather more "traditional" prog. As a fan of the band, this track made it worth the price of the album on its own.

It is difficult to rate an album such as this. I like BJH, and I have never objected to commercial prog rock, and, in fairness, this lot were always master exponents of the "lighter" end of the prog spectrum. There are some very good highlights, but, unfortunately, too much of it is rather forgettable. Pleasant, but unremarkable, and, therefore, in terms of this band's long history, it is not amongst their best, and I would suggest that only completists who have to own all of their work would be recommended to shell out their hard earned cash to own it. Two stars, therefore, but an extra half in reality.

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 The Best Of Barclay James Harvest (1992) by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1992
2.81 | 10 ratings

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The Best Of Barclay James Harvest (1992)
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by Chicapah
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Barclay James Harvest is a group I'd heard of for decades but had never heard. Since they've been around in one form or another since 1966 I know for sure I came across their albums while thumbing through the LP stacks (back in the glory days when visiting a record store was a wonderful way to pass the time) but I swear I never heard a note from them on the radio or at a friend's house. It seems they have quite a following on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and that explains their longevity but for whatever reason they failed to make much of an impression stateside. They wouldn't be the first band to suffer that fate, either. Nonetheless, I had these guys figured all wrong. And I mean wrong with a capital W. All this time I envisioned them as being some kind of semi-prog folk outfit that played an intricate brand of eclectic acoustic fare. My bad. I have no idea where I got that notion but when I finally got around to sampling their wares not long ago via this 'best of' collection I realized in a heartbeat that they didn't sound anything like what I expected. I kinda wish they would've because it might've been a more rewarding listening experience for me but they are what they are and I am what I am so be it. I will say this much, though. To call them prog, even as a crossover, is a stretch.

I surmise that this assortment of tunes consisting of material they released between 1974 and 1992 should qualify me to make a fair assessment of what kind of musical entity they are. If not then they've got only themselves to blame. It does get off to a good start with 'Hymn.' The track's heavily stacked 12-string acoustic guitars got my attention instantly. I'm always attracted to simple songs that build up step by step and this one does that patiently and with class. Their sound on this number is very reminiscent of the Moody Blues but in this case they actually outdo that revered group. I can't tell if the lyrics are pro-Christian or sarcastic but at least they don't become condescending either way and I can appreciate that. 'Loving is Easy' follows and it belies a certain Alan Parsons Project flavor. It's not bad but it's definitely dated. 'Berlin' is next and a grand piano commands the intro, always a plus for me. All in all it's a pretty and very lushly orchestrated ballad that delivers the goods on schedule. I detect a palpable Supertramp vibe permeating 'Child of the Universe' and at this juncture I'm starting to discover why they never got on the US charts. All the bands other than BJH I've mentioned broke through over here before these guys did so it might be that the stuff the boys in BJH were setting out on the American table had already been fully indulged in and our appetite had been sated. Who wants a sirloin strip when you've just had a rib eye? Anywho, the tune makes nice use of a synthesizer and its overall depth of field is gratifying although the guitar ride is a little tepid and distracting.

'Victims of Circumstance' from the mid-80s is a highlight. Its large-scale aura sets up an engulfing moodiness that hovers over a strong groove. The delicate synth solo is graceful and I like the full vocals and chorale that distinguish the song. 'Poor Man's Moody Blues' is a bit of a head-scratcher. They erect a surprisingly accurate approximation of that heralded group's trademark sound complete with a massive Mellotron droning but I have to question their aim in going down that road. I don't really get it. It's an interesting homage, nevertheless. The only live cut comes in the form of one of their older hits, 'Mockingbird,' and it's an unmistakable specimen of what's known as 'lite rock.' It's not awful, mind you, but it's way too tame for my taste. No surprises happen and it's much too long to hold my attention. There's a noticeable New Wave gist running through 'Life is for Loving.' It's bouncy and upbeat pop presented without a single atom of prog so it's of no interest to me. 'Ring of Changes' is a step upwards due to its mysterious opening wherein various keyboards dominate. Its infectious melody is augmented by a cavernous aural backdrop and a memorable chorus. 'Titles' is another odd duck. It sports a Mott the Hoople-styled intro but then flat out exploits lines directly lifted from famous Beatle tunes to fill out the lyrics. It's a cool experiment, for sure, but, being a huge fan of the Fab Four, it feels like cheating in a way. The jury's out, in other words. But the verdict's in for 'Welcome to the Show.' It's nothing more than run-of-the-mill, straightforward pop rock that's blatantly formulaic and, thusly, a waste of a progger's time. Evidently I have the UK version of this record because the next cut, 'Stand Up,' is on it. It's a much more aggressive number because the strong drums are placed right up front. Since it hails from '92 it's safe to say that they'd most likely been listening to Tears for Fears when this was put together. I would've liked this song a lot if I'd heard it back then. 'Cheap the Bullet' rides atop a hard rock motif but it doesn't do much for me at all. 'Rock N Roll Star' does even less. It's an instantly forgettable pop fluff piece that displays no originality whatsoever. Lastly, 'Love on the Line' is some kind of amateurish techno pop extravaganza that I find uneventful and boring. I'm glad the CD ended when it did because it was going downhill fast.

Is what I heard derivative? Yes, but that adjective isn't always derogatory. Recently I reviewed an album by Triumph that was so bad I gave it only a half-star rating. What was so appalling about it was their deliberate, shameless mimicking of popular bands of the 70s in what I took to be an attempt on their part to manufacture a hit single by osmosis. There's a big difference between copying a musical entity and honorably paying respect to them and Barclay James Harvest seems to be doing the latter. By retaining their own personality in the process they do preserve a modicum of dignity and pride that I can appreciate. At the same time the danger lies in taking it too far. Doing so prevents them from being unique and that deficit hampers them from standing out to a large extent, especially in the progressive rock arena where bold individualism is an indispensable trait. I can see why the prog powers that be put them in the same category as ELO, the Alan Parsons Project or even Styx but if so they belong in the 2nd class section of that boat due to their lack of imagination. 2.2 stars.

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 John Lees Barclay James Harvest: North by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.93 | 26 ratings

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John Lees Barclay James Harvest: North
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by Theo Verstrael

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 melodies, variation and craftmanship. And although this album is quite different from their latest studio album 'Nexus' in the sense that 'North' contains only new songs collectively written by the whole band, it sounds so familiar BJH in some songs. But in other most certainly not! 'Ancient waves' was already played live for a while but it has grown. The mellow intro is new and makes this ballad dealing with man's insanity in going to (the Iraq) war almost vintage BJH, with a great melody, good lyrics and some very nice guitar playing. The same is true for the title track, inspired by their surroundings and containing a melody that sticks to your memory immediately. It is sung both by Lees and Fletcher, who turns out to be an excellent vocalist. The extended coda of that song in the form of a spoken poem by Lees is very appropiate, very loving to the region they reside and also quite new for this band. But what's new? BJH has always done what they thought was best, no matter what was modern at the time. So now they record a Steely Dan-like track ('In wonderland'), a blues track ('The real deal') and a full brass band track with Lees' son John jr. on the cornet ('On top of the world'). The last one is absolutely beautiful, almost haunting and so tasteful, the first mentioned are less my cup of tea. Yet there is one outstanding track, dedicated to the sorely missed Wooly Wolstenholme: 'On leave'. It is this combination of a great vocal melody, beautiful keyboards by Jez Smith who turns out to be an excellent addition to the band, soaring guitar by Lees, a nice break to return to the central theme, classic BJH. And it lasts for more than 9 minutes which was quite unusual for the band.

There is only one conclusion to draw: 'North' is a very convincing, very tasteful and beautiful album for John Lees and his band. The listener is the great winner because BJH is back again! Hopefully this band will produce many more of these great musical moments in the near future!

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 XII by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.56 | 110 ratings

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XII
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I have always had a fondness for BJH, though I've also had major issues with their music aswell. Amidst some outstanding tracks I've experienced a sense of the same-ness in sound. The tracks blend together, not in the epic style where tracks flow in and out of each other, more in a bland way. Sorry. I wish I could feel differently but I don't. The only album I thoroughly enjoy is this one, XII.

Towards the end of the 1970's the sound changed, not only when BJH is concerned. Some bands smoothed out, resulting in a more pop- and radio friendly sound. This is by no means bad. The late 70's, early 80's spawned some really engaging and inspired albums. BJH was never the hardest of rock bands. They never, as far as I am aware, made the earth shake or ear drums to shatter. They were always a sort of gentle, folky prog band. Pastoral, is maybe a fair judgement. So, XII is really no big turn in sound, unless you consider the instrumentation and approach to somewhat more modern textures. The sound could be described as the preface to the more synthezised sounds of the 80's, before the technology made it all truly possible.

XII contains songs of really high quality, making the album solid in a way not many albums in their discography can boast. The englishness is there, which for me is a delight. "In search of England" is a great, enormously rewarding track, combining the sounds of british history from the early 1900's to the late 70's. The decline of the Empire, the economic hardships of the times and the onslaught of punk makes the song both nostalgic and contemporary in a way that makes me think of the albums Kinks made (like Arthus) based on the same themes: the search for the soul of Britain and the ever changing world. I find it hauntingly beautiful and pastoral, sad but not depressing. The lyrics I have not examined, not really. My interpretation is based on sounds and feeling only. Maybe that will suffice.

The album is varied and offers a selection of soundscapes and emotions, from the hard rock of "Turning in circles" via the celtic sounding "The closed shop", the pop of "Sip of wine", the pastoral "In search of England" and the prog of "Science ficition: Nova Lepidoptera". All in all a magnificent album. Worthy, varied and highly listenable. Maybe, just maybe it is their greatest hour and that is not such a small feat, a decade (or so) into their existance.

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 Gone To Earth by BARCLAY JAMES  HARVEST album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.37 | 132 ratings

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Gone To Earth
Barclay James Harvest Crossover Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Damn, this is a spooky one. Despite having lyrics still mired in wide-eyed hippy naivity (as though the 1970s had never happened) and some of the most syrupy music BJH would ever muster, somehow Gone to Earth rises above all that to communicate a bleak melancholy that doesn't quite feel reflected in either the compositions or the lyrics but somehow comes across loud and clear anyway. Take the world-weariness of Child of the Universe from Everyone is Everybody Else, crank it up to 11, and you've got it here, in what has to be BJH's most emotionally effective albums. Poor Man's Moody Blues? Maybe, but the Moodies were never quite this moody, nor this blue.

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