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Barclay James  Harvest - Once Again CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.81 | 246 ratings

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4 stars BJH's Once Again represents a vast improvement upon the band's listless debut album. Released a year later, in 1971, the songwriting has matured and Lees joins Holroyd and Wolstenholme in handling vocal duties. The BJH orchestra remains in residence, but generally speaking the orchestral arrangements are more tasteful this time around.

From the opening pitch-bend Mellotron of She Said you instantly know this will be a classic track. Raw, jagged fuzz guitar, busy drumming and stirring Mellotron get the album started in dramatic fashion. A quiet interlude halfway through this opening song features John Lees playing an Elizabethan-type melody on recorder, before the main part of the song repeats and is then rounded off with a typically aggressive guitar solo from Lees. This track alone blows anything from their first album right out of the water. Happy Old World begins in quiet, subdued manner before building to a psyche-sounding chorus featuring various keyboards (piano, organ, Mellotron). Song For Dying is an anti-war song, a theme that BJH would return to on successive albums. It contains a typical Lees soaring guitar melody backed by Mellotron; there are some Crosby, Stills and Nash type vocals in here as well. Another great song. The first half of the album closes with Galadriel, a tender ballad with gentle guitar and Mellotron. Sadly the orchestration is a bit heavy handed on this song, with the brass sounding especially incongruous on a pastoral ballad... surely woodwinds would have produced a better effect?

Mocking Bird begins the second half in atmospheric manner with guitar, bass and orchestral strings. Pizzicato strings and orchestral percussion mimic the sound of the mocking bird wonderfully... at least that's what I imagine listening to the song. The song develops and around the four minute mark we get that great guitar solo. Really this track should require no introduction as it's arguably BJH's most famous song. The album peters out a bit after Mocking Bird; well, anything else would tend to be an anti-climax after that song. Vanessa Simmons is a pleasant enough acoustic ballad. Ball And Chain is a slow blues-psyche workout, while Lady Loves is a country-tinged song featuring some piano- playing that is bordering on honky tonk!

Once Again is one of those albums that falls somewhere between good and excellent, and has induced much head-scratching on my part in trying to award an accurate rating. I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and go for 4 stars, with the caveat that I am an avid BJH fan. I would recommend non-fans to start with the 1974 live album.

seventhsojourn | 4/5 |


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