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Barclay James  Harvest - Welcome To The Show CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

2.92 | 77 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Best Bee-Gees album since 'Trafalgar'!

That's not really a slight; it's just that the vocals (mostly Les Holroyd's I believe) sound remarkably like the non-disco version of the brothers Gibb. Not everywhere on the album, but this is quite noticeable on the opening "The Life You Lead", "Welcome to the Show" and "African Nights" (all Holroyd compositions by the way). On the other hand the band pulls off a dead-on Eddie Money with "Psychedelic Child" including power chords along with Money's confused not-quite-country vocals. And "Where Do We Go" sounds suspiciously like a Peter Cetera-era Chicago tune, complete with a slow, dramatic ballad tempo and horn fills.

Seriously though, this album, coming more than three years after their last release and the longest recording break for the band in their twenty-plus year history to that point is easily their most varied and energetic since 'Gone to Earth' some thirteen years prior. The band sounds as if they were actually enjoying themselves in the studio and came prepared to put out something that aimed for more than simply satiating overly-loyal fans and padding their discography.

I should mention there's pretty much nothing progressive here at all, but as a cohesive and creative collection of music it far exceeds what most fans should have expected at this point. The band had released one decent and four lackluster studio albums since the departure of keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme at the end of the seventies, and I for one had long given up on them and assumed they were basically riding the wave of their legend and would end up either retiring gracefully or plugging away on the oldies circuit eventually. Turns out there was a little gas left in the tank after all.

Musically there's some fluff here, especially with the more languid tunes like the plodding "Origin Earth" and the rather cryptic closer "Shadows on the Sky". But Holyroyd, John Lees and drummer Mel Pritchard prove they can still put together cogent arrangements that accentuate their vast musical talents, even if they don't exactly push themselves to any new heights of exploration. I almost feel like they were sampling hit sounds of the new decade, proving to themselves and to any potential new fans that they were still musically relevant and could duplicate just about anything their contemporaries could, even at their advancing age. Not a problem in the end; for the most part they pulled it off.

There are a few memorably sappy moments like "John Lennon's Guitar", a tribute to the time when John Lees got a chance to jam a bit on Lennon's actual blonde Epiphone. One of my kids has an Epiphone and I tried closing my eyes and strumming it while listening to this yesterday. Imagine!

And "Halfway to Freedom" will probably bring a lump to the throat of anyone who witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall (even if only via satellite) and recalls the swell of emotion and goodwill feelings that spread like sunshine throughout the world in those heady days. Those who understand the connection Lees and Holroyd had with their fans in Berlin during the lean times can especially appreciate the sentiments on this one.

I still prefer the more experimental, artsy/folk music of the band's early days, but I have to admit the band outdid themselves for the first time in years with 'Welcome to the Show', and producer Jon Astley did a marvelous job bringing out the creative side of a rather jaded band and with a musical genre far removed from his prior experience. A great choice of songs, of producer and of themes. A solid three star effort and well recommended to fans as well as those who are riding the fan fence.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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