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Barclay James  Harvest - River Of Dreams CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

2.23 | 58 ratings

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2 stars Honestly I'm not even sure why Barclay James Harvest put out this album, except that they apparently still had something of a following in parts of Scandinavia and mainland Europe. The CD was originally released in Germany and to the best of my knowledge was never issued in the U.S. or even in Britain that I've been able to determine, although information about the album is pretty sketchy so I could be mistaken about that. For anyone looking to pick it up today your best shot is to find a used copy somewhere on-line; there are many to be had but just about every one I've seen is a copy of the German CD.

The general format and sequencing is pretty much the same as 'Caught in the Light', opening with a peppy but lyrically-lean guitar number by Les Holroyd ("Back in the Game"), followed by mostly alternating Holroyd and John Lees compositions. Each musician dominates their respective songs and once again the album comes across as a collection of disparate tunes rather than a unified band offering. This is consistent with their last three albums.

Lees sounds more and more nostalgic with each passing year, and here nearly all of his songs including the title track, "Children of the Disappeared" and to a lesser degree "Three Weeks to Despair" come across as pensive and backward-looking at a time Lees clearly felt was better than his present circumstance. "Mr. E" is the other Lees song and I'm not sure exactly what that one is all about although it hints at the Beatles and in that respect is likely also a nostalgic piece. The synthesized symphonic bits and snippets of "Strawberry Fields" lyrics place his sentiments a couple decades behind the time of its recording anyway.

Lees also throws in a love song with "Pool of Tears". Holroyd's love songs on earlier albums were often sad, but given the overall mood of this album the tune becomes a bit constrictive and depressing, and ends up sounding like one of those wrist-slashingly lovelorn Chris de Burgh songs from the eighties. Holroyd follows with his own love song "Do you Believe in Dreams" which is slightly more upbeat and much more in keeping with that classic BJH sound given the orchestral sounds and layered vocal harmonies.

Overall Holroyd is a bit more ambitious and positive with his opener but he also slips into sentimental recollection with "Yesterday's Heroes", a lengthy and very good guitar-heavy tune with lyrics that seem to be calling out to past influential music 'heroes' for guidance on how to deal with the present day. Like I said, the guitar work is admirable but if it wasn't clear enough before there can be no doubt that BJH has reached the end of their journey as a musical unit by this point.

In the end this is a slightly better album than 'Caught in the Light' but not measurably so. I'm almost tempted to rate it as a three star effort, but the lackluster outweighs the adequate and for Barclay James Harvest that just isn't good enough. Two stars it is. If you can get your hands on this without spending too much and you are at least a passing fan I would say go ahead as it will at least make for a conversation piece in your collection; but don't go out of your way to hunt it down as you will inevitably consider the cost and effort not worth the experience.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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