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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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3 stars This is generally considered to be the best of BJH's post-Woolly albums from the 80s & 90s and I would concur. Musically it occupies familiar melodic AOR territory, but for me, Welcome To The Show is brimful of superior songs from both Lees and Holroyd, and packed with inventive touches [eg a backward guitar solo in Shadows On The Sky]. There are several Beatles references, musically and lyrically, and most songs have basic drum patterns bared back to the bone, but otherwise it is business as usual.

The accusation of writing to a formula has often been levelled at the band, and Welcome To The Show is no different as it too contains its regulation slow ballads, up-tempo rockers and catchy singalongs, and more-or-less alternates between Les and John's contributions. Here, though, each of these has its own distinct character and is amongst the best in its class, oozing quality and creativity from beginning to end, but, as always with BJH albums from this era, be aware that the Prog quotient is lower than you might prefer.

The band's lyrical concerns haven't changed much either, ranging from unambiguous 'important' message or plain English narrative story-telling to wilfully indecipherable. Cheap The Bullet is the hardest hitting, a powerful thrusting rocker taking a strong stance against a modern 'gun culture', while Halfway To Freedom, an emotional ballad featuring an excellent guitar solo, and Shadows On The Sky, with its one bar repeating drum pattern, are somewhat more oblique, making use of metaphor and imagery to get their messages across. Some songs are interesting because their lyrics are so obtuse: the eerie Lady Macbeth is transformed by a magnificent guitar solo, as also is the wonderful mellow If Love Is King, but neither can be translated with any confidence.

A high standard is maintained throughout the album though the guitar drenched rocker Psychedelic Child [ZZ Top anyone?], and African Nights, which becomes swamped by drums and percussion, are the least successful and together form a little mid-album low spot. From there though it is a high all the way to the finish, including Les's dreamy ballad Where Do We Go despite its soppy lyrics and John's sublime lilting Origin Earth complete with Mellotron choir. Good stuff!

Clearly not a high-flying Prog album, yet it has much to commend it to Prog lovers, especially those who appreciate the band's less overtly Prog material from the later 70s.

Joolz | 3/5 |


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