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Barclay James  Harvest - Gone To Earth CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.36 | 183 ratings

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4 stars Gone To Earth is BJH's biggest selling album, launching them on the road to success, at least in continental Europe, but at a cost. Songs here are consciously shorter and more compact without the expansive, sprawling and slightly indulgent arrangements on Octoberon, but still retain the familiar BJH mixture of quality mid-paced soft-rock songs and ballads with varying degrees of Prog-ness.

John's efforts are led by the mighty Hymn, a song that contrasts the misuse of narcotics with a spiritual high. Beginning with strummed acoustic 12-string guitars, each verse builds with an extra musical layer until it finally reaches a rousing and uplifting climax. Hymn soon became a concert set-piece and perennial crowd-pleaser surpassing even Mocking Bird. Yeah! Another John song, Poor Man's Moody Blues, is one you either love or hate. Developed as a means of getting back at the band's critics, one of whom had used this phrase to describe the band, it is a believable re-write of Nights In White Satin. It too became a fan favourite but the synthesized orchestra sounds a little dated now.

As so often, Woolly's contribution stands apart. Sea Of Tranquility is superficially about the old 'space race' but closer attention reveals lyrics that appear to be more autobiographical, suggesting Woolly's disillusionment was already bubbling under. Starting with the warm mellow tones of a Hammond, this highly 'orchestrated' song slides along until finally the band crash in for a rousing crescendo. One of Woolly's unheralded gems but it would be nice to hear it recorded with a real orchestra!

Not to be outdone, Les contributes a couple of crackers too, though inevitably simpler in nature. The understated, and much underrated, Spirit On The Water is his best despite a constricting 'stop-start' arrangement [whereby the song stops, then restarts by repeating the opening bars - an over-used device that blights three of his four songs]. The atmospheric Taking Me Higher is his other high spot, lifted by Woolly's massed keys, John's guitars and lush unvoiced harmonies. Sadly it fades out just when you expect a searing guitar solo to crash in [the definitive version of this song is to be found on Live Tapes where it does indeed rock out at the end].

The remaining four tracks adequately assume a supporting role while failing to grab the attention in the same way. Gone To Earth is a good album with two 5-star and three 4-star songs, but occupying an artificially elevated position in the BJH canon probably due to the presence of Hymn.

Joolz | 4/5 |


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