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Barclay James  Harvest - Barclay James Harvest CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.25 | 183 ratings

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2 stars In the wake of two innovative bands, Moody Blues and Procol Harum, came the great imitator Barclay James Harvest. I do mean this fondly, for BJH often exceeded both of their heroes in potency and dynamism. But that would come later. On a smorgasbord of single releases prior to this debut, they displayed some of their potential in an understated manner, but on their debut LP they seemed more committed to excess for its own sake.

Remember, this is 3 years after "Days of Future Passed", and BJH still thought they could pull off something similarly grandiose and have it stick. Hence over the top tracks like "When the World was Woken", which peddles the orchestra for its own sake and is devoid of creativity, and the beached behemoth "Dark Now my Sky", bursting with MB style phrasing as well as Matthew Fisher inspired organ. It does feature some early John Lees leads that would be better developed on "After the Day" a few years later. On the flipside were plodding pedestrian rockers like "Taking Some Time On", with its proto prog feel and the horrid "Good Love Child". These were not styles at which BJH excelled, but, hey, they were finding their sound.

Thankfully, by the follow up album BJH had deduced that their success lay somewhere between these 2 rather ugly juxtapositions, a la "Iron Maiden" and "Mother Dear", sparer, richly arranged ballads that pointed the way to a fortuitous future. I believe it is Woolly singing on most of these tracks and he seemed to be the gel of the group back then; his retreat to the keys in favour of John and Les' dueling pipes seemed to belie the group's factional character and ultimately brought them down, but that would be MUCH later. The orchestra would remain but would be deployed more tastefully later on.

My review is based on the original LP, although an early double CD contained several of the tracks released as bonus cuts on the remaster. As a fan of everything else they did in the 1970s, I can say that this debut is somewhat atypical and not a good place to start, unless you already know you dislike their other 70s material and you like your meat undercooked or overcooked, rather than just right.

kenethlevine | 2/5 |


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