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Barclay James  Harvest - Everyone Is Everybody Else CD (album) cover

EVERYONE IS EVERYBODY ELSE

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

3.86 | 227 ratings

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Moogtron III
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is one of Barclay's best albums.

But is it prog? Well, BJH is loved by many prog fans, but that's something else. They are a crossover prog band which doesn't excel in complexity, musical virtuosity or an adventurous attitude.

So what do they have to offer? Good songs, that's one thing. Also: sophistication in their sound. Not that the Barclay albums are very rich in little details (they are not), but they're good in building an atmospheric sound with simple means. Most Barclay albums have a compelling layered sound, with a strong keyboard presence, and good guitar playing, especially by John Lees. Not prog in the strict sense of the word, but a sound that many prog fans will appreciate.

By the time of Everyone Is Everybody Else BJH didn't need an orchestra anymore, like they did on Once Again and BJH And Other Short Stories. They had learned now to be an orchestra on their own.

And that's quite an achievement, looking how sparse actually the instrumentation is. With few instruments and vocal harmonies they know how to build a full sound. Barclay's sound is heavily influenced by the Moody Blues, from the Days Of Future Passed / Nights In White Satin era. In fact, Barclay were being called a "poor man's Moody Blues". Barclay, like the Moody Blues, has mostly slow songs, stately, with simple but effective musical layers. Like Moody Blues, Barclay likes to make use of the mellotron. Keyboardist Woolly Wolstenhome is very important in this respect for the sound of the band. His keyboards play an important role in the Barclay sound. But Wolstenhome doesn't offer many compositions on most Barclay albums, neither on this one. The main composers of the band are Les and Lees, Les Holroyd en John Lees.

Why is this album so strong? It's not an album with a lot of diversity, but strangely enough that works out very well. The songs are on a very high level, and the fact that there is an enormous unity in sound between the songs doesn't make the album sound 'samey', but maximizes the emotional impact of the songs instead. Barclay had become masters in "less is more", and their composing skills not only help them carve out good songs, but they also know how to compose an album as a whole.

The album opener and the album closer are both true BJH classics. Both are anti-war songs, but on a very personal level, and John Lees' lyrics can send a real shiver down the spine. Yes, in album opener "Child Of The Universe" Lees brings a war which is far from home very close by in his lyrics: "I'm the child next door 300 miles away". Album closer "For No One" is also a highly emotional song, and the lyrics also address the listener on a more philosophical level (this is where the album title, which is part of the lyrics of this song, fits in conceptually).

Also a strong song is "See Me See You", and here at least we see some complexity, which is probably on the account of Wolstenhome.

Taken on their own, "Poor Boy Blues" and "Mill Boys" are not very special, but Barclay are masters in composing an album, and the songs do work out when put next to each other, and as an introduction to the emotion - laden "For No One".

As it comes to instrumentation: I already mentioned Wolstenhome's atmospheric keyboard layers. John Lees is also important for the sound: his guitar bits are not virtuoso in any respect, but he knows where to put an effective riff in the instrumental parts of the songs, adding to the emotional impact of a song.

Also a nice triviality is that Barclay likes to quote from other artists. In the lyrics, for instance: "Have you seen my life, Mr. Groan" from "The Great 1974 Mining Disaster" is a variation on a lyric from the Bee Gees' hit single "1941 Mining Disaster", where they sing: "Have you seen my wife, mr. Jones". Barclay's "Mr. Groan" refers to a British miner's leader in those days, called Joe Gormley. The lyrics of the song are also further on referring to the actual political situation.

There is also a musical quotation on the album: the wordless vocal harmonies in the middle of Crazy City form a clear variation on the "da-do-do-do-da-da-da" at the end of Yes' Roundabout.

This album, though not virtuoso, innovating or complex, is very good because of the strong songs, the intelligent lyrics and the unity in sound. This is not an album that will knock you out when you listen to it for the first time. If you'd buy this album because of this review, you might even be a bit disappointed in the beginning, because the music doesn't sound very ambitious. But when you keep listening to it, it will reveal its secrets. This is Barclay at its best.

Moogtron III | 4/5 |

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