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

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST

Barclay James Harvest

 

Crossover Prog

3.25 | 182 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars The first Barclay James Harvest album is quite a hodgepodge of sounds covering all kinds of ground from poppy rock to acoustic folk to orchestral arrangements, all within just seven tracks covering less than forty minutes. Nearly a third of the album is consumed by the closing "Dark Now My Sky", which is likely the one track that most earned them a 'progressive' label early on.

Considering the band had nearly three years to gel and to collect material one could argue the band should have delivered something more ambitious, although to be fair all the songs here are more than decent and the production is solid, especially when compared to a lot of other music being released around the same period. Other than the pedestrian rocker "Good Love Child" every song here is imbued with tasteful orchestral accompaniment, mellotron, or both, and I for one think bassist Les Holroyd's vocals are a good fit for the band's music despite the criticism he's taken over the years for a perceived lack of range or distinctive character.

And speaking of the orchestral arrangements, the young Robert John Godfrey does a masterful job of conducting; giving fans a taste of the grandiose flair he would bring to his own band the Enid just a few short years later. Honestly I can't tell whether the subtle backing strings on "Mother Dear" are from the orchestra or mellotron, but I'm pretty sure they are real and add a depth to that ballad which lifts it from being just a folksy acoustic number and onto a higher plane. This is a distinctively different sound from the opening rocker "Taking Some Time On" and one that would show fans these guys were capable of more than just catchy guitar riffs and lively percussion.

"The Sun Will Never Shine" is also a sweeping number but one the band accomplishes more with electric guitar, drums and mellotron than with any orchestral gimmickry; while "When The World Was Woken" is a little of both with the orchestra favoring brass just a bit over the strings and the band throwing in some very Procol Harum-sounding organ for added effect. This is a very spacious song, and one that is undeniably British.

The two oddest songs on the album are also the two that are likely of most interest to progressive music fans. First, the brief and moody "The Iron Maiden" tells the tale of a homely and outcast young lass with delicate keyboards, ethereal strings and slightly tinny guitar picking. This one doesn't stand the test of time particularly well, but for 1970 it was distinctive enough to differentiate the band from most of their peers. The second, the closing mini-epic "Dark Now My Sky" is on the other hand quite prototypical of symphonic rock of that era with a broad orchestral passage that follows a rather satirical opening poetry reading and alternating transitions that move from the vocal sublime pierced by a couple of charged crescendos, all of which winds to a close amid rolling percussion, stilted horns and steady strings for a track that would certainly not have been out of place on dozens of symphonic rock band's albums anywhere from around 1969 through 1974. With this closer the band removes any doubt they merit at least a mention whenever prominent early seventies progressive bands are discussed.

I never much took to anything this band released after about 1975, and certainly this isn't by any stretch my favorite BJH album either. But for a debut it is quite solid and definitely something that should be listened to at some point by any progressive rock fan, and certainly by any fan of Barclay James Harvest. Easily three out of five stars anyway, and well recommended to just about all prog rockers.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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