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Barclay James  Harvest - Caught Live CD (album) cover


Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Encore?

Released in 2002, this DVD consists mainly of a documentary about the band recorded in 1977. While they would go on to find greater success in mainland Europe, especially Germany, this therefore finds them pretty much at their peak in their native United Kingdom. Originally only available in cinemas, the film is a treasure trove of live performances, interviews, and backstage footage.

From the outset, despite the 5.1 Dolby surround, the sound quality is dubious, with frequent distortion and poor mixing. The track list of the live set focuses on the band's then more recent albums such as "Everyone is everybody else" and "Octoberon", with only the ubiquitous "Mocking bird" from their early years. The performances show BJH to be brimful of confidence, and playing to a devoted audience. Lees and Holroyd alternate lead vocals on their own songs, but it is Woolstenholme who shines through as being the most under-appreciated member of the band. His lead vocal on "Mocking bird" and his keyboard dexterity have always been criminally underplayed. He comes across as being the only band member who is actually enjoying himself, Lees appearing aloof and arrogant, while Holroyd is an a constant trance like state behind his double headed guitar. The late Mel Prichard on drums is so fresh faced, you have to assume his guardian is waiting in the wings to whisk him home by his bed time.

The film includes some low key but superfluous theatrics, such as the small boy standing at the stage during "Child of the universe". Each of the band members is filmed up north in the Saddleworth and Oldham area of England, with sound bites from them dubbed over film of their native area.

The music is classic BJH, with an extended "Hard hearted woman", and an overwhelming wall of sound on "Polk Street Rag". Significantly (for me) the film runs for a mere 55 minutes, almost exactly the same length of time the band played for in Glasgow the first time I saw them. Of course I bear no grudges for this, or the fact that they did not come back for an encore(!).

As a "special feature", the DVD offers several tracks from a 1974 concert in London by the band. The mixing here is even worse, with Lees' guitar solos being all but inaudible. Nevertheless, it is essential viewing for BJH fans.

In all, this is a wonderful time piece, which captures the essence of the band, and provides a riveting insight into their modus operandi at the time. The funniest bit has to be when the support act for a gig calls off, and one of the roadies has to step in and do a solo spot. The audience reaction to his performance is kindly edited!

Report this review (#87592)
Posted Friday, August 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars I bought this with great anticipation- BJH in their prime! I was tad disappointed. The sound quality is beyond abysmal, so muffled it sounds like someone's holding a pillow over your ear while you are listening. Granted, BJH doesn't have the cash of, say, Zeppelin, to restore damaged tapes to a pristine digital glory, but it is frustrating, especially since the visuals are excellent, and the window into the lives of band members makes for fascinating viewing. Part one is a documentary-style film featuring the band members talking, following them on a tour and showing soundchecks and post-gig nightclubbing (the lads didn't seem to be enthusiastic partiers, if that footage is evidence!). Disappointingly, some performances are fragments or played over scenes of crew sleeping on the tour bus. I'd love to have watched Lees playing "Suicide". The band looks good, especially Mel Pritchard's cocky swagger while drumming and John Lees' stoic presence. Les Holroyd's taste in satiny robes is as excellent as always. Part two features some performances of songs (many duplicates of the first section) from a London concert, but unfortunately the sound is even worse. Overall, I'd say this is an essential for BJH fans, but not for anyone else due to the poor audio. Three stars for the visuals, one for the audio!
Report this review (#91066)
Posted Friday, September 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Let's not beat about the bush - this is an essential look at the band in their heyday, designed to appease fans of the band starved of any other visual document of that era. It is sourced from the only known surviving copies of the two films. Though they have been treated to a wash-and-brush-up, neither can be considered as anything other than an interesting reminder of the past. While the main 1977 documentary is acceptable, footage of the Drury Lane 1974 concert is poor visually and diabolical aurally. But, the DVD must be bought on the understanding that you will not be getting pristine digital-age visuals and hi-fidelity audio. It is what it is, and doesn't pretend to be anything else.

The main feature 'Caught Live' is a film made in 1977 as BJH began to achieve commercial success, a fascinating look behind the scenes as they tour around Europe, including on-stage performances of several songs. There is no commentary, just a series of self-evident situations and cameos - in rehearsal, in transit, winding up, winding down etc, as well as an introduction to the members in their home environment and some of the support crew working and relaxing. We get a glimpse of band dynamics, and some of the by-play becomes more significant with hindsight. The short 'afternoon off' sequence is very illuminating: Woolly and Mel are shown at a zoo, where Woolly enthuses while Mel looks like he's thinking "what am I doing here?"; Les is shown disinterestedly stalking a skating rink; while John has his head in a book somewhere.

The Drury Lane footage is from the same vintage concert that forms the bulk of Live [1974] CD. It isn't very good but is still an essential 'must have' item for all lovers of that period in the band's history, if only for John's facial hair or watching Woolly bent over his Mellotron! It is a pity the CD sound couldn't have been overdubbed onto the film [technical and legal reasons]. You don't get much, but as soon as they launch into Crazy City the old adrenalin starts pumping.

One for the fans, then, and don't expect fireworks or great revelations of sordid 'rawk-n-roll' behaviour - BJH members are not noted for flashy showmanship or eccentricity either on-stage or off. What you get is a little window into the world of a quartet of consummate hard-working professionals going about their business. Copies of this DVD may be obtained from the band's website.

Report this review (#97296)
Posted Monday, November 6, 2006 | Review Permalink

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