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John Lees

Crossover Prog

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John Lees A Major Fancy album cover
2.66 | 27 ratings | 4 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Untitled No.1 - Heritage (7:55)
2. Child Of the Universe (6:17)
3. Kes (A Major Fancy) (2:33)
4. Untitled No.2 (3:52)
5. Sweet Faced Jane (5:05)
6. Witburg Night (5:48)
7. Long Ships (5:21)
8. Untitled No.3 (5:03)
CD bonus tracks
9. Please Be With Me (2:49)
10. Best Of My Love (3:40)
11. You Can't Get It (3:56)

Total Time:

Line-up / Musicians

- John Lees / vocals, guitars
- Wally Waller / bass, melotron, moog, timbals, harmony vocals
- Skip Allen / drums, percussion
- Gordon Edwards / piano
- Graham Preskett / violin, choir and strings arrangement
- Eric Stewart / acoustic guitar (3)
- Kevin Godley / Ashtray, beer bottle and fire extinguisher (4)
- Rod Argent / organ (1)
- Rex Morrison / Tenor saxophone (5)

Guest musicians on CD bonus tracks:
- John Lees / vocals, guitar
- Les Holroyd / bass
- B. J. Cole / slide guitar
- Mike Moran / piano

Releases information

Harvest Heritage LP SHSM2018 (1977)
Eagle records CD (1999)

Thanks to easy livin for the addition
and to ProgLucky for the last updates
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Buy JOHN LEES A Major Fancy Music

JOHN LEES A Major Fancy ratings distribution

(27 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(26%)
Good, but non-essential (41%)
Collectors/fans only (19%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

JOHN LEES A Major Fancy reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Over four years between recording and release, and three tracks are still untitled!

John Lees is best known as the guitarist, vocalist, and song writer with Barclay James Harvest. While one of the two current line ups of that band now bears his name, he has only ever released one solo album, "A major fancy".

The album was recorded in 1972, when the band were in the process of moving from Harvest records, who had released their first four albums, to Polydor records. The move to Polydor was a positive one, which gave the band a new lease of life.

During their time on Harvest, Lees had accumulated a number of songs which for one reason or another were not considered right for BJH. He therefore recorded "A major fancy" without the other BJH members being involved in any way. The band's new record label were uncomfortable with the idea of Lees releasing a solo album when BJH's first album for them ("Everyone is everybody else") was about to hit the streets. "A major fancy" was therefore shelved, finally being released in 1977 on the Harvest Heritage label, usually used for re-issues of older albums at a budget price.

The album includes contributions from 10CC's Kevin Godley and Eric Stewart, along with Rod Argent of the Zombies and Argent. It was produced by Wally Waller of the Pretty Things, who also contributes bass, mellotron, moog and harmony vocals.

This is however very much Lee's project. The sound is noticeably different to that of BJH although some of the songs could easily have been recorded by that band, indeed "Child of the universe" was used on "Everyone is everybody else". While the melody of that song is instantly recognisable here, and the vocals are still the distinctive voice of Lees, this version is quite different. The song is sympathetically orchestrated with an extended choral ending rendering it far less acidic than the BJH version.

Three of the pieces are "Untitled", perhaps implying they are demos or works in progress. In fact they are most definitely finished products. "Untitled number 1- heritage" (is that not a title?) opens the album with some fine piano by Gordon Edwards leading to the distinctive tones of Lees' guitar. The vocal sections are functional but the track features a wonderful organ solo by Rod Argent. "Untitled no 3", which closes the album, is a pleasant light piece slightly reminiscent of BJH's "One night". The instrumental credits indicate that it is the sole track to feature melotron, but its presence is difficult, if not impossible, to detect.

"Sweet faced Jane" is a country/folk tinged song, with strong hints of "Poor boy blues" which featured on "Everyone is everybody else". "Whitburg night", with its soft, slightly distorted vocals and typical Lees guitar would have sounded at home on BJH's early albums, perhaps in place of the similar "Harry's song".

There are weaker moments on the album. "Untitled no 2" is a light, throwaway number with semi-whispered vocals and a funky beat. "Long ships" is a rather ordinary mid- paced number, with an unexciting melody but interesting lyrics. The track segues into a brief, but far more exciting guitar run entitled "Link piece".

In all, an album which will be of substantial interest to BJH fans. While by no means a long lost BJH release, Lees distinctive vocals and guitars make for a fine, if occasionally uneven offering.

The CD version includes three extra tracks. Two of these are cover versions of songs by the Eagles and Eric Clapton which were released as a now collectable single.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars One could have expected that John Lees would have take the opportunity to release an album which would be more guitar oriented to compensate the dominance of the Wholstenholme keyboards music which was to be experienced within BJH in the days of the recording of this album ('72).

But it not the case. The opening number (featuring a great Rod Argent on the keys), one feels the impressive organ work. The early version of Children Of The Universe also has the early BJH treat: it features an orchestra during the finale and sounds therefore more pompous than the featured track on their excellent Everyone Is Everybody Else album (one of their best IMHHO). It is another good song from this album, which won't hold that many to say the truth.

After a very dispensable instrumental track (Kes), the funky Untitled No 2 is far from the expectation one could have from a John Lees effort. But this is the tendency throughout the work. If ever you fancy some country-rock music, Sweet Faced Jane is the one for you. But I can't endorse such a song.

One of the very few BJH oriented song is probably the good Witburg Night. Same type of vocals and melancholy. I can understand of course that an artist while releasing a solo album is willing to differentiate from the work while playing with his band, but the artist also has to bear in mind that his prospects are first his own and existing fan database. An I was quite a BJH fan between '74 and '76. By '77 (date of release of this album), this solo work was completely drowned into another wave of music and was totally ignored (at least in Belgium).

One of my fave song (but there is little surprise), is the very much BJH oriented Please, Be With Me (which is a cover song though).

As a matter of fact, I wonder who would be interested by this album: the die-hard BJH won't recognize this music from one of the leaders of their beloved bands and the external (prog) rock fan wouldn't be impressed with these average songs (with a few exceptions already mentioned).

Two stars.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Untitled

A Major Fancy is the one and only solo album by Barclay James Harvest man John Lees. Apparently it was recorded in 1972, but held back from release until 1977. One most interesting fact is that it was on this album that the original version of Child Of The Universe appeared. This song later ended up, in a different version, on Barclay James Harvest's Everyone Is Everybody Else in 1974 and has since become one of the band's most recognized songs.

My expectations before hearing A Major Fancy were rather low, but this album is not a disaster. The style of music is more funky than what you would expect from Barclay James Harvest. Rod Argent hands in some nice organ on the nearly 8 minute opening track, Untitled No. 1. The weakest aspect of this otherwise rather good track is the banal lyrics. Child Of The Universe I have already mentioned. This older version is not as good as the subsequent band version, but it is a good song. This flows into Kes, a brief and inoffensive instrumental.

So far A Major Fancy is rather good, but after this point things start to get problematic. Untitled No. 2 is a funky number that, despite its relatively short length, feels overlong and leaves no lasting impression. Sweet Faced Jane is however the first embarrassment. A bouncy rocker with a violin lead, and a slight Country feel. Wittburg Night is closer to Barclay James Harvest territory in its slow tempo and in the melody. However, it sounds rather like a weak Barclay James Harvest tune and leaves a lot to be desired. The lyrics are again banal and there is an unnecessary Beatles-quote! Similar comments apply to the rest of the album.

I cannot recommend this album for anyone but the most devoted Barclay James Harvest fan

Latest members reviews

3 stars This is not a Barclay James Harvest Album, so don't be misled by expectations raised from the inclusion of "Child of the Universe" - in its original studio version cause the song had been rejected by BJH first. John Lees' 1972 Solo-Album "A Major Fancy", released on Vinyl when in 1977 BJH had ... (read more)

Report this review (#107602) | Posted by rupert | Monday, January 15, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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