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Barclay James Harvest

Crossover Prog

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Barclay James  Harvest XII album cover
3.56 | 176 ratings | 18 reviews | 12% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Fantasy: Loving Is Easy (4:00)
2. Berlin (4:47)
3. Classics: A Tale Of Two Sixties (3:34)
4. Turning In Circles (3:30)
5. Fact: The Closed Shop (3:46)
6. In Search Of England (4:12)
7. Sip Of Wine (4:22)
8. Harbour (3:42)
9. Science Fiction: Nova Lepidoptera (5:45)
10. Giving It Up (4:35)
11. Fiction: The Streets Of San Francisco (5:41)

Total Time: 47:54

Bonus tracks on Polydor remaster (2003):
12. Berlin (B-side 1980 Single) (4:10)
13. Loving Is Easy (A-side 1978 Single) (3:45)
14. Turning In Circles (First Mix) (3:33) *
15. Fact: The Closed Shop (First Mix) (3:48) *
16. Nova Lepidoptera (Ambient Instrumental Mix) (7:07) *

* Previously unreleased

Line-up / Musicians

- John Lees / acoustic (6- & 12-string) & electric guitars, bass, lead (1,3,5,9,11) & backing vocals
- Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme / piano, Mellotrons, Dolina String, Hammond, synths (Yamaha, ARP Solist & Odyssey), 12-string acoustic & electric guitars, lead vocals (6,8)
- Les Holroyd / bass, double bass, electric & acoustic guitars, banjo, piano, lead (2,4,7,10) & backing vocals
- Mel Pritchard / drums, orchestral snares, congas, vibes, tubular bells, glockenspiel, temple block, cabasa, tambourines, shaker, timpani

- Mike Timony / accordion (Cordovox)

Releases information

Artwork: Chris Clover with Maldwyn Reece Tootill (design)

LP Polydor ‎- POLD 5006 (1978, UK)

CD Polydor ‎- 821 941-2 (1984, Germany)
CD Polydor ‎- 065 571-2 (2003, Europe) Remastered by Paschal Byrne with 5 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST XII ratings distribution

(176 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (39%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)


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
4 stars Fact, Fiction, and Fantasy

My personal favourite BJH album (I think!). They packed the tracks in on this one, making for an unusually long vinyl album (LP). "XII" flows well from start to finish, and includes some of BJH's best music. In some ways the diversity of the tracks takes us right back to their first album, but whereas that album reflected a band still seeking their direction, here it demonstrates the maturity and confidence at their creative peak.

"Science fiction, Nova Lepidoptera" is a majestic piece with a stately pace, reminiscent of their Harvest label days and of Woolly Wolstenhome's magnificent, but all too infrequent compositions for the band.

In all, there are eleven quality tracks here, other highlights being: "Fantasy, Loving is easy", a solid upbeat opener, and "Classics, A tale of two cities", a successor of sorts to "Titles" on "Time Honoured Ghosts. "In Search of England" is instantly recognisable as another high quality Woolly Wolstenholme contribution, and "Fiction, The streets of San Francisco", is a cross between "Suicide" ("Octoberon") and "one night" ("Time honoured ghosts").

This was to be BJH's last great album, with the following "Eyes of the universe" showing the first clear signs that their momentum was starting to dwindle. The remastered CD brings out the true quality of the music, which was slightly suppressed on the LP due to the audio constraints which come with fitting such a long album onto a single disc. ("Selling England by the pound" suffered a similar problem)

The LP came with a poster size lyric sheet, and an embossed sleeve. BJH really were riding high.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Were are talking about folk rock here. There are acoustic guitar parts, and despite the presence of electric guitars with simple solos, which remind me sometimes a more simple GENESIS' "And Then There Were Three", we do not talk about hard rock here. The rythm is still rather slow here. The songs are not really loaded: everything is rather simple. There are many modern floating keyboards. The lead vocals are very good, as always. My favorite track is "Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco": very floating, folky and catchy. On this record, there are some really catchy and addictive parts. Compared to some older albums, I find the songs less depressive here, although there are not party songs!!
Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars For me XII represents the highest point for Barclay James Harvest. The space butterfly introduces the listener to a space/folk/simpho/prog that is unique! Woltenholme's contributions now are two: In Search Of England describes the contrast between youth and experience, a sort of father and son thing. Harbour is an interestin piece in some intelligent acoustic guitars. Holroyd's songs are beautiful: I'm thinking about Berlin, a live classic with an excellent and tormenting piano. It's about the division between the democratic and communist halfs of that city. Turning In Circle and Sip Of Wine have good electric guitar riffs and catchy melodies. Lees' compositions are of a supreme beauty: Nova Lepidoptera (space rock), Loving Is Easy and The Streets Of San Francisco are in a highest standard of quality.

Barclay James Harvest XII: one of England's best kept secret!!!!!!!!

Highly recommended!!!

Review by loserboy
4 stars For many "XII" was the last good album by BJH, but although I am not in agreement with this, I will go as far as saying that this is unfortunately the last album to feature the mellotron. I love this album..lots of great guitars, space keyboards, great bass and drum interplay and wonderfully memorable songs.. what else can you ask for ? The music of BJH is really something special and their music literally works on so many different levels for this music lover. "XII" was the twelfth album by the BJH and everything obviously clicked here during the writing and recording sessions. The album is full of deep harmonic and symphonic passages with some inspirational musicianship and moods. Of all the BJH albums I own I tend to play this album and yet in has not been reviewed until now on my site. A great album from start to finish.
Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A BJH classic, no doubt about it, with a string of top-notch songs from all three songwriters. All members are on top of their form, singing and playing as well as they have ever done. As befits a 'proper' BJH album, John's wonderful inventive guitars are all over XII like a rash, though Woolly's keys are sometimes too recessed for comfort. Material is suitably varied and typically eclectic, ranging from light-rockers, ballads and a foray into classicism, all performed as a tight unit yet with an openness lacking in some degree from its immediate predecessor.

The scene is set by John's double-entendre laden Loving Is Easy, a solid mid-paced rocker with strong guitar work underpinned by meaty Hammond and synth.

Les produces the first enduring classic in the emotional form of Berlin, a timeless ballad inspired by the still divided city, beautifully written with evocative imagery.

A Tale Of Two Sixties, John's homage to his 1960s influences, is a loping slowish melodic rocker awash with guitars.

Les's love song, Turning In Circles, is very superior rocking-ballad with an inventive arrangement, some wonderful bass work and an exciting guitar riff that fires it all off.

The Closed Shop is John's scathing attack on that union practice, now outlawed in Britain. It is a lively ballad reminiscent of Mill Boys from Everyone Is Everybody Else: acoustic guitars combine with strong keyboard elements and varied percussion to produce a languid country-rock feel.

In Search Of England is the last in a long line of characteristic 'symphonic' classics Woolly would record with the band, and one of the very best. Mood shifts abound, of course, as do Woolly's layered keyboards, but it is John's ecstatic soaring guitars which steal the show!

Sip Of Wine, a not entirely serious tale of groupie seduction, is a simpler mid-paced soft-rock song, musically the first dip on the album yet still producing a rasping guitar solo.

Harbour, offering reflections on reaching a home port after a long journey, represents the other side of Woolly: a simpler ballad with a beautiful melody supported by chiming guitars, rich harmonies and a fine duplexed guitar solo. Even here he manages to insert a contrasting mid-song break.

Nova Lepidoptera may have meaningless lyrics derived from science fiction books, but John succeeded in turning them into a stunning atmospheric song coming quite close to a languid approach to space-rock. It has an airy other-worldly feel but with a conventional song structure featuring one of John's best guitar solos and some gorgeous swooping bass from Les. They did this sort of thing so well. Incidentally, the Morse Code at the beginning spells U F O!

Les, as usual, simplifies things with his ballad Giving It Up, a pretty love song but a good one. Drums from the second verse give it a distinct lift beyond the mundane.

John closes the album on a high with his sublime Streets Of San Fransisco. Inspired by the old 1970s TV series ["Karl Malden was great (unlike the film, though)"], it is blessed with a detailed arrangement, hidden depths belying what is actually a fairly simple song. Its crowning glory is a wonderfully laid-back and understated coda, topped by a bluesy harmonica that paints a vivid picture of lazily watching the world go by at sunset, sitting on a whicker chair under the verandah, iced beer in hand with chirping crickets as a backdrop .....

End Of An Era

XII: end of an era and the last before Woolly packed his Mellotron and left for pastures new. There is no hint of change afoot, or of anything amiss in the BJH camp. Quite the reverse in fact: not only is XII one of their best albums, but the years of hard grind were at last beginning to reap a material reward. Record sales were soaring, especially in Germany where BJH would shortly enter sub-superstar orbit as a stadium act or filling the Reichstag with a couple hundred thousand adoring fans. This process had begun well before Woolly's departure, and was a significant factor in his decision.

With hindsight, we can now see the trip to USA to record Time Honoured Ghosts in 1975 had set the ball rolling towards a simpler, more streamlined and polished sound that would dictate the band's direction for the next twenty years. But, while Woolly remained as an influence, BJH would continue to be a very English guitar-led melodic rock band with a degree of Prog-ness, a hybrid of well-crafted songs, involving and evolving arrangements, skilled musicanship and professional outlook.

Musically, XII is a matched pair with its predecessor Gone To Earth: it is these two albums that together fuelled the fires of success, sustaining them well into the 80s before a spate of poorer albums took their toll. It represents the final flowering of what I think of as 'BJH Mk 2' - that distinct group of superior albums from the late 70s representing a transitional phase where keener commercial instincts of the later 3-man band rubbed shoulders with the old prog sensibilities of the early 70s in a rich vein of creativity as yet untainted by the demands of a hit-making business.

Woolly's departure would mean more than just the loss of a keyboard player, singer and songwriter, much more! Woolly was the link that bound together the disparate styles of Les and John, melding them into a cohesive whole while adding something of his own free-spirited, classically inspired ideology. In many ways, Woolly symbolized the old band's essence and everything it stood for, as John claimed many years later, he was its soul, and a light dimmed when he left.

Why XII? You have to cheat to consider it the band's twelfth album, but it seems that was the intended meaning, though it also marked the start of their twelfth year together as a band. It subsequently came to mark their final year as a working four-piece. They ended on a high, not of course scaling the rarified atmosphere and precipitous slopes of the Prog-bound peaks of Everest, but rather fell-walking on more accessible slopes and crags of the high Pennine moors of northern England with a midday sun warming their backs. Believe It!

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Their previous album "Gone To Earth" has IMO already started the downwards quality of their work. My favorite period of the band starts with "Everyone..." and lasts with "Octoberon". On top of these ones, I have to add the great "Once Again" from their early days. During the Harvest years, they will also produce the majority of their greatest songs ("She Said", "Galadriel", "Mocking Bird" etc.) but they were spread over too many different albums to really make those ones very interesting.

When I started to listen to "XII", I could barely believe what I heard. The opening number is absolutely dreadful. An attempt to a rock song, but boooooooring. One of their worse of their Polydor days. Unfortunately, it won't the only one of this style. "Classics a Tale of Two Sixties" is a tribute to some rock legends. A bit similar to what they had done with "Titles" in "Time Honoured Ghosts". But that one was a beautiful and melodic track while the rock pastiche we have here is totally unappropriate.

BJH seems to remain into a more rocking territory than ever with "Turning in Circles". My verdict is the same : useless. Although more in their classic style, "Harbour" can really not awake the slightiest interest in me. Mellowish to such an extent...

Some songs won't be that bad, but they will not reach the quality of the great BJH work.

"Fact the Closed Shop" is an example. This mellow ballad has some Latin character. It reminds me of the flute passages from "El Condor Pasa" (Simon & Garfunkel) although I do not know whether it is flute or some keyboards effects here. "Sip of Wine" and its soft-pop-rock mood belongs as well to this category. As the pointless "Giving It Up".

I will include "The Streets of San Francisco as well into this category. I would have hoped that this longer track (almost six minutes) would have held better moments. Folkish and too monotonous. There will be fortunately some good old BJH songs on this album. More in the style of their earlier production. "Berlin" is definitely the best number from "XII". A jewel of a symphonic melody. As will "In Search of England" : an emotional and bombastic (at times) piece of music. Even the orchestration sounds won't affect my feeling. This is beautiful music which has been BJH driving force for several years.

The longer "Science Fiction Nova Lepidoptera" also belongs to the good songs from this work. After a useless and noisy intro (over a minute), BJH will offer another nice and romantic ballad. Some abhor BJH for this type of tracks and it is exactly thanks to these ones that I love the band so much. Emotions at their peak.

All in all, this is not a bad album. Only a few songs are really terrible but most of the other ones are pleasant. I just can not cope when BJH tries to sound rockier. It is really against their nature and the result is mostly poor. My global feeling about this album is that it is slightly better than "Gone To Earth". I would range this album to parity with "Time Honoured Ghosts".

Nothing essential though. Three stars.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

''XII'' is often considered as the last ''classic'' album of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, mostly for the reason that this is the last album with keyboardist WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME on board before his departure. I see it more as the first album of a new BJH trying to go mainstream and reach the charts. Yes, WOOLY comes up with....2 songs on XII both of them very good like the haunting IN SEARCH OF ENGLAND very reminiscent of the old symphonic BJH sound. This song sounds like a wonderful testament on the legacy of this great mellotron-master, leaving a big hole behind him before coming back in the band through the eyes of JOHN LEES...2 decades later. Time flies!

LES HOLROYD and JOHN LEES are not apologetic about simplifying their sound, getting rid of a lot of prog elements from the past, turning more in a pop-rock/AOR direction. But don't forget we are already in 1978 now and everybody else was in the same ship back then trying to stay relevant in a new musical world.I am not one to bash these drastic transformations as long as the music or melodies are still of great quality.To the contrary of certain prog elitists, i still think being mainsteam and making good songs are NOT incompatible!

Yes, there are quite a few good songs to be found on ''XII''. Besides the aforementioned PROCOL HARUM-sounding IN SEARCH OF ENGLAND and the other WOOLY song HARBOUR keeping memories of the past, LEES and HOLROYD come back to us with more ''modern'' songs, though a few of them bear the same quality as some from their old days.

HOLROYD penned one of his most beautiful ballad ever BERLIN which would become a live staple . the bassist songs are often a hit or miss affair, but when LES hits, he hits very high and he did with BERLIN.The rest of his tracks are definitely the most commercial ones like TURNING IN CIRCLES or SIP OF WINE, sort of light mid-tempo rockers, not very original but as always well played and tastefully arranged. GIVING IT UP is another of those LES ballads but not as good as BERLIN, kind of unimaginative and so syrupy!

JOHN LEES also tries to get a'' hit'' with the opener LOVING IS EASY with its corny chorus. Not my favorite song of JOHN LEES, far from it, but his guitar licks sound great and save the song from complete disaster! but who i am to say anything bad about LOVING IS EASY as indeed this song would chart eventually!

Things are not really going better with the ''rocker' A TALE OF TWO SIXTIES a tribute to JOHN's musical heroes of his youth! I guess he is a man of tributes after TITLES from TIME OF HONOURED GHOSTS, a song showing his admiration for the BEATLES or POOR MAN'S MOODY BLUES on GONE TO EARTH..

However, John LEES shows us he hasn't lost it either with 3 great tracks:THE CLOSED SHOP, a ballad typical of him with a strong vocal performance and absolutely great arrangements, maybe this is a fute or keyboards i don't know for sure, but what i do know it sounds very good. NOVA LEPIDOPTERA is a spacey suave ballad that will become another BJH ''classic'' still on their live repertoire more than 25 years later. THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO won't get this honor but this is still a beautiful ballad, with some nice haunting parts like when a delicate harmonica comes playing in the background over an acoustic guitar.Somehow west-coast influenced and a good way to close the album.

This is not the greatest album BJH would produce but it is still a decent one .JOHN LEES still composes good to great songs which can still surprise us LES HOLROYD songs on the other hand start to sound too predictable, a tendency which will be confirmed in the future, sadly.WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME would depart soon as his prog songs were rejected, the band wanting to cut the ties to its symphonic roots.


Review by kenethlevine
4 stars Compared to all their other efforts up to that point, and given its release in the vinyl age, "XII" is a sprawling affair, including more songs than usual for the group, but really nothing epic. All three songwriters have a significant role, and this would be one of the last times that their contributions would really mesh together. Although a diverse disc, it somehow manages to seem more than a random collection of songs, which is almost a prerequisite for a 4 star album in my book. Perhaps this is because of the loose thematic concept of different literary styles that accompany the 5 John Lees compositions, and the slotting of Holroyd and Wolstenholme's gifts in between. Sure there are missteps, and the overall feel is more mainstream, but the progressive subtleties, folky tendencies, diverse keyboards and high end harmonies are all intact. My review is based on the original LP.

The opener "Loving is Easy" shocks us to life. Is this a hard rock BJH? The lyrics are somewhat trite and vitriolic, and aimed at a lover apparently. Not what we have come to expect from Mr Lees, but, when John's expressive leads have faded against the backdrop of an infectious beat, it must be said that this is one of his successful attempts at rocking out. It is not a total abandonment of the trademark BJH sound but yet it cooks like they rarely do. This track segues into one of the band's best ballads ever, Holroyd's "Berlin", an atmospheric keyboard dominated affair with a bittersweet melody. Then it's back to the rockers, this time much less successfully. "Tale of Two Sixties" and "Turning in Circles" represent the nadir of the album. The former is yet another Lees novelty tune with references to all manner of 60s and 70s artists and albums, so it is actually tolerable for one or two listens, not the stuff of which prog rock is made, while the latter is just a dreadful Holroyd rocker, one of the worst things the band ever did. But the two tracks that close the original side 1 more than make up for these. "The Closed Shop" is an almost Celtic sounding number, due to its accordion sounding instrument, probably a keyboard, and its haunting melody. A brave move for the group. "In Search of England" shows that Woolly still has it in him, as it weds his tendency to overemote with a brilliantly expressive guitar melody.

Side 2 is actually the stronger, with all songs being at least good. Holroyd's contributions "Sip of Wine" and "Giving it Up" compensate for simple inconsequential lyrics with well timed and arranged instrumentation, the first being more gentle rocker and the second atmospheric acoustic. Lees weighs in with the slow paced cosmic ballad "Nova Lepidoptera". Now to this day I feel this is a rip off of someone's melody but it is so beautiful that I don't care. It also marks a rare return of the dual lead guitars that we heard a few times on "Everyone is Everybody Else". His other song is the album closer "Streets of San Francisco" which is also slow, and utilizes harmonica for the first and, as far as I know, only time in the band's history. This gives it a bluesy feel, but the string synths/mellotrons also ties the tune to the band's lexicon. Certainly something different, as was the album opener. On "XII", we are also treated to a second Wolstenholme composition, the luscious "Harbour", with some of the old BJH feel brought into the present. Its main quality is the vocal harmonies, but John's short sweet lead solo is worth the entry fee on its own.

So with XII, we see some signs, especially early on, that the band is evolving into a different beast, or perhaps retrenching, retreating into itself, but also plenty of signs of life and, most importantly, a healthy dose of fine songs. A great way to end the 1970s for a group that had stayed intact for XII full years.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Barclay's Ninth

If you count studio albums only, this was in fact Barclay James Harvest's ninth. And if you include the two live albums, it becomes eleven. So, either they cannot count properly or they cannot count properly.

Anyway, as I have mentioned in other reviews, Barclay James Harvest had a habit of always including one or two horrible songs on each album. This album is no exception. But this time they decided to put the worst stuff up front. The opening number Fantasy: Loving is Easy is a real stinker with very cheesy lyrics. Classics: A Tale of Two Sixties is another low point here. The idea of this song is very similar to Titles from the Time Honoured Ghosts album. And even if Berlin isn't awful I usually skip the first four tracks on almost every listen. After that this album is quite enjoyable!

Fact: The Closed Shop, In Search of England and Harbour are very good, very mellow songs. The Closed Shop in particular has a folky feel due to the inclusion of flutes.

Overall this is a folky and mellow album, with a few rockers thrown in for good measure. One of their best albums, but with some of their best mellow songs.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The album starts off with a rhythmic beat that I immediately connected with the intro to Pavlov's Dog's final '70s album Third which wasn't a good sign. Loving Is Easy tries to be another one of John Lees intro rock tunes like In My Life from Time Honoured Ghosts but it's just not as good. Same goes for A Tale Of Two Sixties which is another tribute offshoot like Titles which just doesn't hit it off with me. On top of that we also have Holroyd's Turning In Circles which is just a cheap attempt at a commercial hit tune.

But it's not all bad since Les Holroyd also manages to craft an excellent ballad entitled Berlin which is my personal favorite from this album while Sip Of Wine has one of the weirdest lines that Les has ever written: "I held her breath and she was holding mine!". XII also features two Woolly Wolstenholme compositions which may not be the best that he's ever written but both In Search Of England and particularly Harbour fit well in the context of the album.

Originally I was surprised by some of the song titles which hinted at a concept album but according to the official website: "All of John's songs on this album have titles like sections in a library, although this would, perhaps, have been more effective if Les and Woolly had followed the same pattern". Which is an amusing and rather self-critical observation.

It's evident that by the end of the '70s the band was going into a new era of their career. But XII is by no means a transitional album it's just not as good as the rest of their '70s output.

***** star songs: Berlin (4:47)

**** star songs: Fantasy: Loving Is Easy (4:00) Fact: The Closed Shop (3:46) In Search Of England (4:12) Sip Of Wine (4:22) Harbour (3:42) Science Fiction: Nova Lepidoptera (5:45) Giving It Up (4:35) Fiction: The Streets Of San Francisco (5:41)

*** star songs: Classics: A Tale Of Two Sixties (3:34) Turning In Circles (3:30)

Review by ClemofNazareth
2 stars 'XII' seems to be the turning-point album for Barclay James Harvest, coming as it did at the end of the seventies and marking a split with producer David Rohl as well as the departure of original keyboardist the late Woolly Wolstenholme. Things would not get better from here on.

The 'XII' seems to represent the number of years the band had been together more than the number of albums released, since the actual number including studio, live and compilations ranged somewhere between nine and fourteen at that point in time.

This is a considerably more commercial and AOR/pop oriented album than anything the band had done prior. Presumably this was at least somewhat due to the influence of new producer Martin Lawrence, who replaced Grohl midway through the studio sessions. Lawrence, who was also partially responsible for chipping some of the character off the edges of 10cc, did the same here as far as I'm concerned. The things that made BJH special were pretty easily identifiable: orchestral arrangements whether real or mellotron- driven; layers of harmonizing vocals, sometimes delivered by choral groups; clever lyrics that tended to spur thought and discussion; and the simple elegance and esprit de corps displayed by the four members of the band toward each other. Most of that starts to vanish on 'XII', and never really does come back.

Tunes like "Classics: A Tale of two Sixties" and "Harbour" sound an awful lot like much of what Supertramp put out after Hodgson left (and I don't mean that as a compliment). "Berlin", "Turning in Circles" and "Sip of Wine", all of which were Holroyd songs, glisten with commercial sheen but fail utterly to make the sort of emotional connection with listeners that the more genuine and personable songs from their earlier works did. As an aside, am I the only one who thinks the piano chords on "Berlin" sound suspiciously like the recurrent musical theme that drives Nick Magnus' 2010 CD 'Children of Another God'? Maybe it's just me.

Not that John Lees fared much better. "A Tale of two Sixties" is a silly, nostalgic name- checking affair that probably appeared too early in the career of the band. This would have been an acceptable song for aging rockers after a lengthy run, but not for a bunch of thirtysomethings still aiming to be viable in a fast-changing music market. And "Fact: The Closed Shop" is a bit preachy, uncharacteristic of Lees in general and probably especially poorly thought-out considering its anti-union message and the inevitable negative reception of said by most of the band's blue collar fans. "Nova Lepidoptera" is the closest Lees and the rest of the band would come to a vintage BJH sound, and while this is a very elegant and flowing tune with beautiful synth, piano and especially lead guitar work, it's not enough to save the entire album.

Even Woolly manages to disappoint. On prior records his contributions to the songwriting have been few but generally longer songs and majestic, even bombastic at times. Here he manages to get two songs onto the record, but neither much fit the mold of what one would expect of a Woolly tune. "Harbour" is one of the shortest songs on the album and features vocals and guitar much more prominently than Wolstenholme's own keyboards. And "In Search of England", the last song he would record with the band, while it is slower with a certain majestic feel and plenty of keyboards including heavy organ work, does not come close to the sort of potential he displayed with epics like "Ra" and "Moonwater".

Unfortunately Stuart Wolstenholme would depart with more of a whimper than a bang, but he can't be completely faulted since the band as a whole was in clear decline at this point. "Nova Lepidoptera" is easily the best thing on this record, and the only song in that classic Barclay James Harvest mold. And "Fiction (The Streets of San Francisco)" shows faint signs of influence of the band's brief experiment with recording in America earlier in the decade with its stronger guitar focus and particularly the mildly bluesy rhythm guitar work and almost spaghetti-western feel to the overall tune. Otherwise I don't find a whole lot to get excited about on this record, and find it a bit depressing for what it represents in the slow decline of the band. I really hate to dip into two star territory for a Barclay James Harvest album since the musicians are all consummate professionals and even a bad BJH album is better than most groups. But this becomes an exercise is relative reasoning, and given the potential of these four men, this album has to be seen as a disappointment. So two stars it is, although I would still recommend this album to anyone interested in the band simply because it helps to explain the dramatic shift between their seventies and their eighties output.


Review by GruvanDahlman
4 stars I have always had a fondness for BJH, though I've also had major issues with their music aswell. Amidst some outstanding tracks I've experienced a sense of the same-ness in sound. The tracks blend together, not in the epic style where tracks flow in and out of each other, more in a bland way. Sorry. I wish I could feel differently but I don't. The only album I thoroughly enjoy is this one, XII.

Towards the end of the 1970's the sound changed, not only when BJH is concerned. Some bands smoothed out, resulting in a more pop- and radio friendly sound. This is by no means bad. The late 70's, early 80's spawned some really engaging and inspired albums. BJH was never the hardest of rock bands. They never, as far as I am aware, made the earth shake or ear drums to shatter. They were always a sort of gentle, folky prog band. Pastoral, is maybe a fair judgement. So, XII is really no big turn in sound, unless you consider the instrumentation and approach to somewhat more modern textures. The sound could be described as the preface to the more synthezised sounds of the 80's, before the technology made it all truly possible.

XII contains songs of really high quality, making the album solid in a way not many albums in their discography can boast. The englishness is there, which for me is a delight. "In search of England" is a great, enormously rewarding track, combining the sounds of british history from the early 1900's to the late 70's. The decline of the Empire, the economic hardships of the times and the onslaught of punk makes the song both nostalgic and contemporary in a way that makes me think of the albums Kinks made (like Arthus) based on the same themes: the search for the soul of Britain and the ever changing world. I find it hauntingly beautiful and pastoral, sad but not depressing. The lyrics I have not examined, not really. My interpretation is based on sounds and feeling only. Maybe that will suffice.

The album is varied and offers a selection of soundscapes and emotions, from the hard rock of "Turning in circles" via the celtic sounding "The closed shop", the pop of "Sip of wine", the pastoral "In search of England" and the prog of "Science ficition: Nova Lepidoptera". All in all a magnificent album. Worthy, varied and highly listenable. Maybe, just maybe it is their greatest hour and that is not such a small feat, a decade (or so) into their existance.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nš 772

"XII" is the ninth studio album of Barclay James Harvest and that was released in 1978. This album represents a mark in the musical career of the group because it was the last studio album with the presence of the keyboardist and founder member of the band Woolly Wolstenholme. He left the group due to musical differences with the other band's members. He had become disillusioned because the band moved away from their initial progressive roots, and he started his solo musical career, creating his own band. The limited success of the group leads him to withdraw from the music life and dedicate his life to an organic farm. "XII" is unusually a long vinyl album and is also their last album with a Mellotron.

"XII" has eleven tracks. The first track "Fantasy: Loving Is Easy" written by John Lees is a very solid song to open the album. It's a straightforward rocker with nice lyrics and strong guitar work with a good riff, very well accompanied by Hammond and synthesizer works. The second track "Berlin" written by Les Holroyd is a song inspired by separation of the citizens of both sides of Berlin by the wall. It's mainly a beautiful ballad performed essentially by Les Holroyd on piano and Woolly Wolstenholme on keyboards. This is a very emotional song that became a classic in their musical career. Sincerely, this is, for me, one of the finest compositions made by Les Holroyd. The third track "Classics: A Tale Of Two Sixties" written by John Lees is a very melodic rock song in the same vein of "Titles" from their album "Time Honoured Ghosts". This song was an attempt by John Lees to revisit his early musical influences and it also represents his personal homage to the music of the 60's. The fourth track "Turning In Circles" written by Les Holroyd is a very good and interesting rock ballad with some good guitar riffs and excellent bass work. It's true that this is a commercial track not very original but very well played and nicely and tastefully arranged. The fifth track "Fact: The Closed Shop" written by John Lees is a song based on the political and trade union situation in Britain in the late 70's. Musically, this is, for me, a very surprising song. It's a song with some medieval influences composed in a folk/rock style. It's a song that reminds me strongly "Part Of The Union", a song on "Bursting At The Seams" of Strawbs. This is, for me, one of the finest moments on the album. The sixth track "In Search Of England" written by Woolly Wolstenholme is a song about the conflict of youthful inexperience versus the wisdom of age. This is really the last great classic symphonic composition made by Woolly Wolstenholme with the band. This song represents one of the great progressive moments on the album and it's also one of the best compositions made by him. The seventh track "Sip Of Wine" written by Les Holroyd is a pleasant and nice rock ballad not very original but at the same time is very well performed and very well arranged. This is also a song with good guitar work. The eighth track "Harbour" written by Woolly Wolstenholme is a song that counts the feeling and the reflection of to return home after a long journey. It's a very simple ballad with an extremely beautiful melody and rich harmonies, very well supported by nice guitar work. This is a completely different song from "In Search Of England" and represents the other musical side of Woolly Wolstenholme. This is also one of my favourite songs on the album. The ninth track "Science Fiction: Nova Lepidoptera" written by John Lees is a very strong track and is inspired by John Lees' love for science fiction. It's a majestic piece of music and one of the most progressive on the album. This song is, in my opinion, a reminiscence of their earlier musical times. John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme are simply brilliant. This is another great musical moment on the album. The tenth track "Giving It Up" written by Les Holroyd is another very atmospheric ballad with nice backing vocal moments of John Lees and Les Holroyd. Like "Turning In Circles" and "Sip Of Wine", are very nice songs but although not very original, they're very well played and nicely and tastefully arranged. The eleventh track "Fiction: The Streets Of San Francisco" written by John Lees taking is inspiration from the famous American TV police series of the 70's. It's a very beautiful ballad with some nice musical parts like the harmonica work, in the end of the song, playing in the back over the acoustic guitar.

Conclusion: "XII" is, in reality, an excellent album. However, it hasn't so known and beloved songs of their fans like "Hymn" and "Poor Man's Moody Blues", such as "Gone To Earth" has. Still, "XII" is probably, in my humble opinion, a better album than "Gone To Earth" is. "XII" is a more cohesive, uniform and balanced album that "Gone To Earth" is. "XII" is also an album that represents the end of an era in the music of the band. If John Lees songs are great and with some progressivity, unfortunately Les Holroyd songs start to sound too predictable and commercial, a tendency that would be confirmed in the near future. By the other hand and unfortunately, with the departure of Woolly Wolstenholme, the last progressivity influences and their symphonic roots have gone permanently from Barclay James Harvest. And it was really a pity. "XII" is in reality the last album of Barclay James Harvest that can be considered a true classic album.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

3 stars XII is considered by many the last of the classic BJH albums because it is the last with the original lineup; Woolly Wolstenholme would leave after that and the sound would become more and more commercial. For me, it is the last good BJH album, but it is already showing the sign of the times: so ... (read more)

Report this review (#1744407) | Posted by mickcoxinha | Tuesday, July 18, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars On this record and BJH went full pop. And thay quite pull it off. The majority of the album is intelligent pop and nowhere the band is persuaded to jump the disco or punk bandwagon. If anything this record sounds the most like Queen, they ever did. Maybe because of the emphasis on piano and guitar. ... (read more)

Report this review (#430787) | Posted by Kingsnake | Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars As for me, Woolly had deserved a better album to memorate his being one of the founding fathers of Barclay james Harvest. because XII is in my opinion not doing any justice to the many symphonic moments the band has delivered in the former years. The album is more a collection of rather straig ... (read more)

Report this review (#301566) | Posted by Theo Verstrael | Saturday, October 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Anybody knowing me will wonder about the rating cause for sure "XII" - for RUPERT - is a 5-Star album without discussion, but it isn't so much "prog", it's--- a bunch of everything BJH were great for delivered with good songs and, more than ever, finding a way into catchy Pop-Rock with "Loving ... (read more)

Report this review (#67819) | Posted by rupert | Wednesday, February 1, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Sadly, this is the last true symphonic rock album of Barclay James Harvest. Because this is the last with Wooly Wolstenholme and the mellotron. The year of 1978 is not a good year for prog rock: the bands show a music more acessible (like "Tormato" or "And Then There Were Three") and this albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#22669) | Posted by | Monday, February 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink


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