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


Barclay James Harvest


Crossover Prog

3.25 | 183 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST is a unique band which had a long lasting carreer starting way back in 1967 in Olham ,near Manchester as first a RnB band before entering the world of prog. Not only they are still around, but better, you have now 2 different versions of BJH after the 2 main songwriters guitarist JOHN LEES and bassist LES HOLROYD decided to go separate ways.

The band also included WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME on keyboards who left the band in 1980 before coming back in 1998 with the JOHN LEES version. Drummer MEL PRITCHARD , a childhood friend from Holroyd completed BJH until his untimely death in 2004.After a serie of unsuccessful singles in the late sixties, BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST found some new musical inspiration from art rock bands such as PROCOL HARUM and the MOODY BLUES that were riding high in the charts with refined songs well arranged with a classical touch and a lot of keyboards.

Even if BARCLAY JAME HARVEST was often criticized as a ''poor man's Moody Blues'', they had their own style and were the best at creating wonderful melodies with great arrangements; i would go further and say that beside JUSTIN HAYWARD, BJH had better songwriters than the Moodies.

JOHN LEES and LES HOLROYD also had some weaknesses with their own songwriting that will prevent BJH to releases timeless materpieces, but they will come often very close anyway. JOHN LEES tried too many times to prove throughout his career that he could write ''hard rock''songs: Let's be honest: he was never a ''rocker''. On the other hand LES HOLROYD never tried to get edgier, but sadly beside writing awesome wonderful songs, he could also come up with some non-descripts, completely bland melody-less ballads.

However, with this first album, the self titled BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, the main architect of the band was then keyboardist WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME who happened to be the most proggish guy of the 4 members.Sadly, his influence within the band will decrease later when BJH will straighten their sound.

This was a bold move to release such an ambitious first album with full orchestra. The MOODY BLUES sure did it successfully with ''DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED'', but there is only ONE ''Nights in White Satin''.

To play it safe, each side of the LP opened with a potential single hit with the psychedelic rockers with beatles-esque harmonies TALKING SOME TIME ON and GOOD LOVE CHILD. Even if those 2 songs didn't chart, they are a pleasure to listen to especially TAKING SOME TIME ON with its non-stop -2- frenetic guitar soloing. Songs definitely sounding end of sixties but still remarkably fresh to my ears.

Each of those rockers are followed by 2 sweet haunting ballads with mellotron and all, 'MOTHER DEAR'' and the gorgeous ''THE IRON MAIDEN'' still played live nowadays by JOHN LEES and WOOLY WOLSTENHOLME in their BJH version. Note that the iron maiden was a medieval torture intrument and is not a reference to the hard rock band whose members were still in school at this time -1970.

The grand orchestra can be heard on these 2 beautiful symphonic tracks THE SUN WILL NEVER SHINE and the best of the album, the magnificent WHEN THE WORLD WAS CHOSEN, the lone HOLROYD composition here but what a song!! This is this kind of song that makes me love prog music, and better than that ,make me love life as you are wondering how come some musicians can create such magnificent gems which can transmit joy, happiness and well being to your inner self. THE WORLD WAS WOKEN is just plain beauty, only a few artists can come up with and BJH will create a few more like that in the future. When BJH is good, they are not just real good, they are great.

The album ends up with a 12 mns epic, the majestic DARK NOW MY SKY, a beautiful musical mixture between the band and the orchestra, no one overwhelming the other. Just listen at the hypnotic rythm section of HOLROYD and PRITCAHRD accompanying the orchestra, that's just plain divine. Sadly, this was to be their first---and last--over 10 mns epic.

This album doesn't have yet the ''classic'' BJH sound as HOLROYD hasn't found his voice yet and JOHN LEES is simply only playing guitar as the vocals are coming from WOLSTEMHOLME. That was not to last as soon LEES and HOLROYD would share the songwriting and sing their own compositions while the keyboardist role will decrease little by little.

This first album from BJH is not really representative of their career, but is a magnificent bold recording , a unique gem that i have treasured for 35 years and will cherish for the rest of my life. Wondering how Music can be so beautiful sometimes, just listen to this recording. A must-have;


febus | 4/5 |


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