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From the iconic sleeve to the costumes of the band, from the clever segues to the massive range of musical styles, from the I think the very first gate fold sleeve to the introduction of instruments from the Far East, the invention and ambition is astonishing. This may have not been the first concept album but, at the time at least, it was certainly the most slickly executed.
The movement from song to song is so professional that it seems to work on a theatrical staged level. Take the segue from the opening title track to With A Little Help From My Friends; both songs work well alone, but the effort and effectiveness of how the two meet is pure prog rock. It's slickness doesn't however distract from the indescribable awfulness that is Ringo Starr's vocal on this song. There are times though when I listen to the album where I can only view it as simple collection of catchy pop songs with little depth.
This is because there are very few songs by The Beatles that are not ingrained on the psyche like no other group before or since. Take Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; it works both as an innovative and brilliant pop song when viewed entirely separately to the album, but it does also flow impeccably with the natural character of the rest of the songs collectively.
Songs such as Getting Better and Fixing A Hole are undeniably pop songs but pop songs which were deliberately framed to exist within a rock album. As bizarre as it must have been at the time of release, the boldness of this gesture directly lead to budding prog musicians realising that it was okay to experiment.
The point which I always dwell on when listening to this track is to marvel at the thought process and creative collaboration which could even conceive of the song structure in the first place. The ingestion of drugs no doubt had a lot to do with it, but I feel that this is a lazy explanation. To be able to harness a vision and then execute it using technology and techniques never yet employed could have resulted in a catastrophic failure.
Just being The Beatles wasn't enough to make it a success. A willingness to push boundaries in this way is pure prog. Ultimately Sgt. Pepper is probably only my third favourite album by The Beatles. That said, I am warming to it more and more with each passing year.
Released " I stepped out on the guard rail, saw the crowds slowly part Heard a voice shouting 'don't jump, please for god's sake let me move my car! Octoberon then became my first Barclay James Harvest purchase. I'm sure that it was a requested present for either a birthday or Christmas. I would have chosen Octoberon specifically for no other reason than it's wonderful cover. I've said before that while Genesis are usually seen as the most forthright quintessentially English prog rock band and are credited with the successful evocation of a bygone pastoral age, I feel that there are a few Ring Of Changes - Barclay James Harvest - Best Of Barclay James Harvest (Cassette) bands who easily parallel this sentiment; Traffic being one and Barclay James Harvest being another.
The cover depicts a fabulously ornate portrayal of a May Queen; undeniably pastorally English and the subject matter of one of the songs contained herein. I also loved the lettering. I liked to imagine that on original pressings of the album, the the lettering was embossed or even stitched in place.
The World Goes on begun with the extremely mellow acoustically lead, quite folk like theme I would have hoped for. With a gorgeous Floydian guitar solo and the expected liberal use of mellotronthis picked up where EIEE leaves off and therefore doesn't disappoint.
The pace remains sedate and stately for Mayday and indeed the whole album, hardly raising the pulse but extremely effective. Indeed, I've done it here myself. However, I think that this view undervalues the their contribution to the prog canon. Yes, of course there are similarities between these bands, but this should be celebrated rather than derided. It may be easy to compare the closing choral section of May Day with parts of Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother, but that is unfair as it works in both contexts.
I don't believe that critics of the band can have it both ways: if the BJH guitar style is so similar to David Gilmourwhy are the skills of the Pink Floyd guitarist placed on a pedestal whilst BJH ' s close approximation is seen as less valuable? Perhaps it is Barclay James Harvest's lack of a 'message' or large theme underpinning their work which leaves them often categorised as second rate. That said, there can be few bands who have so effectively specialised in doom laden motifs and songs to slit your wrists to, and whilst perhaps they may not therefore be a band who can get a party moving along, as purveyors of this particular niche, I, for one think that they are very accomplished.
If you are unfamiliar with it, I would urge you to acquire a copy at your earliest convenience, sit in a darkened room, remove all sharp objects and enjoy. I remember clearly as if it were yesterday as opposed to twenty five years ago the hairs standing up on the back of neck the first time I played this track. Why these four boys from Oldham were so obsessed with all things maudlin is unknown to me and how none of them went the way of Kurt Cobain, such is their apparent affiliation with self-induced death, is a miracle.
At the climax of the song, the protagonist walks slowly to the roof of a building where, in the end, he jumps, accompanied by the most heart stoppingly effective sound effect that I've yet heard committed to record.
It is genuinely disturbing but a staggeringly effect piece of music. The oddest thing of all with BJH Ring Of Changes - Barclay James Harvest - Best Of Barclay James Harvest (Cassette), is that they so skillfully combined themes of depression and death with some of the Ring Of Changes - Barclay James Harvest - Best Of Barclay James Harvest (Cassette) beautiful orchestrations of the period. In a perverse sort of way, I like the fact that BJH are seen as nearly men.
That way, all of their many fans, amonsgt whom I count myself, can grin smugly in the knowledge that we are members of a relatively exclusive club. Released " I nailed ducks to the wall; kept my heart in dark ruins. I built bungalows all over the hills. Dunroaminduncarindunlivin Took my girl to the country, to sleep out under the moon Next thing she's going crazy ".
Compelled by the prospect of another chapter of tortured brilliance, I bought his first solo album proper his Music from The Body with Ron Geesinas I later learned, was made for the bargain bucket on the day of release. I have since seen this album listed close to the top of worst album covers of all time type polls. It really is irredeemably awful and quite surprising given the care and attention afforded to Pink Floyd album art.
The other big negative is the dreadful song titles. Admittedly, the concept - a real time recounting of a dream or sequence of dreams - almost justifies it, but titles such as 4.
As I was staying with my girlfriend the night I purchased the album from another sadly defunct record shop in Redruthand she was of the Greenham Common, knitting her own yogurt brigade, she took umbrage at the 'degrading' photograph of the naked 'lady' hitch hiker on the cover, meaning I was not allowed to use her turntable Ring Of Changes - Barclay James Harvest - Best Of Barclay James Harvest (Cassette) evening without incurring the risk of a serious strop, and the almost certain subsequent denial of certain privileges.
I crept downstairs in the early hours the following day, set on committing the cardinal sin of using her mothers ancient turntable. Spotting a set of headphones, I gleefully rejoiced that I could indulge my selfishness without disrupting the rest of the household. As the gap between the releases of The Final Cut and this album was relatively short, and as the former album was, at the end of the day, a Roger Waters solo album in all but name, it seemed not unreasonable to expect more of the same.
This time, Eric Clapton was in accompaniment along with a robust set of supporting players. I was never a big fan of Eric Clapton post Blind Faith, Ring Of Changes - Barclay James Harvest - Best Of Barclay James Harvest (Cassette) as an undoubted master of his art whose style was markedly different to David Gilmourthis was an intriguing prospect. There were several obvious parallels between this album and The Final Cut; each album had, in effect, an prologue, the main 'story', a commercial penultimate track which was issued as a single and an epilogue, the song structure of both of these epilogues was remarkably similar; both are vehicles first and foremost for the vocal, and both use sound-effects as integrally as any of the instruments.
However, one feature which was wholly absent from The Final Cut, was a sense of humour, which I was surprised to find here. Admittedly it's application was usually of the warped schadenfreude affected variety, but it was there. The album starts with a ticking clock, an explosion and the anguished cry from Roger, no change there then a female voice telling him that he's been dreaming, before Mr Clapton begins the slide guitar motif which varies very little for the rest of the album.
Roger commences to provide a commentary of his dream about picking up female hitch hikers. The tone is hushed, liberally spiced with sexual innuendo and deliberately makes about as much sense as a dream. Female background vocals including Cherry Vanilla? It's all impeccably played, masterfully executed, and, as I'd already come to expect, magnificently produced; another perfect headphones album, but as it passed quite seamlessly from track to track, I couldn't see where it was going.
Tales about nightmares are a long way removed from the themes of the three Pink Floyd albums I already owned. This was trivial and pointless as opposed to deep and meaningful, I suppose. This puzzled me. Being dream-like, it leapt from scene to scene apparently at randomwhich was understandablebut because of this it had little focus. The thinness of the music on The Final Cut reflected the funereal tone of the concept as a whole; lush orchestration wouldn't have worked.
Here again, whilst often lyrically brilliant, the music itself has little imagination and, to use a non-technical term, was just too 'samey' throughout. This was such a conundrum. My eighteen year old self was completely in awe of Roger Waters articulation and ability to conceptualise so effectively. Side two, for the most part, was a large improvement. The slide guitar motif continues, but there is a bit more depth in evidence. The entire arrangement for Go Fishing was beautifully realised; humour, tortured vocals, social comment, a liberal dosing of woman hating, a lilting keyboard theme, AA Milne's Winnie The Pooh being read to children whilst inhaling pot, and a great saxophone solo.
What more could you want? The same can said of the title track; Ring Of Changes - Barclay James Harvest - Best Of Barclay James Harvest (Cassette) well realised, ticking most of the necessary boxes. Although throughout most of the second side I found myself enjoying the wordsmithingadmiring the cleverness of the segues between songs and the astonishing bitterness exuded by Roger, there are large meandering holes where a tune should reside.
A perplexing album this; flashes of sublime greatness interspersed with moments of utter uninspired drab ordinariness. I really wanted to love this as much The Final Cut. Unfortunately it ultimately left me wanting a great deal more. Released " Now you know how nice it feels, Scatter good seed in the fields. Life's ours for the making, Eternity's waiting, waiting, for you and me ".
Most of the pilots who visited the local pub where I had a summer job conformed to type; upper-class misogynist robots usually with the personality of a pot plant. However, one chap only a year or two older than me, whose name eludes me, was a walking contradiction; he had the naval haircut and uniform but was a hippy at heart, regularly smoking non-naval issue doobies just beyond the olfactory reach of his peers.
Whilst on duty he entrusted me with a box of his beloved vinyl. Thus I was exposed to several bands for the first time, most of them with some merit. Central to this collection was the first six albums by The Moody Blues. These were all original editions with some of the most elaborate prog rock sleeves ever produced.
I will scatter reviews of the remaining five albums as this blog progresses, choosing though to start not chronologically, but with the one, which at the time struck me as the most eccentric and endearing, and this was against some very stiff competition. Contemporary Categories I. Top Albums Disclaimer alert: I heard A LOT of fine albums this year, perhaps even more thanwhich surprised me…but even paring it down to was a daunting task.
As anal as I am about my lists and about the year in which releases should be placed, I also try to be sensible about it and take into account the fact that one needs a bit of lag time to become aware of several releases, especially those indie releases which take up most of my list.
Yes, I understand that printing up CDs and especially vinyl is costly, but these days it really is doable for every band because manufacturing houses are all willing to do limited runs of product, particularly CDs, so that a band can do as few aswhich should be easy to sell out of at shows, via boutique sites like Kool Kat and Jam, CD Baby, etc…I am very troubled by the possibility some might say inevitability of the CD going by way of the dinosaur, but I feel like I need to do my part, as little as that might be, to keep them alive.
I will say I am encouraged by the number of bands who did release physical product inso hopefully all will continue to be well with the world. There you are, bands: a little incentive to keep the physical release alive and well. The Explorers Club-Together Goldstar 4. Ulysses-Law and Order Black Glove 8. The Jayhawks-Paging Mr. Proust Sham The Vow-Ghost Writer Slug The Monkees-Good Times! Rhino Champagne-Beach Closed Rock Indiana Faux Know-Tactics Sonorous Conglomorous The Legal Matters-Conrad Omnivore Pacific Soul LTD.
Octubre-Mouseland Self-Released Greg Pope-Guiding Star Octoberville Dressy Bessy-Kingsize Yep Roc Green Day-Revolution Radio Reprise Emitt Rhodes-Rainbow Ends Omnivore Tuns-Tuns Royal Mountain Gerry Beckley-Carousel Blue Elan Paul Iwan-Reveal Self-Released Stephen Steinbrink-Anagrams Melodic Ray Paul-Whimsicality Permanent Press Winterpills-Love Sounds Signature Sounds To make it easy for you, we haven't included Barclay James Harvest singles, EPs, or compilations, so everything you see here should only be studio albums.
If you think the greatest Barclay James Harvest album isn't high enough on the list, then be sure to vote for it so it receives the credit it deserves. Make sure you don't just vote for critically acclaimed albums; if you have a favorite Barclay James Harvest album, then vote it up, even if it's not necessarily the most popular.
The English band released their first album back in and have since released a long list of great albums. Though the band went through its own struggles, they've established themselves as a mainstay in progressive and symphonic rock with albums like Once Again and Everyone Is Everybody Else. This list of popular Barclay James Harvest albums has been voted on by music fans around the world, so the order of this list isn't just one person's opinion.
Do It Anyway - Glenn Shorrock - Villain Of The Peace (Vinyl, LP), I Think Of Her - 2nd District - Emotional Suicide (CD, Album), Outlaw Blues - Bob Dylan - All I Really Want To Do (CD), The Long Island Sound - Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (CD, Album), Chaos BC - Sepultura - Chaos A.D. (Vinyl, LP, Album), Decision - DWoolve - Fusion (CD, Album), Come On Baby, Clubland - Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Trust (CD, Album), Disclosure - Fact (7) - Witness (CD, Album), A Story Of One - U2 - U218 Videos (DVD), Daniel Stefanik - Two.Zero.Zero.Nine (Vinyl), Spirit Goose - Tumul - Nature Master (Cassette), Leaf Fall - Claire Hamill - Voices (CD, Album), Spell It Wrong - Various - How To Keep Dreaming: Vol. III (File, MP3)