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Class ?

Main Category: Prog Rock
Also applicable: Art Rock, Lush Pop
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

The Divided Eighties, From Grunge To The Present Day



Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Barclay James Harvest fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Barclay James Harvest fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Barclay James Harvest are an obscure, yet extremely tenacious, Seventies/Eighties art-rock band that has always been very nice, very friendly and very much hurt by the public feeling, churning out a commercially friendly sound that nobody wanted because it wasn't too catchy, too original, too atmospheric, too energetic, too anything. It just sounded nice. The band's catalog is consistently solid and just as consistently unremarkable, yet as it usually happens, the more 'mediocre' you are the less the chance of your actually going directly down the drain some day or other. Reviewing them is even more of a pain in the ass than reviewing AC/DC because all their records sound the same, but I'll give it a try nevertheless. They deserve it - somehow they manage to sound high and elevated without really sounding offbase and pretentious. I'm still trying to figure out that part; when I do, I'll write a better intro.



Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating =

Kiddie prog! Cutie lushy bubblegummy friendly friendly friendly professional artsy knowledgeable catchy. Tiggers like.

Best song: MOTHER DEAR

Track listing: 1) Taking Some Time On; 2) Mother Dear; 3) The Sun Will Never Shine; 4) When The World Was Woken; 5) Good Love Child; 6) The Iron Maiden; 7) Dark Now My Sky.

The band had to kick around for three years before recording their first album. On the Harvest label of EMI, no less; it's still not quite clear to me if the label itself was actually named after the band or if it was a coincidence, but fact is, this was the first band that the Harvest label ever picked up. But my true concern never really lay in that plane. My concern lay in another plane. That plane was hijacked by terrorists and... okay, slight direction change: Barclay James Harvest's debut mainly consists of songs they had written long before they got a chance to make serious money on them, meaning they had a lot of time to work on the material. Reasoning logically, if that record had been molded by a band with real shimmering genius, it'd have been a real wangandging BANG. As it is, it was written by Barclay James Harvest, and it's just... nice. Cutie cutie cutie pie.

Mind you, this is the primary reaction you'll get just about out of every early Seventies' BJH record (except the ones that suck, of course): N-I-C-E, and I don't mean Mr Emerlist Davjack, from whose thoughts these guys certainly nibbed a certain amount of ideas. However, many more ideas were nibbed by them out of the Moody Blues and Procol Harum. Well, what else could you expect from a bunch of ruffians desperate enough to pilfer the Mellotron and the Symphonic Orchestra from the former and the Organ and the Popular Guide To Barocco Trimmings from the latter? In addition, I can also feel King Crimson influences and Beatles influences; what I do not feel is any Barclay James Harvest influences, but then again, remembering the oh so typically BJH tepid crap of the late Seventies and early Eighties, perhaps that's a good thing.

BUT what I really do feel is a sense of - get this - total and complete adequacy. Now if you're still here, then listen carefully and attentively, because if you ever get even a passable interest in Barclay James Harvest (and you should; where else do you get such cool band names?), and would want to follow my ramblings on the subject, you need to get this particular idea: the band is adequate. That's pretty marvelous. A band that has no original ideas whatsoever, borrowing its 'serious' arrangements from other bands, only occasionally compensating its 'seriousness' with perfect melodies and whose general musical/lyrical philosophy doesn't seem to advance far beyond the Moody Blues; yet it remains fully and completely (well, almost) within limits of decent measure. If anything, Barclay James Harvest are well aware of their obvious limitations, and never try to compensate for their weaknesses with extra bombast, which would only make a Styx out of them. Instead, they prefer to take a somewhat tongue-in-cheek attitude in some spots, and a somewhat restrained and pretense-free attitude in others.

It's at its most obvious on the twelve-minute epic 'Dark Now My Sky' that closes out the record. It begins with a pompous poetry reading, kinda like the Moody Blues used to have each time their gifted drummer felt the urge to burp out a piece of 'poetic art'; but instead of being read as if it were an excerpt from the Qur'an (or, at least, an Indian tea commercial), the poetry bit is read in a grotesquely overdone nasal growl that brings in a certain self-conscious kitsch element. The rest of the track is far more "gloomy", incorporating an isolated overture-like orchestrated passage and then a barrage of "orchestra meets violent guitar onslaught"-type musical waves that seem to want to summon a kind of majestic Crimsonian atmosphere - but I actually like the passage, and its atmospherics work quite fine. And when the vocals come in, they're mostly chanted in a quiet voice over a quiet bassline; no overbearing singing for these guys. I am, of course, not ready to call the thing a masterpiece - at twelve minutes, it's got way too few interesting musical ideas in it, but the ones that are present are quite enticing. The main 'weeping' melody is as good as epic prog gets.

The shorter stuff is much better, though. The two modest acoustic ballads are among the best stuff the band ever did. 'Mother Dear' combines moving visionary lyrics (okay, childish lyrics, but then again they have an excuse - the song is written from a child's point of view) with a charming acoustic folksy rhythm and magnificent background orchestration - portentous, majestic, yet never descending into Hollywoodish sappiness. I may be wrong, but I think I sense a Mellotron in the background too; if you think using both an orchestra and a Mellotron is overkill, please reconsider that idea. 'Iron Maiden' is pretty cool too, and if you're expecting a Goth torture anthem or a thrash classic or a guest appearance from a very young Paul DiAnno, hold your horses - it's merely about a gal who's uncool, almost completely acoustic and sissyish to the extreme, but the folksy overtones and the gentle vocal harmonies save it from being entirely generic.

There's also stuff like 'The Sun Will Never Shine' that sounds like 1969 era Genesis (you know, youthful optimism, chorale harmonies, eyes so starry you could study the Zodiac signs through them, etc.), which is cool as far as I'm concerned: I, for one, never had anything against naive youthful optimism - provided it's actually being displayed by naive youths, not by a 50-year old Paul McCartney who thinks that the world can be saved by listening to such mediocrity as 'C'mon People'. Remember - adequacy is the key. 'When The World Was Woken', however, is the low point: it sounds like a total, if possibly unintentional, rip-off from 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', right down to the seamlessly flowing organ and the vocal intonations, and it seems to drag on forever with little happening along the way; yet even that song never sounds nasty.

And on the side - pushing away the baba ghanoush and aiming for the real thing - BJH can actually rock! Or, uh, they can actually pop-rock at least: 'Talking Some Time On' features Jim Litherland from Colosseum on lead guitar, which ensures the song has some cool bits of post-psychedelic guitar jamming (not sure what "post-psychedelic" could actually mean, but I like the term), plus a fine riff and a generally energetic upbeat feel. 'Good Love Child' is even better; some people will complain about it being drawn out, but the main melody, both the vocal one and that unforgettable repetitive four-note riff, are SO life-asserting... It's the kind of song you'd easily encounter on an early British Invasion record, or maybe on a later British Pub-rock record, and I'm perfectly happy to have this kind of song sitting along the more 'progressively ambitious' albums.

According to reliable sources, the band itself was not too pleased with the final result - up to this day most of them just think of the record as a taster of things to come. Well, it always helps to have a stranger tell the truth to your face, and this is what I'm saying: the only other BJH album consistent enough to lay claim to the Klopman diamond is Other Stories. Nowhere else is there such a careful balance between rock, pop, prog, seriousness, childishness, sissiness, and sternness. Even the album cover is perfect: the stained glass serves as a great association for 'spirituality' and 'old time atmosphere', but, on the other hand, also speaks for the album's brightness, colourfulness, and generally uplifting character, an impression which certainly can't be spoiled by the few moments of gloom on 'Dark Now My Sky'. Early prog wasn't really known for being too cheerful; any extra lightweightness could turn into accusations of being too fruity and bubblegummy. Well, Barclay James Harvest are fruity and bubblegummy, but in 1970, that was anything but a problem.



Year Of Release: 1971

Well! Where have all the rock songs gone? No doubt this is WAY too much orchestrated sap for any perfect being's tastes. There's one rock song on here, quite atmospherically pleasant in its pleasant atmospherics, 'Ball And Chain', and it's not the cover of the far superior tune we all know from Big Brother & The Holding Company. It's a bit similar in the overall "angry-depression" message, though, and at least they got all the elements right - Lees' rhythm guitar slices right through your ears, the vocals are hyped up but not really overbearing, and the psychedelic woman-tone-obsessed guitar solos sound like they were lifted directly off a Cream record, only they were passed through an echo effect afterwards. Typical BJH: very nice but just as forgettable.

The rest is pretty dang mellow, ballad after ballad after ballad. Why the band decided to concentrate exclusively on that side of the personality is a mystery to me. Maybe they thought they were the new Moody Blues whose mission was to 'purify' that band's sound, bereaving it of any kind of 'rock' tendencies it might have previously possessed? As an exercise in rigid purism, Once Again definitely succeeds, which is why most of the reviews of the album I've read tend to fall into the "absolutely great" category ('ooh, symph-rock, Mellotrons, orchestra, we're in heaven!'), or into the "total shite" one ('yuck, bland sissie crap with not a bit of goddamn energy around'!). Normally, I straddle the proverbial fence in such cases, but if you were to force me into any one single camp under pain of being subjected to yet another listen to Rod Stewart's latest set of, ahem, performances, I'd probably choose "absolutely great". That would be less of a lie.

Even if, of course, there's nothing great about the other songs. On this album, the epic piece comes at the very beginning and is shortened to eight minutes in all, but it still sounds like 'Dark Now My Sky Part II'. It's called 'She Said' and its main part is a dreamy romantic Mellotron background and a distorted all-out emotional guitar foreground. The Moody Blues meet Steve Hackett, something like that. Although, to be true, the guitar solos are more like Tony Iommi than Steve. The chorus is kinda catchy in its total dreaminess, but at times you should be careful it don't actually catch you into that total dreaminess - many a-time have I been awoken by the idea that "hey, it's my fifth listen and I still haven't managed to observe what goes on in between 2:30 and 6:30 into the song!'.

The truly good stuff on the album, I'd say, includes the pure acoustic ballad 'Galadriel', one of those generically named songs that tread the line between schlock and gorgeousness with just one little hair outbalancing the scale in favour of gorgeousness - this little hair called "interesting melody". 'Vanessa Simmons' comes close, but isn't nearly as stunning - although some might love that number better for its being totally stripped-down and actually standing closer to humble gentle folksy music than the severely poppified 'Galadriel'. Anyway, taken together, I think these two songs alone would suffice in predefining your attitude towards the band: if you find them utterly beautiful, BJH is just the band for you, and I won't mind. I, personally, find each of them just a wee bit bland and the hooks in each just a wee bit underdeveloped, and the emotional resonance of each just a total bit generic. BUT we can't all be a McCartney or a Bob Dylan. Some of us just have to be second-rate, you know, and if that sounds discriminating, there's always the Scorpions, a band that defines discrimination (and totally justifies it).

The record's most well-known piece is the symphonic hymn 'Mocking Bird', but to tell you the truth, I don't see what should actually elevate it over the rest of the material on here. A live highlight, a permanent resident of any BJH compilations, etc., etc., but... well, it's just another good ballad from a band of relatively good songwriters. Maybe they think it's the best song in the catalog to capture the uplifting optimistic mood of the band, orchestration and all? Without all that usual despair and depression? Whatever. I, for one, like 'Lady Loves' far far better. It has mystical magical overtones similar to those of 'Galadriel', yet none of that song's extra sappiness, and features Alan Parsons on Jew's harp at that, which gives the tune a jet of weird spookiness.

A couple other numbers could be considered filler, but I don't really like using the word "filler" in this context. It's easier to define where's the vodka and where's the tomato juice in a Bloody Mary cocktail than it is o decide where's the filler and where's the, er, MEAT on a BJH record. When dealing with this stuff, it is probably much better to use the term "offensive" - "inoffensive", as it all has to do with whether a certain song is ready to cross the 'bland generic' border or not. When it does, and you discover there's nothing in the tune that would distinguish it from your average MOR number of the times, wham! the hammer falls. But as a rule, during that stage in their career the band members were way too astute to let themselves be completely overwhelmed by sterility and genericity. So what they offer is just more innocent ear-candy for the intelligent ear. Why the album wasn't a success is a total mystery - America, for one, should definitely have fallen over its lulling radio-ready sound. Maybe they just fell victims to a marketing plot.



Year Of Release: 1972

Easily the band's high point of the "early" period. It's not exactly a return to all-out rockin' territory (where the guys rarely dwelled in the first place), but it's nowhere near as intolerably draggy as Once Again, and it does have a few interesting surprises to it. Essentially, the formula is still unchanged: the classic BJH sound is in place, with harmonies and orchestra and the Mellotron and stuff all in place. But the hooks are notably stronger, the lyrical themes notably interestinger, and the tunes actually VARY in quality and identity. Like, at one time it's a ballad and then it's a pop-rocker! And then there's a big apocalyptic machine! And then there's... eh, well, then there's another ballad. But still, alternations are good.

The near-classic 'Medicine Man', about a mystical journey (not an epic track - in fact, the good news is there's not a single lengthy epic here, which is maybe I enjoy it a bit more than the surrounding records), starts things out slow and nice with something stately, majestic and so BJH-like that I almost want to place a reference to one of the previous two reviews but I can't find an exact song to pinpoint at. Shucks. Then things start to lose extra mysticism by introducing us to 'Someone There You Know' which sounds EXACTLY LIKE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA at its symphonically-poppiest. Mind you, though, that in 1972 ELO was mostly pouting out dreck like ELO II, and Barclay James Harvest actually predated the good style of Jeff Lynne with this song! Heh heh. All you who say that Jeff Lynne learned from the Beatles, learn that Jeff Lynne actually learned from Barclay James Harvest. Give 'em an extra gold record for that!

But wait! The touring group gets my special offer! Track number three is different again, it's called 'Harry's Song' and it's about the death of John Lees' beloved parrot. It's a piano-driven pop-rocker with witty rough sneezy sleazy vocals that don't normally associate with BJH... and then, after this strangely agressive and almost nihilistic vocal delivery comes to a pause, they introduce a fantastic guitar riff that counteracts it marvelously. The biggest crime of the song is that this riff is repeated twice and then goes away. Forever. Bye-bye, wonderful riff of 'Harry's Song'! Our love affair is over so soon. Finally, the quadrilogy of first-rate songs is completed with 'Ursula (The Swansea Song)', another folk-pop ballad in the 'Galadriel' vein that's as uplifting as a voyage to an elfin country but, I suppose, a bit more immediately rewarding.

The record kinda lapses after this - 'Song With No Meaning', for instance, has a pretty apt title, because it's all pure atmosphere and liquid aethereal harmonies that are nowhere near as intimate and moving as on 'Ursula', but once again, for some people BJH are all atmosphere. Poor people, they must get really crazy while convincing themselves to dig every piece of atmospheric schlock these guys ever dared to pour down on the listener... Wait! Who was that? I didn't say that! That was some nasty arduous art-rock hater who took care of my spirit while I was painfully searching for something original to write about this album. You know how hard it gets, when you run out of ideas just about anybody is able to replace your disembodied spirit.

So let's from now on just concentrate on material that I can somehow assess with a few strategically placed English phrases. 'Blue John's Blues', for instance, is pretty fun as it goes from its humble beginnings as a humble folkish piano melody accompanied by a humble introspective vocal delivery to a grim mood piece where the organ and guitar draaaaaaawl out these really long, really gloomy passages to good effect. Cool slide guitar work as well. The song itself is dedicated to the band's lack of commercial success and therefore I proclaim it to be of equal value to all the grim desperate confessional work by Mott The Hoople. So there, I've offended all you art rock haters. I don't mind, really. I'm sure Barclay James Harvest would appreciate it.

Finally, the record ends with 'After The Day'. This song represents the best sides of 'Dark Now My Sky' and 'She Said' without any of its worst sides. One thing about BJH is how they always choose the most tasteful and imaginative instrumentation even for the simpler melodies, and this here is no exception: great guitar fills, precisely positioned Mellotron, orchestration that adds majesticity and is totally overwhelming yet never excessive. Lees' solo at the end is particularly impressive,

just as emotionally powerful as any given Dave Gilmour solo but just a bit 'out of the way' so as not to seem 'selfish'. Just another example of the guys' greatest ability - to take simple melodies, dress them up as important statements and yet manage to sound sincere and interesting. From what I've read, the band itself wasn't too proud of the album, yet I find it among their very best and who knows? perhaps it's the best place to start with BJH, seeing as how they don't really get any more diverse (or entirely different) from now on.



Year Of Release: 1972

"Baby" is all right, I guess, as out of all the early period BJH records this one's the most seriously flawed. Said to be rushed over the course of four weeks, it also featured the band members working separately (Wolstenholme was in London recording the orchestra part while the rest of the band were recording everything else in the States), and this probably was a major factor adding to the album's lifelessness. Of course, maybe they had just temporarily run out of their minor hooks and tiny ideas. Like, totally. Overall, the sound is pretty depressed and tired, and this is obvious from the very first track, 'Crazy (Over You)', with its tired riffs (as usual, monotonous ones but also pretty devoid of energy, tired solos, tired vocals and tired lyrics. It just doesn't seem to particularly go anywhere except for pointing out the fact that the band was tired. Well - I gotcha. Next time, try some Prozak.

The bulk of the album is completely eaten up by two 'epics' this time around, a bad sign even before actually hearing the numbers, as their best album of that period didn't include even a single ultra-lengthy epic. Lees' Summer Soldier' is a stately bore that could have been moderately nice for two minutes; for some reason, it goes on for more than ten. I appreciate the boys writing a harsh anti-war epic, with soldiers marching and shouting 'kill!' and all, but I don't feel the melody. Maybe it's just a subjective feeling of my own, but there's no hook I'm aware of. Just a lot of mid-tempo acoustic rhythms, a strained wah-wah lead tone and prophetic lyrics with not a single interesting twist of the vocals. I hate that kind of crap when it's done by a band like Kansas, but turns out Kansas weren't the first to invent the "completely wasted time epic" genre. (Of course, there was also Van Der Graaf Generator, but at least you could actually ponder over Pawn Hearts trying to guess its mysterious message; here, the message is as clear as water).

Even worse is 'Moonwater', though. If that's the kind of stuff for which Wolstenholme travelled to London, I wish somebody'd hijacked his plane on the way. Seven and a half minutes of a pure orchestral composition with a few vocal lines thrown in for good measure. And ALL of that composition sounds like the prelude to a Hollywood musical, something like that. Where's the sense of measure that so far has not eluded these guys? Down the drain it goes. I don't want to even talk about that shit, it's so painful to realize that the very thing that had once been the saving grace of these guys - amazingly economic and up-to-the-point use of their orchestration - has now turned against them due to just one silly member's 'ambitions'. Aaaarggh.

So the day is only saved by the remaining fifteen minutes of music, without which the album would have been an absolute disaster. 'Delph Town Mom' is one more try at an upbeat uplifting folksy hymn, and a successful one. It reminds me of Elton John a lot, maybe because the vocals sound Elton Johnish and the piano is very prominent, but it sounds like good Elton John. There's also 'Thank You', a somewhat corny, but effective pop-rocker, introduced by a distorted riff not unlike the one used in CCR's 'Up Around The Bend' and all drenched in that unbeatable Britpop essence that somehow adds taste and dignity to even the weakest songs when applied with knowledge of the subject.

But, of course, the absolute winner, and one of the absolutely best Barclay James Harvest songs ever, hell, maybe THE best pop song of 1972, is the ballad 'One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out'. Has it got an undeniable BJH identity? Heh. It's about 50% McCartney, 25% The Move, and 25% Elton John with extra points going to the Bee Gees. That probably means it GOT an undeniable BJH identity. But forget about abstract generalizations, the bare fact is - this is a gorgeous, absolutely breathtaking ballad, devoted to the perennial subject of space travel (you may be pretty sure the boys spent a long time studying Honky Chateau what with all the subtle Elton John influences on here). See, even the subject is not original. Nothing is. Just the actual hook, although I believe the line where Lees sings 'can you hear me down below?' is borrowed directly out of some Roy Wood number, just can't remember which one exactly. Whatever, the vocals do their job so beautifully I just love the song, and urge everybody to hear it.

The good news is that since Baby James Harvest is usually available packaged together with its predecessor, you actually get it for free when you purchase the band's best early album! Ha! Then just be sure to program out the two hideous 'epic' perversions and enjoy a solid fifty minutes of vintage Harvest, spraying it down with some first-class Barclay. And the James? Don't forget the James!



Year Of Release: 1974

Thus commences the second phase of Barclay James Harvest, the 'boring arena-pop' phase. Well, granted, it's not too boring - when the senses are sharpened and the hooks and melodies are smelled, it's quite possible to digest this and the several ensuing records, even if they all sound absolutely the same. The bad news is that the band almost completely gives up on orchestration, presumably because they felt the game wasn't really worth the candle; curiously, though, it's starting with this album that their commercial potential actually began slowly ascending. Maybe it was somehow connected with a better marketing strategy, too. In other bad news, the band just gets way too generic in places, sacrificing hooks for 100%-formulaic 'power stomps' and 'acoustic atmospherics', and also, from now on it's nearly impossible to find yourself a mid-way hard BJH rocker: and the sap occasionally gets unbearable.

The good news, then, is that as usual Barclay James Harvest rarely sound offensive. There is really nothing truly "progressive" about this record or whatever followed; it's 'art-pop' at best, and sometimes without the 'art' moniker. But there's still too little overblown pomposity to carry these guys over the top into a domain reserved for Styx and the like. They are humble and at times almost self-parodic; I guess it is in this vein that one has to treat Lees' ridiculous "deconstructions" of well-known songs that now appear regularly on the albums.

The 'deconstructed' number on here is the Bee Gees' "New York Mining Disaster 1941", which gets slowed down, bogged down in near-lethargic harmonies, and is dedicated to the 1974 UK miners strike, thus getting renamed to "The Great 1974 Mining Disaster". I still don't know what to do with this thing; supposedly it's not to be taken serious, but apparently the lyrical message IS serious, so I'm torn. You could, of course, take it as a sign of BJH running really poor on ideas, but that would be giving too much thought to presupposition.

Out of the other songs, 'Child Of The Universe' sounds rather poignant. A little bit Queenish, too, but once again, without the extra pretention and the operatic flourishes. Is it corny and cheesy when the band chants 'Yes I'm the chi-iild of the universe!' over that slow primitive beat? Maybe. The song still managed to stick with me, and despite the lyrics being simplistic they're also hard-hitting, with lines like 'I'm the child next door three thousand miles away' (of course, the song is dedicated to third world problems, but I think you got it already). There's just something captivating about the vocal delivery that makes me wonder... I guess I could even get out my lighter for that one, for once.

Strange enough, the obvious highlight on the album had always been recognized in 'Poor Boy Blues', but essentially it's hardly anything more than an innocent and rather pedestrian Eagles pastiche (and you know, a pedestrian pastiche of a pedestrian band isn't anyone's idea of a good time). Not that it doesn't succeed in its own way - the boys' folksy leanings translate pretty well into country-rock, with authentic-sounding steel guitar and totally authentic Eagles-esque vocals; think what you want, BJH could really get inside another band's sound. I must, however, confess, that the second part of their unexpected country-rock excourse, 'Mill Boys', is a wonderful guilty pleasure, featuring one of the most wonderful country-rock choruses I've ever heard. Hey, the Grateful Dead could have easily done it without too much harm to their reputation.

Finally, some more good news in that a few bits of the album do rock - 'Crazy City', for instance, starts off with a really ugly hard-rock riff before it subsides into a fairly unmemorable arena-rocker, and 'For No One' has some magnificent overdubbed wah-wah solo symphonies. Of course, that doesn't save the album from filler, with very average ballads like 'Paper Wings' and several other lesser tracks that really overshadow the true meat. Tell you what: if you're anything like me, you'll HATE the record on first listen, and want to dismiss it as bland washed-up adult pop and never listen to it again. Trust me, that's a false impression, and it'll pass by the end of the second spin. The record SORELY needs better production and maybe just a couple more solid pop ballads and maybe at least one fully convincing riff-rocker and maybe a 20-minute prog suite and maybe a 1000-hour Grateful Dead-like jam, but even with all those flaws, in the end it is saved by the relative lack of pretense and all those light silly numbers like 'Mill Boys' neighboured alongside with the "all-out important" stuff.



Year Of Release: 1975

The horror! The evil! This might not really be the worst BJH album of all time, because, well, there's a certain stylistic unity with its predecessor and successor, but I guess it just represents a temporary "well has run dry" factor, or maybe they just steered a bit too far in the wrong direction. Every BJH album of the epoch has a pair or even a bunch of mid-tempo fillerish weak-melodied formulaic pieces, but the honour falls to Time Honoured Ghosts to hail as THE album entirely consisting of bland faceless stuff with next to no treasurable musical ideas at all.

About the only eyebrow-raising number here is 'Titles', a song that's supposed to be some kind of a :musical homage" to the Beatles where the band makes a four minute 'pot pourri' of sorts, combining snippets from the Beatles' melodies and snippets from the Beatles' lyrics in a strange sappy melange. With choruses like 'Lady Madonna let it be' and lyrics like 'Across the universe one after 9-0-9 I've got a feeling for you blue and I feel fine', the song probably aims for kitsch but misses the mark entirely. I mean, what the fuck? I'm all over myself as this should probably be funny but the atmosphere is almost "heavenly". This is BAD, people, this is a truly bad thing, and it paves the way for stupid BJH fans taking 'Poor Man's Moody Blues' for a seriously lovable anthem. It's the first time in the BJH catalog when I can really hurl accusations of bad taste right into these guys' faces. Especially when that peacefully becalming Great Guru voice softly intones 'all you need is love to succeed', ooh, makes me wanna puke. Extra half-point down for that, as if that was really needed.

But even without this idiotic gimmick, the disc still sucks. It's chock-full of slow silky mush, no hooks at all, nothing whatsoever. Voices rise and fall, Mellotrons swirl and swoosh, acoustic guitars ring and strum, and NOTHING happens along the way. All the vocal melodies are so painfully generic the only saving grace about them is the band's humbleness. If anybody in this world, for instance, can call 'Hymn To The Children' an interesting song, the guy has a pretty cool load of patience. What does the song have? A generic 'Because'-style guitar arpeggio to carry the melody, bland never-changing vocal harmonies that run smooth and straight without even once forming into a hook, and, of course, the obligatory Mellotron backing. Not a single guitar solo, not a single change of tempo, not a single deviation from that banally lulling vocal melody... yyyyuck. It's like you're chewing into a stale loaf of bread that goes on and on and on and you know you gotta eat it just because you made a bet with a friend that you're able to do it and you can't back out now. I couldn't back out of this album for three listens and I killed an hour and a half of my musical life.

I'll try to salvage a couple bits and pieces, just in case an international terrorist sponsored by John Lees holds me at gunpoint and demands me to select several songs from the album to put on a best-of compilation. I suppose, then, that I value my life more than 'One Night', whose vocal melody is vaguely attractive, at least, with a little vocal flourish where the vocal harmonies of the chorus are juxtaposed to Lees peacefully murmuring 'and you think [pause] you can make it in the end'. That's a bit reminiscent of a typical McCartney hook, although, of course, back in the Seventies McCartney would have shoved a song like this deep down the drain, to rescue it in the late nineties for that boring mush perversely called Flaming Pie. Funny, if WAY too sissy, musical tidbits of an Elton John-ish nature can also be found in the second part of 'Song For You' (the first part is entirely unlistenable).

I also suppose the album opener, 'In My Life', whose fast opening riff is about the most and the only energetic part on the album, could also be salvaged with a bit of work. Did I forget to mention that throughout, the band just plays as if in a lethargic haze? This isn't even 'soft' rock, it's 'squishy' rock; hang your air guitar on the wall and prepare to slump in frustration as the band suddenly displays a newly-found Christianity for the abysmal, mucky 'Sweet Jesus'. Boy don't even start me on that one. All I can suggest is that the boys were suffering from acute heroin use problems while at the same time having to fulfill contractual obligations - but don't quote me on that, because something deep inside myself tells me they weren't the kind of guys to take to drugs, really. In any case, whatever, just ignore this weak self-parody and proceed right to the following record.



Year Of Release: 1976

Okay, I'm gonna have to assume that the previous album was really scribbled together in the back of a restroom in half an hour and then recorded after a violent gay orgy or something, because Octoberon sounds nothing like it. Oh well, so it does. It's the same style, it's the same mood, it's the same whatever. But this time around, the songs are NOT, remember, they are NOT supposed to be structured along the exactly same line (which is hookless) and set exactly the same mood (which is sluggish). Plus, real vocal hooks a-plenty. And a couple really hard-rockin' riffs for good measure!

So I just assume the heads are on the shoulders again, not in some dark endless hole below the backs. Octoberon is really somewhat more 'proggish' in nature, with lengthier songs and higher levels of ambition, but it mostly works. The epic piece here is 'My Day'; it's written in a mood similar to the acoustic introspective material on Dark Side, stuff like 'Eclipse' and the like. If you have any doubts, just swallow the line 'and I can't even see the bright side of the moon' and any kind of counterargument will be squashed, so there. But, the song itself is good, mainly because there's a strange sense of desperation, resolution, and total determination in the main part - the vocals are sharpened out and sneezing, the acoustic is being strummed as if somebody wanted to annihilate it, and the organ swooshes around like mad, despite the obligatory slow tempo. The big surprise comes in the second part, which is essentially six British tunes ranging from 'Land Of Hope And Glory' to 'It's A Long Way To Tipperary' juxtaposed and overdubbed in yet another 'brilliant' gimmicky move. But at least it does have some novelty value and well, I mean, the overall effect is funny rather than vomit-inducing.

The "deconstruction" element on the album, though, is 'Rock'n'Roll Star', which quotes the well-known Byrds' song on occasion, and as usual, it's a typical lowlight, considering that the bland chorus is pure adult contemporary pap and the main 'rocking' part is soft-rock at its ultra-, ultra-, ultra-generic. Forget about it, take 'Polk Street Rag' instead. Weird talking-box style distorted guitar licks, strange ABBA influences in the harmonies... think of it as a straightforward barroom rocker arranged as an arena-rocker with weird special effects and Europop vocal harmonies. Now do you see why I prefer to call BJH the Great Masters of the Gimmick? These guys stand face to face with good taste and intentionally mock it! That's some audacity! Oh, and, by the way, to make matters worse (or more attractive?), the lyrics here stem from an experience John Lees had while watching Deep Throat, hah hah.

Other good songs also exist here. The opener, 'The World Goes On', is twice as effective as 'In My Life', because the gorgeous vocals actually don't consider it above their dignity to actually be shaped in the form of a few distinct vocal hooks, like, you know, on lines like 'looking at life - AND STRANGELY - for the first time' and similar passages. In case you didn't know, it's subtle twists like that that make life more interesting. You gotta take risks, ye know. How interesting would it be to drive at 200 miles per hour along a smooth and dangerless road with not a single boulder lying right before the tires? Where would the adrenaline be? And who in the world actually cares about straps when engaging in bungee jumping?.. Dang, I bet you anything the guys in BJH were so wimpy they never even once cheated at the exams in all their art colleges.

Anyway, 'Believe In Me' has Yes-ish harmonies all around the place (and you know your harmonies are Yes-ish when they're all really around the place), although the main vocal melody is more like early Eighties McCartney, which is a combination that's hardly vital yet it exists, so it's up to you to sort it out what you would want to do with it. 'Ra' is an unbelievably pompous seven-minute orchestrated progressive statement that works nice as atmosphere but hardly advances anywhere beyond that. The use of guitar on that one strongly reminds me of Steve Hackett and his reverb pedal. Finally, 'Suicide' is first-class Supertramp where some of the original Supertramp was really second-class Barclay James Harvest. What's the song? A typically humble and slightly sad, slightly humorous epic about a guy who wants to commit suicide because his baby left him but doesn't have enough time. Great BJH line: "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'". And a lot of strange noises in the end.

So, how many bands have I mentioned? The Byrds, ABBA, Genesis, Yes, Supertramp... a little bit of this and a little bit of that, all synthesized together and ranging from things really horrible ('Rock'n'Roll Star') to things nearly cathartic ('Suicide'). Really don't know what to make of these guys, sometimes so moving and serious and sometimes falling into those horrendous lapses of taste. Whatever be, Octoberon is easily the most consistent and listenable product of the EMI era, and should be heard by any prog rock fan - just as prog rock fans will probably be disappointed by Time Honoured Ghosts.



Year Of Release: 1977

This one has often been hailed as the best Barclay James Harvest album to ever have appeared on the above-mentioned planet. That leaves me a bit stumped as, to tell you the truth, it is easier for me to believe that pink-headed elephants really exist than to imagine what a possibly "best", as in, 'objectively best', BJH album could have been, seeing as these guys never really invented a style or perfected a style or seriously revolutionized a style. It's equally invalid to judge BJH records for their consistency, because you can never tell which record is consistent and which is not. Is Time Honoured Ghosts a consistent record? Probably is, which doesn't mean it ain't a horribly flaccid piece of withered varmint.

Anyway, I suppose it was their most commercially successful project, so let's get on with it. It's not a bad record, definitely, although I wouldn't recommend it to any prog fan: unlike Octoberon, there ain't a single trace of complex progressive approach in the songs. It's almost as if they were jerking back and forth, trying to either appease their more hardcore fans or appeal to easy listening loving simpletons, whatever. This entire time period is a mess, which makes it even harder to be rated. But there are many good songs here, and essentially a nice listen is guaranteed, even if you won't get any particular surprises.

Not that it's nice to listen to the "highlight", another in a series of gimmicky play-offs called 'Poor Man's Moody Blues'. Fans and critics call it "deconstruction"; I call it stupid artistic blunder. Granted, the fact that this blunder was made consciously and deliberately kinda takes part of the shitload off their shoulders; I mean, it's one thing when you just steal 'Nights In White Satin', rearrange it and then issue it under your own name, and it's another thing when you turn this process into a symbolic move of sorts - apparently, Lees was pissed off at the band regularly being compared to the Moody Blues, and acting out of a "oh yeah, we're called the Moody Blues, I give you Moody Blues!" principle, he made that little bit of a 'borrowing', sticking some critic's mocking offense of the band as the song's title. And as such, the song just stood out as some sort of grotesque kitsch: yes, it is poor man's Moody Blues, a weak, sludgy, liquid version of Justin Hayward's classic that lacks the great vocals, the amazing flute solo, and the shrill Mellotron tones, substituting everything with some blabbery mush in the background. But for some reason - can you believe it? - the fans took this joke for serious. Nowadays, just about any BJH fan says that it's actually better than the original. Boy, oh boy, that's really mean. Of course, there are also people who prefer Frank Sinatra's 'Something' to the original, so nothing should surprise us, but this attitude only irritates me even more. Just another conscious slapping of good taste.

And once again, nothing else on the record is really offensive. On all the other songs, BJH go in a lighter direction, concentrating on folk-pop and country-pop for the most part. 'Hymn', opening the record, is hardly memorable, but boasts the usual atmosphere, you know, the kind of atmosphere that brings out the inner sissy in the smelly metalhead. 'Love Is Like A Violin' is a bit Fleetwood Mac-ish (another influence on the boys at the time - of course, they probably listened to just about any soft-rock released at the time), although when the transition from soft silky ballad to faster rockin' beat takes place, it's more of an ABBA influence this time. On the other hand, 'Friend Of Mine' is distinctly Southern-rockish in spirit, and had it not been for the fact that the melody is somewhat original and there's a particularly nice guitar line underpinning the vocal melody that makes my air guitar materialize in my hands, I would probably have despised it forever: a typical example of a bunch of artsy white boys trying to put some European romanticism into a down-and-dirty genre that's only alive as long as it's down-and-dirty. Ah well, that said, the Byrds were sissies, too, so maybe it would be better to drop that attitude.

Out of the other songs, I'll single out two (no, not 'Hard Hearted Woman', another supposed band highlight which is just a painfully generic classic radio-oriented Eaglish standard): 'Spirit On The Water' is truly gorgeous, one of the band's most beautiful ballads of the period - here's obvious proof that musical fame is not really so often linked to artistic quality as it is to various extra conditions, as 'Spirit On The Water' is obviously a far more emotionally resonant song than the goofy joke of 'Poor Man's Moody Blues', even if it is dedicated to animal rights. (Nothing wrong with animal rights, that is, only something wrong with people who are obsessed with that and similar themes. Somehow certain fans say that BJH are better than the Moody Blues because their lyrical topics are far more socially relevant! Ha! Excuse me, are we speaking music or social benefits?). The other song is 'Leper's Song', contrary to the gruesome name, quite a lively pop-rocker with nice guitar parts and catchy vocal melodies reminiscent of late period Hollies.

In any case, it would certainly require me a giant leap of intuition to figure out that Gone To Earth could be singled out as the band's greatest album by anybody, but hey, whatever, maybe it is. They get away with their rootsy-artsy synthesis, and that's more than, say, Styx could have hoped for. That's good news, although if I were a Barclay or a James or a Harvest, I'd just take all of these four albums, squeeze out the chaff and make a nice little forty-minute album that would be among the best ever records of the decade. Meaning, hunt down these best-of compilations, they're better than original LPs anyway.


XII **1/2

Year Of Release: 1978

Now what is this? Who messed up my music collection? Why am I getting boring late-period Eagles instead of the classic refreshing sparkle of the one and only Barclay James Harvest? C'mon, I know it's the late Seventies and everything, but really, there's no need to be that humble, gentlemen, your identity is completely in the shitter, even if you actually had one. Why all the so-called 'ominous' mid-tempo one-chord rockers? Why the sappy hookless ballads? And come to think of it, I now realize that lyrically, Barclay James Harvest had been the Eagles for a long time already. Wowser. Now the merger is complete.

That said, there still are a few songs that salvage the album, and at least these rockers involve one to some degree if there's nothing better to do; but in any case, XII is definitely the last BJH album to be deliberately bought by a normal rational anti-Taliban human being. Seems like the strain from penning two more or less solid and consistent albums in a row was too much, and there's nothing even slightly resembling a classic on this album. Oh sure, it features everybody's favourite, Les' cheesy ballad 'Berlin', but you know, speaking of lyrical thematics even, the band was too late because David Bowie beat them to it with far superior Berlin imagery. Essentially the song is just bad Elton John without a good Bernie Taupin, and if that chorus is supposed to be catchy, please write down some documental proof and mail it to me, because otherwise I have no particular reason to count this as an achievement higher than the average achievement of, say, Chris DeBurgh. In fact, I'd MUCH rather listen to 'Lady In Red', as much as that song is overabused in Russia. So why is 'Berlin' a classic? Sociopolitical reasons.

The record itself has a small 'conceptual twist' to it, with many of the songs sporting 'categorizing' subtitles as if they were taken from certain library sections, but the concept doesn't seem all that meaningful; I have a hard time realizing why the dumbified tango-rocker 'Loving Is Easy' is classified under 'Fantasy', for instance. Although I also got to admit that the song is the best track on the entire album (no BJH fan would agree with me on that because the line about 'shooting off my love into you' drives every BJH fan mad, kinda like 'Everybody wants some' drives mad the average Yes fan, but you gotta understand, I never paid particular attention to BJH lyrics anyway. As long as you don't have a Keith Reid or a Peter Gabriel around, prog lyrics are the least likely aspect of that music that'll be aimed at serious attentive analysis from me). Where was I? Yeah, well, cool tangoish rocker with nice guitar lines. Nothing special, but it has a certain drive to it that th band lacked previously. Maybe it just has something to do with BJH finally commercializing their sound... hey, wait a moment, you telling me they weren't commercialized from the very beginning? Ridiculous! Well, talk about double sell-out.

Never mind, anyway, let them sell out as they will as long as they stay away from lapses of taste. Not the case, unfortunately. At least they don't do any more of these hideous 'deconstructions', but that doesn't prevent Lees from penning his corny 'Tale Of Two Sixties', whose melody seems to have been snipped off some obscure Buddy Holly tune (well, it's similar to Buddy's style anyway), and the lyrics are a dreadful "mixture" of sweety eulogizing paeons to Sixties' heroes, from Buddy himself to Arthur Lee to David Bowie to - naturally - the Beatles and the Stones. Maybe even cheesier than 'Poor Man's Moody Blues', come to think of it, definitely is, because it could only have been meant as an honest heartfelt tribute, the horror. 'Rock'n'roll died with Easy Rider?' Hey man, even I am not really that desperate. One more lapse of taste for the humble people.

Elsewhere, rockers like the favourite phased-out-tone-graced 'Turning In Circles' or the echoey arena-country-rock excourse 'Sip Wine' are really moderate and inoffensive, typical BJH fodder that goes down easily and goes out even more easily. The pretentiously titled 'In Search Of England' is also supposed to be a classic but I fail to see it; for my money, even Kansas could be writing better epics, and this one doesn't even have a truly satisfactory guitar solo like 'For No One'. I actually far prefer the subtle album closer, the lengthy 'Fiction: The Streets Of San Francisco'. Almost out of breath and out of steam, the Harvesters suddenly punch out a near-minor-masterpiece, with its melancholic moody acoustic riff repeating over and over as a quiet and slightly depressive harmonica solo is added - just a perfect epochal ending for, unfortunately, such a patchy and ultimately weak record. Of course, I might actually just be seeing things and passing mediocrity for glory, but you know you can never tell with a band such as BJH.

But whatever, you've just been warned that this is the last Barclay James Harvest album of any merit. More or less. From now on my mission of reviewing this goddamn band becomes easier - come to think of it, it's always easier to bash everything that lies around without having to painfully wreck your brain thinking of what it is that makes this unbearably sappy orchestrated hookless ballad "acceptable" and that unbearably sappy orchestrated hookless ballad "intolerable". Me, I personally prefer bands who have a great sense of measure and taste, and BJH only have a mediocre one.



Year Of Release: 1979

Mediocre, I said? There is always a time when mediocrity becomes so all-encompassing, so totally overwhelming and subjugating that the very fact enflames your brain and zaps your heart into total hate. Which is what happened here - I HATE this album even if it hasn't done me any wrong except having wasted my time. For the first time in years (but not for the last), Barclay James Harvest penned an album without a single 'classic' or 'near-classic' tune on it. And even the fact that there's nothing remotely close to a 'deconstructed' (aka stolen) tune on here, nor are there any cheesy reminiscences of the Sixties' experiences, doesn't redeem it. Bless the tummy of Sir Wolstenholme, who left right after XII; his departure marked the end of the era and at least he was smart enough not to take part in this comedy any more, although, of course, his departure actually precipitated the band's decline - the keyboards become far cheesier now, with hi-tech synths all over the place and at long last, disco influences rearing their whatever. Actually, it was kind of a surprise for me that with all the 'easy listening' concessions of the previous albums, BJH were always conservative enough not to dabble in this particular trend. I don't know if it was due to Wolstenholme being against the idea, but the fact is, Eyes Of The Universe is the first album to significantly 'modernize' the BJH sound. In a bad way, you're asking?

Maybe. Whatever. I dunno. If they want disco, let them have disco. In fact, 'Allright Down Get Boogie' seems to me the most well thought-out song on the entire album; fans usually 'excuse' it as a tongue-in-cheek parody on the disco movement but you really wouldn't know if you hadn't been told. I kinda like the way the vocals are, ah, um, disposed around, eh, um, the, whatever, melody maybe. That's all I have to say about it anyway; I'd sure go listen to some ABBA instead. At least ABBA inserted some energy into their disco; Barclay James Harvest seem to have invented a truly lethargic form of the genre. If disco is music for robots, the Barclay James Harvest one sure needs some extra oiling, it's squeaking all over the place.

'Love On The Line' is supposed to be more straightforward funk but I don't think I really need funk with all the 'funk' squeezed and sucked out of it. Gimme some sleaze and some sex in that music, some life, dammit. There's no life whatsoever in any of the songs on here, just feeble coldness, the kind that results in a band fiddling around with inferior material not knowing how to present it, not the kind that invokes any Gothic or otherwise mysterious connotations. 'The Song (They Love To Sing)' makes me wonders if this is really the band that once could pen 'Mother Dear' - the chorus again breathes 'ABBA' in my ear, but then as the song goes on it seems to mutate into 'Ace Of Base'. Or something like that. On the third listen I had pieces of skin slowly peeling away from my chin, forehead, and other places, and I can swear I heard the heavy groan of the coffin lid closing over me.

So scared, I switched to 'Skin Flicks'. 'Okay', I thought, 'it's a sensitive ode to a poor devastated Glamour Girl, so maybe it has potential'. What I found out was a third-rate Eighties' McCartney song, like something directly off Pipes Of Peace or something like that. I sighed and prepared to endure it... when I suddenly looked at the player and remembered it was seven minutes long, at which realization panick gripped me really tightly. Somehow I made my way to 'Sperratus', which was the only song to at least slightly comfort me in my dire straits, as it featured an interesting 'guitar duel' in the instrumental section. Unfortunately, then I understood that the idea (together with some of the licks) was lifted directly off Thin Lizzy's 'Emerald', which again killed off all the fun. 'Rock'n'Roll Lady' assaulted my ears with more harmless, gentle, and thoroughly uninspired soft rock, and after three minutes of desperately waiting for hooks I understood what was the inspiration for Modern Talking. Oh, for a hook! My kingdom for a hook!

'Capricorn', I think, was a ballad (maybe it was a ten-minute New Age composition or a thirty-second grindcore blitz, all the same to me), and then that last track also went for seven minutes and I actually counted two different piano notes, I think, not to mention all the wonderfully trendy and generically thoughtful synthesizer backgrounds. In all, the record sure didn't disappoint me: truly consistent mediocre shite from beginning to end. Definitely one of those albums that simply have nothing going for them no matter how you try. It only makes matters worse that the 'sissy' atmosphere of Barclay James Harvest is so omnipresent; I mean, at least when you have some crappy late Eighties Black Sabbath album, you'll at least have yourself some DARKNESS and EVIL if you're the dark and evil type. Here you'll only have SISSINESS, and I might be a nerd, but I'm definitely not sissy enough to enjoy sissiness for sissiness' sake. Hear that, Mr Paul McCartney of Flaming Pie fame? That goes for you, too.



Year Of Release: 1981

I have sinned, for I have been proven frivolous with my Barclay James Harvest ratings. I now atone for my sins by raising my original rating for this record half a point, just to show the universe I'm not at all hostile towards these guys. If, on some particular occasion, they WANT to suck donkey's ass for about forty minutes, that's none of my personal business and I hold no responsibility for this act of immoral behaviour whatsoever.

There. Let it be known that we allow for no biases here! Now, about this album. I guess it is somewhat better than its predecessor, but I do not possess documental proof of the fact, and thus can only surmise that this has something to do with the band taking a somewhat more bitter approach here. I even think - and this is a particularly brave thought on my part - that they have been painfully trying to get back to their essence on here, abandoning the disco/dance-pop flavour of the previous records in favour of something more melodic and something more symphonic.

Occasionally something more rocking, too, particularly stuff like 'Highway For Fools' and 'Death Of A City' - these songs actually boast solid hard-rocking riffs, even if what accounts as a hard rocker for BJH will pass as a light ballad for Black Sabbath. Funny, 'Death Of A City' is said to have originally been written as early as 1968 (goes to show how desperate the band was, eh?), and that's good news. It's not a particularly good song, but it does have a slightly eerie mood that suits the apocalyptic lyrics, and that's a straw to cling on to. However, 'Highway For Fools', I think, is still the better song, even if the main bulk of it hardly lives up to the gruff two-chord riff intro, because later on we get the cheesy sooooo-Eighties keyboards that ruin the visceral effect of the opening.

Anyway, the best songs on here, I think, are still the opening and closing ballads. Please gulp and swallow the fact that 'Waiting On The Borderline' opens with a nauseating synth pattern... it's not that bad, especially considering that that same year saw a much better band open their album with an exactly similar synth pattern that was marking one of their firsts. (Three guesses? A very very good band, too). Because it actually has a smoothly constructed vocal melody that Les delivers with passion and sincerity, well, uh, synth-pop can't be ALL bad. Just identify with the poor guy whose gal is bothering him.

And while the closing seven-minute suite 'In Memory Of The Martyrs' can heap up just about every insult ever hurled at an art-rock tune - it's lengthy, it's pompous, it's pretentious, it's egotistic and self-elevating, etc., etc. - there's at least no denying its immediate blunt effectiveness. These guys wanted to create an anthem to the heroes of the Berlin Wall, and do that in an accessible and popular way, not like that weirdass David Bowie, and they succeeded. What else can be said? It's stupid and primitive, but there's certainly a chord in your soul that will be touched when they chant 'We are love, we are love'. Or maybe not. For some reason, my 'cheese identification nerve' suddenly keeps silent about the song. It's not really moralizing or anything, like 'Dust In The Wind'. Just a few guys celebrating love and employing a smart vocal move to do that. Why not?

This, however, concludes my mildly positive ode because I can't remember anything else of interest about this album. Let's see, there's a couple more ballads and maybe just a couple more of those corny dance numbers to make the 'trendy' guys of the epoch buy Barclay James Harvest records which they didn't anyway.... the record's MUCH, MUCH too heavy on corny hi-tech synths, ah, oh, those days of the BJH Orchestra are long gone, it seems. Oh wait, I was actually wrong: the album's single, 'Life Is For Living', made it to #3 in Germany. Actually, by that time BJH were all but forgotten in their homeland and preferred to concentrate on the German market - much like all those old washed-up bands who felt their chance as the Iron Curtain came down. Ever wondered why the Scorpions have such a devoted cult following in Russia? They were among the first foreign bands to snoop into Communist territory! Naturally, the West-hungry Russian people fell in love with them immediately, and the sleazy 'metallic' German dinkers had the Russian market to themselves. Now every time they run out of coke money, they come here to tour. (Okay, that's just a hypothesis, but come on, just dare tell me I'm wrong!). Anyway, BJH were big in Germany, and that's about it. You won't need this record anyway. Never ever. So thank me for wasting my time and let's move on.


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