Saturday, June 23, 2018

Barclay James Harvest - XII (1978)

(U.K 1967 - Present)
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Barclay James Harvest (BJH) were formed in the late sixties when two R&B bands from Oldham merged to create the Blues band The Blues Keepers; sponsored by local businessman (and manager) they practised extensively in a rented 18 Century farmhouse, eventually gravitating towards progressive rock and changing their name to Barclay James Harvest. BJH experimented with new forms of music, going beyond the guitar, bass and drums format to include strings, woodwind and brass, and to this end acquired a Mellotron to simulate these sounds.

There has always been some debate over the title XII, and what it meant, by a stretch it could be seen as their twelfth together, but the more commonly held explanation is that it marks their twelve years of making music together. However, this would turn out to be the last release before Woolly Wolstenholme packed up his Mellotron and left the band in June 1979, marking the end of one era of the band’s history.

Originally released in September 1978, the album was another big selling release for the band achieving Silver disc status in the UK and Gold in Germany. The album followed in the wake of “Gone to Earth” and saw BJH consolidate the success they had found in Germany and Europe.

The album struck a chord with the record buying public thanks to tracks such as ‘Berlin’, ‘In Search of England’, ‘Nova Lepidoptera’ and more, and its popularity continues to endure.

By the late 1970s, Barclay James Harvest’s prog roots were increasingly only evident in the somewhat nebulous ‘concepts’ that they used to loosely tie their album tracks together with, and the vaguely mystical sleeve art. The music itself seemed to have been smoothed off and simplified to compete with the soft-focus, radio-friendly charms of Journey, REO Speedwagon et al.

Yet perhaps that was just where their muse naturally took them. They certainly weren’t bad at this AOR lark, as this 1978 album showed, and this new sonic overhaul works well – perhaps too well for those of us who found the airbrushing of BJH’s sound a little cloying in the first place. In Search Of England’s sentimental anthems haven’t aged well, and the single Berlin is also a bland affair. But the second half of the album makes up for it, as the new audio clarity further enhances the spacey Floydian float of Nova Lepidoptera, and the banks of harmonies enveloping Harbour are fluffier than ever. Then the best is saved until last – Giving It Up and The Streets Of San Francisco remain two of the band’s finest ballads
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Album Review
You could tell Woolly Wolstenholme was not long for this band, as he was clearly withholding his “A” material (saving it up for his post-BJH solo album Mæstoso, no doubt). “Harbour” is by far the weakest song he’s written for BJH, but “In Search of England” is one of the album’s high points. Elsewhere, John Lees is responsible for the vast majority of the best stuff on this album (going by the song titles, it looks like he was envisioning a sort of concept album, but forgot to tell the other guys in the band!).

“Fact: The Closed Shop” is something of a return to the folky sound of the band’s delightful early singles, or maybe it’s just the use of recorder, harpsichord and Mellotron that’s colouring my perceptions. “Science Fiction: Nova Lepidoptera” is a fine spaced-out mood piece (just ignore the lyrics: doggerel cobbled together from science fiction book titles. No, really!) and “Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco” is likewise evocative (but again: ignore the lyrics, especially if you happen to be a San Francisco native).

Les Holroyd sounds really disinterested this time: “Berlin” is the only song here he contributes that’s anything better than mediocre (amazingly, it was the song that established them as superstars in Germany). And what is up with all the crude attempts at sexual imagery, the infamous “shoot all my love into you” line from “Loving Is Easy” and the entire song “Sip of Wine,” which I am convinced is about oral sex! [thanks to Progbear]
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This post comes with MP3's (320kps) ripped from my vinyl (another Bazaar treasure) along with full album artwork and label scans.  In pristine condition, this rip surpasses any quality you can get from CD and literally jumps out and grabs you while playing. Must be something to do with it being a German pressing I think.  Enjoy
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Tracklist
01. Fantasy: Loving is Easy (4:05)
02. Berlin (4:58)
03. Classics: A Tale of Two Sixties (3:35)
04. Turning in Circles (3:33)
05. Fact: The Closed Shop (3:50)
06. In Search of England (4:18)
07. Sip of Wine (4:31)
08. Harbour (3:46)
09. Science Fiction: Nova Lepidoptera (6:00)
10. Giving it Up (4:47)
11. Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco (5:49)

Barclay James Harvest were:
- John Lees / vocals, lead guitar, recorder
- Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme / vocals, electric piano, Moog, Mellotron
- Les Holroyd / vocals, bass, rhythm guitar
- Mel Pritchard / drums
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Barclay James Harvest XII Link (112Mb)
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4 comments:

  1. I was wondering if you could post the live LP album by the Twilights called 'Twilight Time' (if you have it). I think it has been out of print for years. Thanks from Mike

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Mike - a mate of mine PetePopPower came through with this one, so here is the link (Mp3/320)
      https://mega.nz/#!mXZ1Qa7T!Gz4yH9AJvdR_R3fZ10HRzf0lYa65_pB4HqTz4wrbLvQ

      Delete
  2. Aussie

    Thanks anyway. Best from Mike

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Aussie thanks to you and PPP for this hard to find album. Thanks again from Mike

    ReplyDelete