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Barclay James Harvest

XII

Review by Gary Hill
This new edition of the classic album is a three disc set. The first two discs are CDs while the final one is a DVD. They all have essentially the same music on them. I have to say that I really like this Barclay James Harvest album a lot. It's perhaps a bit less rooted in the folk prog they generally do. However, it's more mainstream AOR prog. It works quite well. The first disc is the original stereo mix, while the second CD has a new stereo mix. The first CD has five bonus tracks, and the second CD has one that's different from those on the first one. The DVD includes a 5.1 stereo mix along with the other two, as well. It has the same track lineup as the second CD. I should note that since the bulk of the songs are the same (with just a different mix) on the two CDs, I've copied the track reviews from the first CD to the second and just added the bonus track to it, while removing the five bonuses from that first disc. All in all, this is a great set and an excellent addition to this collection of Barclay James Harvest reissues.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Disc One

                  
Loving Is Easy

There is some cool keyboard work on the extended introduction to this piece. The song proper has a great AOR prog sound. The hooks are catchy and the tune just plain rocks.

Berlin
This comes in as a piano based ballad. It grows out into some cool prog. It's still on the mellower side. In some ways it makes me think ELO just little. As strong as the opener was, I like this better. It evolves into some exceptionally cool stuff.
A Tale of Two Sixties
Take folk prog and mix it with something a bit like Supertramp. You'll find yourself in the general territory of this cut. It's not on the same level as the last couple tunes, but it's still really good. You can't really go wrong with this band.
Turning In Circles
More rocking, the bass has a pretty prominent place on this tune. The vocals have a tendency toward soaring at times. This is another AOR prog cut that works really well.
Fact: The Closed Shop
There is a bit of old world sound to this. It has some classical music in it, too. I suppose the folk prog label applies better to this than it does a lot of the other stuff. This is such a pretty and powerful piece of music. There is some particularly noteworthy keyboard work on this song.
In Search of England
In some ways this makes me think of Procol Harum. It has a lot of power and majesty to it. It's very much rooted in a folk prog style. It's dramatic and classy in texture and delivery. I  particularly like the keyboard dominated instrumental section.
Sip of Wine
A bit more of a mainstream rocker, this one works quite well. I like the closing instrumental section quite a bit.
Harbour

Picked guitar sounds start this. It works out from there in nice fashion. This is a mellower tune in a lot of ways. I love the multiple layers of vocals on this. The song is definitely one of the highlights of the set.

Nova Lepidoptera
The cool trippy keyboard textures at the start of this create an intriguing tone. The slow moving mainstream prog that comes out from there makes me think quite a bit of Alan Parsons. I love the vocal arrangement on this, but actually I love everything about this song. It's another highlight.
Giving It Up

Rising up slowly, this feels almost like an extension of the previous number in a lot of ways. It has a similar tone to it. This is more in line with the folk prog concept, though. It's another strong tune on a disc with a lot of strong music.

Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco

The Alan Parsons thing is still rather present on this cut. There is plenty of folk prog built into it, too. The cool instrumental excursion is intriguing. It has a definite prog rock basis, but there is almost a blues angle, and the harmonica intensifies that. This is an accessible and strong number that serves as an effective closer to the album proper.

Bonus Tracks
           

Berlin (single version)

The title and parenthetical here tells you what this is. It's a pretty number that works quite well in this format.

Loving Is Easy (single version)

Another single take, this rocks out quite well. It's energized and catchy.

Turning In Circles (first mix)
This mix of the song is a bit more "radio friendly" than the one that wound up on the album. It seems a bit too sterile to me. The mid-track jam has a definite funk element at the start.
Fact: The Closed Shop (first mix)

I definitely prefer the final mix of this. This version is good, because the song is good. The final version just has more of a powerful vibe to it.

Nova Lepidoptera (ambient instrumental mix)
The parenthetical on this pretty well nails the description of the piece. This is weird, quite trippy and rather spacey. While the extensive first section doesn't work that well, the rest of it is pretty and stronger. Certainly the original is stronger than this version, but this works well.
Disc Two
                 

Loving Is Easy

There is some cool keyboard work on the extended introduction to this piece. The song proper has a great AOR prog sound. The hooks are catchy and the tune just plain rocks.

Berlin

This comes in as a piano based ballad. It grows out into some cool prog. It's still on the mellower side. In some ways it makes me think ELO just little. As strong as the opener was, I like this better. It evolves into some exceptionally cool stuff.

A Tale of Two Sixties

Take folk prog and mix it with something a bit like Supertramp. You'll find yourself in the general territory of this cut. It's not on the same level as the last couple tunes, but it's still really good. You can't really go wrong with this band.

Turning In Circles
More rocking, the bass has a pretty prominent place on this tune. The vocals have a tendency toward soaring at times. This is another AOR prog cut that works really well.
Fact: The Closed Shop

There is a bit of old world sound to this. It has some classical music in it, too. I suppose the folk prog label applies better to this than it does a lot of the other stuff. This is such a pretty and powerful piece of music. There is some particularly noteworthy keyboard work on this song.

In Search of England

In some ways this makes me think of Procol Harum. It has a lot of power and majesty to it. It's very much rooted in a folk prog style. It's dramatic and classy in texture and delivery. I  particularly like the keyboard dominated instrumental section.

Sip of Wine
A bit more of a mainstream rocker, this one works quite well. I like the closing instrumental section quite a bit.
Harbour
Picked guitar sounds start this. It works out from there in nice fashion. This is a mellower tune in a lot of ways. I love the multiple layers of vocals on this. The song is definitely one of the highlights of the set.
Nova Lepidoptera

The cool trippy keyboard textures at the start of this create an intriguing tone. The slow moving mainstream prog that comes out from there makes me think quite a bit of Alan Parsons. I love the vocal arrangement on this, but actually I love everything about this song. It's another highlight.

Giving It Up

Rising up slowly, this feels almost like an extension of the previous number in a lot of ways. It has a similar tone to it. This is more in line with the folk prog concept, though. It's another strong tune on a disc with a lot of strong music.

Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco

The Alan Parsons thing is still rather present on this cut. There is plenty of folk prog built into it, too. The cool instrumental excursion is intriguing. It has a definite prog rock basis, but there is almost a blues angle, and the harmonica intensifies that. This is an accessible and strong number that serves as an effective closer to the album proper.

Bonus Track

        

 

The Streets of San Francisco (Alternate Version)
This is much more of pure folk song than the final version. It's a cool version, but I prefer the fuller arrangement.
 
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