Album review: BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST – Reissues

Barclay James Harvest - Everyone Is Everybody Else

Esoteric [Release date: April & June 2016]

For many readers BJH will conjure up images of a slightly rockier Moody Blues and, indeed, the band recognised that assertion in their song ‘Poor Man’s Moody Blues’.  The band originally signed to the progressive Harvest label and their debut came in 1970.

They can be classed in the same vein as bands such as Renaissance, and at least until 1979 evidencing an orchestral approach whilst at times distinctly AOR.  Esoteric have released a volley of earlier albums and now expanded with bonus live material or new mixes.  Scheduled for release in July 2016 – and with a new stereo and 5.1 mix -  ‘Gone To Earth’ was the band’s most commercially successful album in 1977.

Everyone Is Everybody Else, originally released in 1974, gets a new stereo mix and a 5.1 surround mix.  It’s also nicely packaged with a poster/lyric  sheet  and a new liner note, although the bonus tracks were previously available on the 2003 reissue.

This was the band’s first album after leaving Harvest and commenced a lengthy relationship with Polydor.  As time went on BJH became increasingly more accessible, a process that began here with future live staples ‘Child Of The Universe’ and ‘For No One’.  Produced by Rodger Bain, perhaps best known for his work with heavy rockers Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, this album is regarded by many as BJH’s most consistent offering.  ****

Fast forwarding to 1990, this year saw the release of Welcome To The Show.  The 1990s was never going to be a good decade for AOR/progsters such as BJH but they soldiered on.  Without  keyboard player Wooly Wolstenholme – who had left  in 1979 – they fashioned another more commercial offering with producer Jon Astley who had worked with Eric Clapton.

Among the highlights, ‘Cheap The Bullet’ and the ballad ‘Where Do We Go’ whilst a bonus ‘Stand Up’ was originally released as a single in 1992 and appeared on a 1991 Best Of collection.  A second disc featuring live tracks (six are previously unreleased) recorded at the Town & Country Club in 1992 and the ubiquitous poster/lyric sheet makes for an excellent and definitive package.  ***1/2

The following album – Caught In The Light – was released in 1993 and failed to capitalise on its predecessor’s promise.  Whether or not personal events kicked in – guitarist John Lees had lost his father in 1992 and was subject to a court case over the authoring of the band’s classic ‘Mockingbird’  – the album was somewhat meandering although yielding the excellent ‘Back To Earth’ and single, ‘Who Do We Think We Are?’

The second disc is the other half of the 1992 T&C gig and with another six previously unreleased tracks.  All told, another excellent package and reflecting the Esoteric label’s great attention to detail as much as the band’s later history.  ***

By the late-1990s, due to musical differences, the band split into two camps with original members John Lees and bassist Les Holroyd fashioning their own versions.  If this diluted somewhat the later BJH offering, it perhaps lends greater weight to the original albums and the band’s earlier history.

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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