Friday, 18 November 2011

In Praise of Barclay James Harvest - part one

The first thing to say about Barclay James Harvest is that you won't have heard of them.  If you have, then you'll know how good they were.

Possibly the finest band to come out of Oldham(!), BJH were heroes of the early 1970s college circuit, but only ended up there by the sort of twist of fortune that would dog them through their career.  Riding into the progressive rock scene on the coat tails of acts like King Crimson and the Moody Blues, BJH decided that it would a be good idea to record and tour with a full orchestra.  Never mind the fact that this sort of stunt would cause headaches even for supergroups like Emerson Lake and Palmer, BJH gamely launched into it with their debut album.

Huge losses forced them to reassess things slightly, and get back out on the curcuit with a more stripped down approach.  Well, stripped down if you ignore the mellotron....

Anyway, John Lees, Les Holroyd, Mel Pritchard and Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme between them produced some of the most beautiful, melancholy music of its time.  It's all a bit red wine at three am, but, hell, I like it like that.  Get on Spotify, and have a look at some of their early recordings on the Harvest label (named by EMI after the band, allegedly).  Start with something like She Said, or Little Lapwing, and take things from there.  You'll not be disappointed.

We'll move on to what happened when they moved to Polydor in the mid 1970s later, suffice to say things were on the up....

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