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John Lees' Barclay James Harvest - 'North' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/d6/16/f6/john-lees-barclay-james-harvest-north-56-1393098647.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 22, 2014    
 
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A wonderful collection of both moving and poignant songs.

Barclay James Harvest came to life in 1966 in Oldham, Yorkshire, signing with EMI's Parlophone and releasing one single before joining the more progressively inclined Harvest label. The 1970s were the most prolific years for the band, though a resurgence of interest in the 80s had the band playing in front of 250,000 people in Berlin. By 1998 the band had split into two groups and what we have here is one side of that split, in guitarist and vocalist John Lees' Barclay James Harvest.

The first thing that struck me was the change in musical direction. Opening number 'If You Were Here Now' is reminiscent of Air Supply. The melody is soft, warm and unobtrusive, and a far cry from their folk/progressive offerings of the past. 'Ancient Waves', if you'll excuse the pun, begins with a wash of keyboards and some delicate guitar work. The song has a strong war theme, while the vocals present a cosy laid back feel, not unlike Dave Gilmour's work. Driven by some beautiful piano from Jez Smith, this is an emotional piece of music.

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There is a strong Jazz influence with 'In Wonderland'. The instruments are used sparingly, never crowding one another and allowing the song to breathe, while the use of singing out the letters of the lyrics to the song is impressive. A basic rocking style comes into play with 'The Real Deal', with a vocal that's "rough around the edges", suiting the approach well. 'On Top Of The World' sits awkwardly to me, insofar as the brass section and single vocal seem at odds with the rest of the album. That said, it's a pleasant enough and melancholy song that brings to mind past times.

One of the last tracks 'North' has a mysterious quality, and is what I would describe as the more classic sound previously associated with Barclay James Harvest. The vocals are haunting yet strong, with an effective guitar solo. Despite clocking in at over eight minutes long, the song never veers away from its central theme and purpose.

In summary, 'North' does not disappoint and is a wonderful collection of both moving and poignant songs.

Ray Paul

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