Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 16. 1972
Barclay James Harvest
Barclay James Harvest
This album, the first I think released here by B.J.H., points up the uneasy amalgam of the basic rock line-up and orchestra. This I suspect could have been a design imposed on them in the studio.
The group don't give themselves, or are not given, the chance to show what they are capable of instrumentally and the sound, bass and drum dominated with lots of 'chunky' piano, is swallowed up by the strings rather like Procul Harum on Broken Barricades, Solos are virtually non-existent and the whole thing seems to be on a very tight rem.
The rhythms just escape the charge of being ponderous and though there are nice changes the same ones recur constantly.
They have their troubles finding new melodies too. The effect is nine songs which are pleasant but innocuous sad but above all insipid. The lyrics, intended to be re-flective and melancholic, come across as maudlin. "She walks along the seashore and listens to the sea and I can't say if she ever thinks of me," (Ursula) The great rock groups somehow elicit an emotional buzz. B.J.H. elicit mainly boredom.
"Medicine Man" which kicks things off gains from this as well as having a good melodic line and some nice percussion things happening.
Ursula sounds promising with its opening of woodwinds fambourine and steel guitar, but the whole piece is too consciously lyrical to work.
Little Lapwing also opens nicely with acoustic guitar, of which there is little elsewhere, and breathy vocals nicely harmonised and close to the mike. There are some swooping electric chords in the distance and its nicely suggestive of aerial fancies when for no reason the strings enter and take the song out for the last couple of minutes. Thud!
Song With No Meaning is the only one I'd preserve on side 2, with its suggestions of summer reminding some-what of Grazing in The Grass and The Rascals Island of Lore, then a short and silvery electric solo which is faded out all too soon.
The poet gathers together the defects of the whole album as it unravels a self-pitying plea for understanding against a totally unrelated backdrop of violins and cellos.
B.H.J. have the faults but few of the virtues of Procul Harum and Pink Floyd. Moody Blues lovers might like it. There's nothing bad here, just unmemorable. I don't expect to play it much. —John Crommelin.