Many years ago I watched a short clip of a DVD which contained footage of a John Lees' Barclay James Harvest concert. The line up featured the original members John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme. Woolly was at the time still among the living and performed on an original Mellotron. I loved what I saw, but had no idea from which DVD this footage was taken. For many years I didn't know anything about this release until in 2015 I received the new 2 disc CD/DVD edition of Legacy - Live At The Shepherd's Bush Empire made by John Lees' Barclay James Harvest. This release gave me the answer to my quest for the mysterious footage I was looking for, because it appeared I had seen a snippet of this performance at the time.
The footage comes from a DVD that was already available as a separate release in 2007. The same goes for the CD. Eight years later Esoteric Recordings decided to come up with a 2 disc CD/DVD edition of the same releases. As you might expect I was rather happy that they made this decision.
As the title indicates we have here a concert of the band which was recorded live at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, November 5, 2006. You might say that this release is a lasting artefact of a tour that will forever stay in the memories of those who witnessed John Lees' Barclay James Harvest at this venue or any of the concerts the band did at the time. Therefore they chose the title Legacy.
The excellent show on this release was just one of the concerts of the tour which had thirteen shows all together. It was at the time the biggest UK tour by any incarnation of BJH for fourteen years. The band featured John Lees (guitar vocals), Woolly Wolstenholme (keyboards, Mellotron, guitar, vocals), the excellent bassist and singer Craig Fletcher and the wonderful drummer Kevin Whitehead. Furthermore guest keyboard player Mike Bramwell and Jon's son J.J. Lees on cornet. Before they went on stage at the Shepherd's Bush Empire the musicians had already performed six successful concerts, and therefore were functioning as a tight musical unit. A further eight British concerts were yet to come. Some of them were already sold out by the time they came to do those shows. Those who attended these concerts cited the performances as some of the most impassioned by any of the founder members of Barclay James Harvest for many years. The audience, many of whom had travelled from Europe, Japan and the USA, witnessed a set that was inspiring.
The proof can be found on both the audio disc and the video disc of the London show. Unfortunately not all of the tracks on the DVD can be found on the CD version due to a limited time on an audio disc. The one and a half hour concert is a real must-see and -hear. The many good close ups of the musicians make sure you don't miss anything. The 5.1 surround sound is excellent, so no complaints at all. This also goes for the songs. You'll hear many classic BJH songs, such as Child Of The Universe, The Great 1974 Mining Disaster, Poor Man's Moody Blues, Medicine Man and Hymn (encore). On the last two titles you can enjoy the sound of the earlier mentioned cornet, played by John's son. Furthermore the set includes songs that had not been played live for over thirty years, for example Poet and After The Day whilst Poor Wage.
It is most of all Lees and Wolstenholme who steal the show during this amazing performance. John's guitar solos are sublime and many times give me goosebumps, while Woolly's orchestral keyboard parts make the music even more bombastic. Besides the strong keyboard playing of Mr. Wolstenholme his introductions of the songs are rather entertaining as well. Most of all his band introduction is rather hilarious. This was done with an old fashion telephone that stood on one of his keyboards. He gets a call from somebody who wants to know who is in the band and this way he introduces everyone on stage.
The DVD extra has the title Access All Areas. It is a kind of documentary of behind the scenes footage from the 2006 tour, including the Barclay James Harvest convention before the last night in Wolverhampton. This 17 minutes long film is rather entertaining and certainly adds something extra to the already excellent concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire.
For those who don't have Legacy - Live At The Shepherd's Bush Empire on CD or DVD and are real fans of Barclay James Harvest until Woolly Wolstenholme left the band, I can recommend this excellent release. For them this is just a must-have. It is a return to the good old days when the band was still a true progressive rock band before they sold themselves for commercial success.
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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