Barclay James Harvest -
Taking Some Time On:
The Parlophone Harvest Years (1968-73)

(CD 2011, 60:54/62:40/65:37/67:04/60:39, EMI 50999 0837882 8)

5 CD box set. For track listings see below

Barclay James Harvest Website       

Barclay James Harvest was founded in Saddleworth, Yorkshire, UK in September 1966 by John Lees (vocals, guitars), Les Holroyd (bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals), Stuart 'Woolly' Wolstenholme (1947-2010, vocals, Mellotron, keyboards, guitars) and Mel Pritchard (1948-2004, drums, percussion). They signed a record contract with EMI's Parlophone-label for one single in early 1968, but soon they moved to the progressive Harvest-label. Their eponymous debut album was released mid-1970 and got positive reviews, but few sales. The second album Once Again (1971) gained more favourable reviews. For this album they toured with a classical orchestra conducted by Robert John Godfrey (The Enid). The third album Barclay James Harvest And Other Short Stories (1971) was an even bigger achievement. This time Martyn Ford had the supervision of the orchestral arrangements. Godfrey departed after writing issues about Mockingbird, one of the group's most popular songs. At the release of their fourth album Baby James Harvest (1972) the pressure of touring was beginning to show on the band members' creativity. The album's inconsistency was noticed by both their fans and the critics. After this album they left EMI and signed with Polydor which soon resulted in higher sales. Many people regard the fifth album Everyone Is Everybody Else (1974), as their artistic highlight.

The four above-mentioned albums released on the Harvest-label are now again available in a package of five CDs entitled Taking Some Time On: The Parlophone-Harvest Years (1968-73). The five discs include demos, non-LP singles, B-sides, outtakes and several BBC live sessions. Sure, a lot of the material has been released before on reissues of these albums and on compilation albums. However, I still think that many fans of BJH will find this release worthwhile buying. It gives a solid overview of the early years showing a band without having a real progressive rock sound. The music of the early years strongly resembles the music made by The Bee Gees and The Beatles of which the latter released their albums on the Parlophone-label as well.

It's a bit strange that this five-CD-box doesn't start with the debut album after the recordings of the debut single Early Morning and the B-side Mr. Sunshine. Both tracks are very much in the vein of The Bee Gees. However, the Mellotrons are already present. The first single is followed by eight cuts from two BBC Top Gear sessions in 1968. Again you hear many influences of The Bee Gees. Highlights are the two versions of Eden Unobtainable and Pools Of Blue that contain lots of Mellotron. The epic Dark Now My Sky is also interesting followed by the single Brother Thrush / Poor Wages. These are fine pop tunes of the early seventies; no more, no less. Next is an early version of Mocking Bird. This version from May 1970 has already been released on the 40th anniversary edition of the second album Once Again. The first four tracks of the debut album end the first disc.

The second disc starts with the final four tracks of the debut album. For many people, this album is an unsung classic of the late sixties, a post-psychedelic pop album containing a peculiar blend of The Bee Gees' classic grandeur and the more heavy sounds of the underground scene. With Norman Smith's epic production the link with The Beatles can be made easily, but also the more up-tempo tracks as Good Love Child made me think about the fab four. The Sun Will Never Shine with fine Mellotron-parts, is certainly one of the highlights together with the epic Dark Now My Sky. When the World Was Woken strongly resembles A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum. The disc continues with the original eight tracks recorded of Once Again. I won't go further into details about this release since these recordings are the same as on the fortieth anniversary edition (see review).

I won't review the start of the third disc either, since it contains the bonus material from Once Again that was also part of the anniversary edition. It's followed by a great version of Dark Now My Sky. Five songs recorded in July 1971 during a BBC live session for the Bob Harris Show end this third disc. These songs are very interesting because BJH has a real mature progressive rock sound here with a lot of Mellotron played by Woolly Wolstenholme and fantastic guitar parts by John Lees. These tracks were taken from Once Again and BJH And Other Short Stories and these albums showed for the first time the progressive rock side of the band.

The latter album opens the fourth disc as well. It's rather curious that the songs from this album performed during the Bob Harris Show don't contain the Mellotron that often. Songs as Medicine Man and Someone There You Know sound much softer because of the use of a real orchestra. Again the influences of The Beatles are noticeable for instance on Blue John Blues and Medicine Man. The spirit of The Moody Blues is present as well; listen for instance to the lovely Ursula. The classical arrangements are really stunning and you're inclined to think that George Martin was involved. BJH sound solid; Pritchard's style of drumming often recalls Ringo Starr's, while Lees plays some nice distorted guitar parts. However, Wolstenholme steals the show with the Mellotron. The epic After The Day closes the album with an explosion, announcing that 'all bets are off'. The album BJH And Other Short Stories is a highlight in the band's early career and worthwhile listening for people interested in the complete oeuvre of BJH. An acoustic demo version of Brave New World is next. Child Of Man recorded for a Bob Harris radio show in March 1972, is a kind of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song. It was the B-side for I'm Over You, a very good sounding single that follows the live version of the B-side. This CD also features Breathless and When The City Sleeps, both released as a single under the pseudonym of Bombadil. The first one sounds very commercial in the vein of The Sweet. However, the second one is rather good with prog influences. The fourth disc ends with Medicine Man with lots of Mellotron; the song was used as a B-side.

The final disc starts again with a Bob Harris radio show session recorded in 1972. This time you can enjoy three tracks taken from Baby James Harvest. This album fills the remainder of the disc. The songs of this album strongly resemble the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young either. The use of brass and violins sometimes provide for an orchestral sound. However, the influences of The Beatles are present again. Listen for example to Thank You and you'll catch my drift. The more progressive rock tracks are Crazy Over (You), Summer Soldier and Moonwater. After this song you can enjoy the final three tracks of the fifth disc. First Thank You again, but this time an alternative version that doesn't differ that much from the original one. Next are Rock And Roll Woman / The Joker, the A- and B-side of a single. The A-side is a simple rock and roll up-tempo tune influenced by The Beatles. This also applies for the B-side, but this is a kind of ballad.

Listening to these BJH-albums, rare demos and live takes give you a good overview of the beginning of the band's impressive career. The sound is by all means very good compared to the original recordings. Also the liner notes in the booklet are well-written and the additional pictures of the band show how they looked like back in the early seventies. A great document of the old days of prog music!

*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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The tracks:
CD 1:(60:54)
  1- Early Morning (A side)
  2- Mr. Sunshine (B side)
  3- So Tomorrow
  4- Eden Unobtainable
  5- Eden Unobtainable (1968 version)
  6- Night
  7- Pools Of Blue
  8- Need You Oh So Bad
  9- Small Time Town
10- Dark Now My Sky
11- Brother Thrush (A side)
12- Poor Wages (B side)
13- Mocking Bird (1970 Version)
14- Taking Some Time On
15- Mother Dear
16- The Sun Will Never Shine
17- When The World Was Woken
CD 2: (62:40)
  1- Good Love Child
  2- The Iron Maiden
  3- Dark Now My Sky
  4- I Can't Go On Without You
ONCE AGAIN (1971):
  5- She Said
  6- Happy Old World
  7- Song For Dying
  8- Galadriel
  9- Mocking Bird
10- Vanessa Simmons
11- Ball And Chain
12- Lady Loves
CD 3: (65:37)
  1- Introduction - White Sails (A Seascape)
  2- Too Much On Your Plate
  3- Galadriel (Non-Orchestral version)
  4- Happy Old World (Take one)
  5- Song For Dying (Full version)
  6- Mocking Bird (Extended Non-Orchestral version)
  7- Dark Now My Sky (Live)
  8- Galadriel
  9- She Said
10- Someone There You Know
11- Ursula (The Swansea Song)
12- Medicine Man
CD 4: (67:04)
  1- Medicine Man
  2- Someone There You Know
  3- Harry's Song
  4- Ursula (The Swansea Song)
  5- Little Lapwing
  6- Song With No Meaning
  7- Blue John's Blues
  8- The Poet
  9- After The Day
10- Brave New World (Demo)
11- Child Of Man
12- Medicine Man
13- I'm Over You (A side)
14- Child Of Man (B side)
15- Breathless (A side)
16- When The City Sleeps (B side)
17- Medicine Man (B side)
CD 5: (54:51)
  1- One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out (previously unreleased)
  2- Delph Town Morn (previously unreleased)
  3- Negative Earth (previously unreleased)
  4- Thank You (alternate version previously unreleased)
  5- Crazy Over (You)
  6- Delph Town
  7- Morn
  8- Summer Soldier
  9- Thank You
10- One Hundred Thousand Smiles Out
11- Moonwater
12- Thank You (Alternate version)
13- Rock And Roll Woman (A side)
14- The Joker (B side)

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