The Parlophone-Harvest Years (1968 - 1973)
A few days ago, I reviewed a ridiculously comprehensive collection of Hollies music from the 60's, all their recordings uncovered from the time with Graham Nash in the group. One of the things I praised was this one-stop shopping idea, it's all there, it's all you need, six CD's, and at a decent low price. What I didn't mention at the time was that it came with two other similar collections, each one five CD's. Both are also British rock bands, from the late 60's-early 70's era, UFO and Barclay James Harvest. I listened to UFO yesterday, and having never been a fan before, and in fact having no memory of ever hearing them, I can say without any hesitation that I will never, ever be a fan in the future. Boring, generic rock from the early 70's, from a third-tier band. I know of no-one in my broad circle of music-listening friends who has ever mentioned them, and I suggest this be the last conversation we ever have on this matter.
Barclay James Harvest offers a little more for a conversation, and in fact, I know one person who considers them his favourite band of all time. This shocks me, but to each his own. Again, it's a band I've spent virtually no time with over the years, and I can't really recall ever playing their music. Stretching from 1968 to 1973, this set presents their singles, four albums and some BBC sessions. When we talk about prog from that time, it's usually Genesis and ELP, Gentle Giant and Yes, even early Rush gets thrown in there for their spacey, early concept discs. But poor old Barclay gets forgotten. The top prog website calls them "crossover prog", and they don't even make the Top 50 of the all-time prog list. Maybe it's because they were too much like the Moody Blues, not far out enough. They tried a bit of everything, including full orchestras, blues workouts, sci-fi, and of course, Lord Of The Rings. One of their big songs was called Galadriel, and they also recorded a side project under the name Bombadil. Some of the extended pieces approached Pink Floyd-level flights, others (Mocking Bird) are album-side length pieces that really don't say much, repeating a lot, but aren't offensive or anything. Just long and kinda ..okay.
Like all the other bands, BJH was experimenting with synthesizers and mellotrons, but that never really became a standout part of their sound. Nothing did. They had some fans in England, at least got released over here, but never built a Canadian following, despite all the rest of those kind of bands, from King Crimson to Queen taking off at the time. The question therefore isn't whether if five CD's is overkill on this band; instead, it's whether you can find anyone (other than my friend, I've claimed him) that rank wants even one album. This is a steal though if you do find someone who likes them, five CDs for $39.