Tuesday, 11 July 2017

"Gone To Earth: Deluxe Edition" by BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST (September 2016 Esoteric Recordings 3-Disc Remasters and Remixes) - A Review by Mark Barry...







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"...Sea Of Tranquility..."

Like Spooky Tooth and to a lesser degree Mott The Hoople (especially their first four albums on Island Records before they hit success with CBS) – Britain's Barclay James Harvest and their wildly prolific Sixties and Seventies catalogue (first on Harvest and then on Polydor) remain something of an enigma for most oldies-but-goldies in 2017. Even though we were there and probably bought a few of those albums – they’re forgotten now...

BJH’s brand of Harmony Rock was never as cool as say Supertramp or as edge-bending and ear-catching as Yes or as commercially clued-in as say The Moody Blues or even The Hollies - but they put out some gorgeous albums nonetheless. I remember vividly watching their latest chapters being released and each slowly improving their market/chart share - records like "Time Honoured Ghosts" from 1975, "Octoberon" from 1976 and this - 1977's "Gone To Earth". The specially priced double-album "Live" from December 1974 that itself followed on from the well-received "Everyone Is Everybody Else" in June of that year - brought in a huge number of new admirers too.

But all was not well in Britain's musical Camelot. Fuelled by a frustrated Press and a socially battered out-of-work population - Punk and New Wave were busy obliterating all old-fart Rock during 1976 and 1977 with a snarling vengeance. And yet there stood the BJ's - long-haired, be-speckled and earnest multi-instrumentalists gamely pumping out album and album with sophisticated melodies and beautifully ornate die-cut album sleeves like it was still 1972 and Johnny Rotten hadn't picked his nose in public yet. In a moment of melodic-Prog self-parody our heroes even called one of their 1977 "Gone To Earth" songs "Poor Man's Moody Blues". The lovely "Hymn" was a hit in many territories too (especially Germany) in early 1978 - but in truth – who remembers BJH now when everyone remembers The Pistols (and rightly so)...

Well along comes Cherry Red's 'Esoteric Recordings' label with their British penchant for all things Proggy, Avant Garde and just downright doolally and they seem determined to have us ignoramuses re-examine the error of our thumb-twiddling ways. They've been steadily releasing a slew of triple-disc 'Deluxe Editions' for Barclay James Harvest (1974's "Everyone Is Everybody Else" and 1976's "Octoberon" are also included). Which brings us to this lovingly restored reissue. Here are the hymnal details...

UK released 2 September 2016 (9 September 2016 in the USA) - "Gone To Earth: Deluxe Edition" by BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 32544 (Barcode 5013929464445) is a 3-Disc 'Expanded Edition' of Remasters and Remixes. 2CDs and 1DVD offer an Original 1977 Mix, a New Stereo Mix and a 5.1 Surround Sound Mix as well as an Outtake and Single Sides and it plays out as follows:

Disc 1 – CD "Gone To Earth" - Original Stereo Mix (57:37 minutes):
1. Hymn [Side 1]
2. Love Is Like A Violin
3. Friend Of Mine
4. Poor Man's Moody Blues
5. Hard Hearted Woman [Side 2]
6. Sea Of Tranquility
7. Leper's Song
8. Taking Me Higher
Tracks 1 to 8 are their album "Gone To Earth" - released September 1977 in the UK on Polydor 2442 138 and in the USA on MCA Records MCA-2302. Produced by Barclay James Harvest and Davey Rohl - it peaked at No. 30 in the UK (didn't chart USA).

BONUS TRACKS:
9. Lied - outtake from the "Gone To Earth" sessions in 1977
10. Our Kid's Kid - Non-album B-side to "Hymn" released July 1977 in Germany on Polydor 2058 904
11. Hymn (Single Edit)
12.  Friend Of Mine (Single version) - Tracks 11 and 12 are the A&B-sides of a UK 7" single released March 1978 on Polydor 2059 002

Disc 2 - CD "Gone To Earth" – New Stereo Mix (49:08 minutes):
1. Hymn [Side 1]
2. Love Is Like A Violin
3. Friend Of Mine
4. Poor Man's Moody Blues
5. Hard Hearted Woman [Side 2]
6. Sea Of Tranquility
7. Leper's Song
8. Taking Me Higher

BONUS TRACKS:
9. Loving Is Easy (1977 Version)
10. Our Kid's Kid

Disc 3 – DVD-A "Gone To Earth"
New 5.1 Surround Sound Mix
96 kHz/24-Bit New Stereo Mix
96 kHz/24-Bit Remastered Original Mix

1. Hymn [Side 1]
2. Love Is Like A Violin
3. Friend Of Mine
4. Poor Man's Moody Blues
5. Hard Hearted Woman [Side 2]
6. Sea Of Tranquility
7. Leper's Song
8. Taking Me Higher

BONUS TRACKS:
9. Loving Is Easy (1977 Version)
10. Our Kid's Kid

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST was:
JOHN LEES – Guitars and Vocals
LES HOLROYD – Guitars and Vocals
WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME – Keyboards and Vocals
MEL PRITCHARD – Drums and Vocals

As it is with all of these triple-disc sets - the three-flap foldout card digipak is a bit of a lumbering heffalump actually - although you have to say that Esoteric have done a sweet job at presenting the whole thing. All three are picture discs with different photos beneath the see-through trays once you lift them off - there are colour repros of rare foreign pictures sleeves for the two big singles "Hymn" and "Friend Of Mine" on the innermost flaps - whilst their digipak pouches contain a fold-out poster on one side and a booklet on the other. The poster offers you the lyrics on one side (originally on the inner sleeve of the vinyl LP) and an advert for the album on the flip (it looks beautiful). The very nicely presented 16-page booklet features Tour Posters (Hanover 1977), Trade Adverts (Melody Maker September 1977), photos of the band and their entourage including a Polydor promo shot of the four-piece taken by Lord Lichfield - as well as the usual detailed reissue credits. There are superb liner notes (Mark Powell) that include new interviews with band members and even has reminiscences from Maldwyn Reece Tootill who designed the album sleeve.

Researched, compiled and co-ordinated by Esoteric's own MARK POWELL - the big news is new 2016 Remasters and Remixes from original tapes. PASCHAL BYRNE handled the Original Stereo Mix and CRAIG FLETCHER and MARK POWELL did the 5.1 Surround Sound and New Stereo Mixes. I'm going to be biased here and say that I actually prefer the 'New Stereo Mix' on Disc 2 to the original album's sound in that Disc 1 sounds ever so slightly thinny to me. To the music...

"Gone To Earth" opens strongly with the five-minute "Hymn" - an obvious single that at first appears to be a religious song but on closer examination of the lyrics turns out to be a warming on drug-addiction - fly too high and you might not ever come down. "Love Like A Violin" and "Friend Of Mine" are essentially smoochers too and you're immediately reminded of the band in the next song's title - "Poor Man's Moody Blues". Musically BJH are closest to the Moodies in 1977 and that's more than evident on songs like "Spirit On The Water" and "Taking Me Higher". There's a touch of Gordon Giltrap to "Leper's Song". Of the extras "Loving Is Easy" and the jaunty guitar-layered B-side "Our Kid's Kid" impress - as does the outtake "Lied".

I don’t think "Gone To Earth" is the masterpiece some fans seem to think it and cold harsh truth-be-told (unfair or not) - BJH are still musical shadows to most 40 years after the event. But hopefully this rather lovely Esoteric Recordings Deluxe Edition reissue will rectify that...

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