Tuesday, 16 September 2014

“Stormcock" by ROY HARPER - A Review Of His 5th LP on Harvest Records - Reissued & Remastered By Science Friction Onto CD...

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"…Love's Cascades…"

UK released onto CD in 1994 (reissued 1996, 2007 and 2013) – "Stormcock" by ROY HARPER is on Science Fiction HUCD047 (Barcode 679076770478) and is a straightforward remaster of his 5th UK album from May 1971 on Harvest Records SHVL 789. (There’s also a remaster on the Awareness Label).

1. Hors d'Oeuvres [Side 1]
2. The Same Old Rock
3. Old Man Rock And Roll Band [Side 2]
4. Me And My Woman

With only 4 tracks (2 to each side) it might seem lean but it's nothing of the sort. And although it’s nearly 45 years old it remains contemporary and has stood the test of time incredibly well. If anything (re-listening to it in 2014) - you can imagine that this 1971 album is a bit of a secret stepping point for so many new writers and bands – because after 40 minutes with it you can ‘so’ hear how Fleet Foxes, Elbow and Vetiver got their sound.

Beautifully produced by PETER JENNER (Engineered by PHILIP MacDONALD) – the songs are primarily long acoustic workouts with some electric guitars, keyboards, string flourishes, brass and vocal over-layering thrown in. Each song takes it sweet time - allowing you to wrap your ears around the thought-provoking life-observations in the lyrics.

It opens with "Hors d'Oeuvres" – a near nine-minute Nick Drake/Tim Buckley acoustic dreamscape about a man "…whose brains bred answers like flies…" It builds and builds to gorgeous treated vocals towards the end. But then you get the album’s first piece of undeniable Harper genius – and for me one of the great unspoken masterpieces of the Seventies – the 12 and half minute Side 1 closer "The Same Old Rock". The song famously features JIMMY PAGE credited as 'J. Flavius Mercurious' for contractual reasons. You can so hear his "Led Zeppelin III" and "IV" acoustic phase – and his acoustic solo towards the end swirling around multi-layered Harper vocals is just brilliant. You have to say too that the remaster is just gorgeous here (lyrics above). Harper himself rates it as Page’s best ever work…

Side 2 opens with "One Man Rock And Roll Band" – another multi-layered acoustic strum-fest "…welcome back you total stranger…" His treated vocals add so much to the seven and half-minute – the plucked steel strings rattling around your speakers – again the remaster masterful. It ends on the gorgeous 13-minute "Me And My Woman" with lush orchestration from long-time Mike Oldfield collaborator DAVID BEDFORD. Even after all these years – the 'freshness' of it all still amazes me. And it's so uniquely Roy Harper…

"Stormcock" is a Ye Olde English name give to the Mistle Thrush bird – a feathery morning singer and apparently the artist's nickname on occasion. Spread your wings on this secret CD masterpiece and let your spirits fly...

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