In 1979 keyboard player Woolly Wolstenholme left Barclay James Harvest (BJH) after the album XII (1978). Musical differences were mostly the reason why he quit, but also the rise of punk music in Britain was a factor which led to the split. The remaining three members Les Holroyd (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards), John Lees (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Mel Pritchard (drums, percussion) continued BJH; they switched to a more commercial sounding direction. By doing so they gained a lot of success!
In 1980, during the heydays of their success, they performed a free concert in front of the Reichstag in West Berlin on August 30 with an estimated attendance of 250,000 people. They were also the first western rock band to play an open-air concert in pre-'glasnost' (= openness) East Germany in Treptower Park, East Berlin on July 14, 1987 to an audience of more than 170,000 people. Until 1998 BJH played with regular guest musicians. The first two albums made as a trio - Eyes Of The Universe (1979) and Turn Of The Tide (1981) - have been re-released now by Esoteric Recordings. They were remastered from the original master tapes and include several bonus tracks and a booklet which fully restores all the original album artwork and new stories.
Eyes Of The Universe, issued in November 1979, was a major success in Europe. It featured the hit single Love On The Line, a true commercial song although it still contains some fine guitar playing. This hit single showcased a more 'americanized' style, while Alright Down Get Boogie (Mu Ala Rusic) illustrated that BJH were open to new sounds, in this case disco. However, not all tracks on the album were based on making money with rather simple tunes. Traces of their musical background can be heard on several rather strong prog rock pieces. Especially Play To The World and The Song (They Love To Sing) are good examples. A song like Skin Flick might have been influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I don't know why they used samples of Question by The Moody Blues, but it provides the song with a rather strange sound. Also their early influences of The Beatles can be recognized on Sperratus, which is an anagram for 'superstar'. Even a band like Blue Öyster Cult must have inspired them because the track Rock 'N' Roll Lady has a riff that sounds quite similar to the one in Don't Fear The Reaper.
Four bonus tracks have been added to this reissue: previously unreleased single edits of Sperratus, Rock 'N' Roll Lady, Play To The World and a single edit of Capricorn. These are all nice extras to this new release, but I wouldn't have missed them if they hadn't been included. The album was a modest hit in England, but its release marked a flashpoint in BJH's career on the continent especially in Germany.
BJH's next album Turn Of The Tide was released in May 1981. Musically it's a continuation of the previous album. They soon recorded this album after the band's legendary concert on the steps of the Reichstag in Berlin. Also this time straightforward compositions are combined with rather strong prog rock tunes like the emotional song and the ultimate highlight In Memory Of The Martyrs and Echoes And Shadows. These pieces showed that they could still write fine prog orientated songs, but also radio-friendly songs like Back To The Wall and the hit single Life Is For Living. These songs made them extremely popular in Germany. However, BJH's new style of composing might have been inspired by a band like Supertramp. They also had a lot of success with more radio-friendly songs that still sounded good enough to entertain prog heads as well. I wouldn't have been surprised if songs like Waiting On The Borderline and How Do You Feel Now would have been written by Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson, the main composers of Supertramp. The more 'americanized' style can be heard on tracks as Death Of A City and Highway For Fools. The album Turn Of The Tide was again a major success in Europe.
This new edition features two bonus tracks, namely the already mentioned single version of Life Is For Living and its B-side Shades Of B Hill. The bass line is reminiscent of Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill, hence the title. This time the bonus material adds some extra in comparison to the previous reissue! Both reissues sound perfectly compared to the earlier CD releases. People who enjoyed these releases will now find some musical satisfaction as well, although the real prog rock tunes were exchanged for more radio-friendly compositions. But there's still enough good music to enjoy!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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