The good folks at Polydor Records have finally remastered Barclay James Harvest's most popular album. Gone to Earth has sold over a million copies worldwide since its initial release in 1977. At the time, Barclay James Harvest, while only a cult band in the US and Great Britain, became a mainstream phenomenon in Germany. Listening to Gone to Earth now, it's puzzling to think that only Germany and a few other territories caught on to the band in a big way. While the album shows the band beginning to shift to a slightly more commercial sound, there's still plenty of symphonic material as Gone to Earth is frequently cited as a fan favorite. Mention should also be made of the exceptional album covers that Barclay James Harvest were presenting along with their music. Beginning with Time Honoured Ghosts and continuing with Octoberon, Gone to Earthis the third consecutive BJH album to feature beautiful artwork.
Kicking off with "Hymn", one could be misled into thinking that the band were trying to proselytize the comforts of Christianity to their audience, while the song is actually an effective metaphor for the dangers of drug addiction. Possibly the most famous Barclay James Harvest composition ever, "Hymn" is still a traditional BJH encore. "Love is Like a Violin" is a downer love song about a failed relationship and features some nice mellotron over the verses. "Friend of Mine" is a Les Holroyd composition that sounds very much like the California soft rock of the day and is an eerie foreshadowing of the more mainstream sound that would soon define the band. But the most notorious song on the album is "Poor Man's Moody Blues", John Lees' response to the critical press' insistence that Barclay James Harvest were nothing more than a Moody Blues clone. As we know, this isn't a fair statement whatsoever, but John Lees decided to have a bit of fun by reconstructing The Moody Blues' most famous song, "Nights in White Satin", with a BJH epic symphonic twist. The end result is a gorgeous song and is even better than the song that originally inspired it! Elsewhere we get the mystical Wooly Wolstenholme composition "Sea of Tranquility"(now THERE'S a good title for a website dedicated to progressive music!) and the angry "Leper's Song", a Lees number taking its theme of alienation from a Joseph Conrad novel.
Happily, the bonus tracks on the Polydor remaster are well worth a listen. "Lied" is a nice previously unreleased John Lees song from the Gone to Earth sessions. I'm guessing that the song wasn't entirely finished as it doesn't have the clean production of the album itself. Among the other bonus tracks is "Our Kid's Kid", a long forgotten B side and "Medicine Man", a jamming twelve minute live version of an old Barclay James Harvest classic. Rounded out by a typically informative essay by Mark Powell, the man behind the Camel and Caravan reissues, as well as band photos, the new remastered version of Gone to Earth belongs in every Barclay James Harvest fan's collection.