Originally issued in 1977, Live Tapes is the perfect introduction for anyone wishing to discover the music of Barclay James Harvest. Less a document of a particular tour and more a summation of where the band had been up to that point, Live Tapes was recorded during the European tours of 1976-77. At this stage in their career, BJH had become very popular in Europe, especially in Germany where their previous studio album, Gone to Earth would eventually sell an astounding one million copies. Not bad for a band that would never crack the all important American market and largely remain a cult phenomenon in their native UK.
While the song selection focuses on the band's albums for the Polydor label, Live Tapes includes some of their earliest best known material as well. "Crazy City", "For No One", "Child of the Universe" and of course "Mockingbird" are all here. The production for these songs is much clearer than that heard on the Barclay James Harvest: Live album from 1974. All the BJH classic trademarks are in place: gorgeous harmony vocals, biting guitar leads from John Lees, symphonic mellotron strings from Wooly Wolstenholme and the rock solid rhythm section of bassist Les Holroyd and percussionist Mel Pritchard.
The more recent songs establish a couple of important things: as individuals, the writing was stronger than ever but it also showed that the band was growing apart. Contrast the symphonic rock of the clever "Poor Man's Moody Blues" or the gorgeous melancholy of "Suicide?" with the California rock of "Hard Hearted Woman" and "Rock and Roll Star". Though no rift may have been evident to the casual listener at the time, the difference of opinion as to where to take the music of Barclay James Harvest would split the band after the following year's XII album.
Newly remastered by Paschal Byrne for the Eclectic Discs label, Live Tapes sounds better than ever. The track order is slightly altered from the original vinyl, which may drive purists nuts, but the new running order also includes a few live bonus tracks to sweeten the deal. As always, Eclectic Discs does not disappoint with packaging and here we get a short essay from BJH experts Keith and Monica Domone, vintage photographs and contemporary press reports of the original LP. So (re)acquaint yourself with one of the UK's best kept musical secrets via Eclectic's new remaster.
- Child of the Universe
- Rock and Roll Star
- Poor Man's Moody Blues
- Hard Hearted Woman
- One Night
- The World Goes On (bonus track)
- Medicine Man (bonus track)
- Taking Me Higher
- Crazy City
- Polk Street Rag
- Hymn for the Children (bonus track)
- For No One