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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Barclay James Harvest: Face To Face

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST: FACE TO FACE (1987)

1) Prisoner Of Your Love; 2) He Said Love; 3) Alone In The Night; 4) Turn The Key; 5) You Need Love; 6) Kiev; 7) African; 8) Followed Me; 9) All My Life; 10) Panic; 11) Guitar Blues; 12) On The Wings Of Love.

All through 1985 and 1986, some of the worst years in commercial pop music history, thankfully little was heard of Barclay James Harvest — in fact, this was the first time ever in the band's his­tory that they decided to take such a long break, and the musical press must have finally breathed a sign of relief. But not to worry: refreshed and remobilized, John «Jesus Loves Africa» Lees and Les «Boy Loves Girl» Holroyd are back, and now they have the opportunity to make full use of the CD format: the full CD version of Face To Face contains twelve songs and stretches out for a grand sixty minutes. Turns out that the years weren't simply wasted, after all. But maybe this is exactly what all the German fans were waiting for — that new, improved TV dinner from your favourite band, now 20% more nutritious.

The best I can say about Face To Face is that every time I listened to it while doing something else at the same time, I had no impression / memory / faint reminiscence of what I just heard ten seconds after I'd heard it. And this was the good news, because when I finally got angry with my­self, dropped everything, and started focusing in on the music... well, the most awful thing about this whole late-period BJH trajectory is that there really was no single-moment werewolf trans­formation: it was more like a portrait-of-Dorian-Gray kind of a thing, with each subsequent al­bum adding another streak to the general degradation. But by this time, Barclay James Harvest can no longer even be called «poor man's Moody Blues» — this late Eighties stuff sounds like a parody on late Seventies BJH, which itself sounded like... oh well.

Without going into serious details (this album certainly ain't worth it), I will just briefly mention some of its more appalling elements. Number one: how many song titles with the word ʽloveʼ in them does one really need? we got the message twenty years back, thank you very much. Number two: didn't John Lees already set The New Testament for Kids to music with ʽHymnʼ, a decade ago? so why did he feel the urge to do that again, in an even more thorough, and even more trivial, manner? Number three: didn't John Lees already come up with his best anti-oppression / anti-war song more than a decade ago with ʽChild Of The Universeʼ? Who needs this particular ʽAfricanʼ, with its plastic synth-rock arrangement? Number four: excuse me, but the combined evil of the melody, the arrangement, and the lyrics makes ʽPanicʼ a fine candidate for worst BJH song ever written by Lees on any occasion — tough as the actual competition might be. The "yeah yeah yeah rock'n'roll" bit simply shows that the man must have not been in his right mind at the time: no normal human being could have agreed to release this crap on a commercial basis.

You might think that Les Holroyd is finally doing better, but no dice: his ʽTurn The Keyʼ is hor­rendous Phil Collins-type adult contemporary, his ʽPrisoner Of Your Loveʼ is bland synth-pop, and, although his ʽKievʼ may have been driven by pure generous empathy with the victims of Chernobyl, in the context of his past karma it just feels like a continuous quest to write a sugary love song to every bisyllabic European city: for some reason, we never got around to hearing his ʽBelgradeʼ or ʽMadridʼ, and I am still personally and impatiently waiting for my own ʽMoscowʼ. And, for that matter, do Barclay James Harvest fans exist in India? China? Central African Re­public? They may want their own personal tribute to their capital cities, too.

All right, enough sarcasm. Truth be told, under normal conditions Face To Face provokes neither laughter nor anger — even when the band are at their most appalling, they cloak it so well with slick, inoffensive production and soft, inobtrusive singing that all the senses just go plain numb. I do feel like giving the album a thumbs down this time, though, seeing as how it has no re­dee­ming qualities whatsoever, and even the band's trademark «melodicity» is reduced to rehashing, recycling, and regurgitating chords and leads that weren't on anybody's hot list in the first place.

2 comments:

  1. Oof, that cover! I can smell the synthesizers...

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    Replies
    1. Ugh, not as bad as the cover of Victims of Indecent Taste.

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