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Finally restored to full glory - buy it!
on 5 August 2003
Barclay James who? That is the reception I often get when I recommend this band to other people. It is incredibly sad that one of Britain's finest bands have, for too long, also been one of the most neglected. Hailing from Oldham, BJH were pioneers of EMI's Harvest progressive rock label before moving to Polydor in the early 70s and enjoying huge success with a string of superb albums based on the ability to write stimulating melodies and lyrics, and play their instruments with great skill. 'Gone To Earth' was released in 1977, going Gold in Germany, and is perhaps their greatest album. Having long left the BJH back catalogue on increasingly hard to find, poor quality CD transfers from the 1980s, Polydor have now finally begun a remastering programme and (having owned the earlier transfer), I can say that they have done a superb job. The album opens with a BJH signature tune - 'Hymn' which begins with acoustic guitars and vocal before building up to a huge orchestral climax. BJH, as much as CSNY or The Byrds, have always produced superb harmony singing and this is in clear evidence on this track. The songwriting on this album is awesome, ranging as it does from the sensitive then slightly funky 'Love Is Like A Violin', through John Lee's dramatic 'Poor Man's Moody Blues', the catchy but never irritating riff of 'Hard Hearted Woman', and the orchestral colours of 'Sea Of Tranquility' to the poignant 'Taking Me Higher' (which closed the original album). This new release also includes bonus tracks, including the previously unreleased song 'Lied' (by John Lees), and the original B-side of the 'Hymn' single - 'Our Kid's Kid'. Most valuable of all however is the beautiful restoration of the 'BJH Live EP' - a recording of their Harvest days classic 'Medicine Man'. This is an epic performance of some 11 minutes and includes some truly awe inspiring playing, particularly in the solo improvisations of John Lees on lead guitar and Les Holroyd on Bass. This is one of the greatest moments in rock history, but also one of the best kept secrets. Although previously resotred on the Connosieur label's 'Endless Dream' collection of BJH rarities, the transfer here is far superior, bringing out the full complexity and dynamism of this exciting performance. In fact, Polydor have done a superb job of remastering this classic album. Gone is the flat, one dimensional, shallow sound of the original CD transfer - this new reissue sounds like the vinyl original with wide dynamics, great attack, and quite stunning soundstaging. This is so good that I now plan to replace my entire BJH collection with the remasters as and when they become available. Maybe now, with the sound quality their music deserves, it is time for the British rock press and audience to reappraise this highly skilled and original band. The time has come for them to take their place as one of the greatest rock acts ever produced in this country. Superb - do not hesitate to buy this.