on 24 September 2013
Got this album today. I have liked Roy for years but I have always felt his output was patchy with some highlights. I did not expect this to be any different. I'm truly amazed at how good this album is. a new direction all the power is still there with the maturity of a older Man. It's a work of art. I love it and feel it's a classic. Brought me to tears in parts. Well done Roy it's beautiful
There are already twelve reviews here, every one of them five-star. This excellent album may not need a thirteenth, but just to add my voice to the chorus of praise...
This is a really good album. I've admired Roy Harper ever since I was about 16 years old and spent hours sitting next to the record player with my guitar, lifting the needle on and off Flat Baroque And Berserk while learning Baby Don't You Grieve and others. I've not always liked what he has done since (including seeing him live where he could scarcely sit up, let alone perform), but when he's on form the man's a fantastic songwriter, composer and performer and he's really on form here.
These are classic Roy Harper songs: great chord structures, fine melodies and intelligent, thoughtful lyrics. The songs are honest, poetic and remarkably insightful in their typically Harperish sidelong, allusive way. He sings and plays with all the old finesse and passion, and he's gathered a terrific band around him (including the likes of Pete Townshend). The result is a sequence of riveting songs, excellently played and produced and reflecting on a very rich and varied life. Time Is Temporary really speaks to me especially and the epic, Greek-myth-tinged Heaven Is Here is quite outstanding, but I think every single track is very good and some are real Roy Harper classics - which is saying a lot.
I've not enjoyed a Roy Harper album as much as this since Stormcock, which I regard as a true classic. Very warmly recommended.
on 24 September 2013
OK.. So i finally took the plunge and after a gap of thirteen years and bought the new Roy Harper record, "Many and Myth". I must confess that I didn't have hugely high expectations - even though [for the first time in his career] the release has been nigh-on universally praised.. But to my delight after listening three times this afternoon in the office, my initial reaction is one of true amazement and delight. It's kinda weird.. It is so very different to what i expected - certainly a new direction [a very full sound; more "band" focussed] but to me also strangely kinda reminiscent of a new marriage between two of my favourite Roy recordings - Bullinamingvase and The Green Man. It is too early for me to do a track by track blow down, so these are just first impressions... The record is packed with all the usual Roy musical and lyrical tropes [and keeping with the Mumford-times, with added featured BANJO licks; imagine... For me an awesome addition to the soundscape] and yet - simultaneously - the record also seems his most original recording for years and years. And so, I guess in summary for once I find myself in agreement with those very pillars of the press that Roy so mercilessly ripped into in HORS D'OEUVRES as, after three listens, I cannot be agree that MAN and MYTH merits FIVE stars...
Roy Harper is a musician in a state of prime artistry even today at the age of 72. This reviewer saw him perform in Knebworth in 1978 supporting Genesis and much preferred his short surprise set to the extended light show of Collins and crew. He delighted throughout the whole concert especially with a virtuoso performance of "One of those days in England" a song so typical of Harpers lengthy, lyrical, complex compositions. The man has been delighting us since his debut way back in 1966 but has kept his fans waiting a very long thirteen years for this new album "Man & Myth".
The good news is that this is not a wait in vain. On this new album Harper's remarkable voice remains an incredibly strong instrument sometimes subtle but not without the trademark angry overtones. His songwriting is pure class. The album starts with the brilliant storytelling of the seven minute plus "The Enemy" where that snarl heard on "Have a cigar" is in top form telling a tale of how "the lads go out drinking/ while the girls try keep an eye/but no ones on duty this side of the sky". These are songs of love, life and lust. Fans of his music will recognise them as persistent themes which Harper has profitably revisited time and time again without a hint of dullness. The lovely acoustics of "Time is Temporary" is a deep heartfelt reflection that has been a Harper specialty throughout his career. The brilliant "January Man" is even rawer as Harper sings of how he "lost control of my emotions/tear run down my face". This is up there with the greatest Harper songs. A harder folk edge is given to "The Stranger" with some sterling guitar playing, whilst Pete Townsend guests on "Cloud Cuckooland" with its Dylanesque feel, a huge rocking climax and vocal gymnastics from Harper that would put a 21 year old to shame. Finally, it the myth of Orpheus, condemned to a life of exile and misery, that inspires the last two songs especially the 15 minute stream of consciousness "Heaven is here". It is full of great word play and the time flies by. Harper tells of how the song is about the "psychology of loss ... the man and myth travelling together". Its dreamlike narrative leads to the albums conclusion in "The Exile" a swirling track with Harper in search of absolution excellently co-produced by Jonathan Wilson.
Measuring "Man & Myth" against Harper epics such as "Stormcock" is utterly pointless. What this album achieves is to build on the themed grouping of songs that were included on the anthology "Song of love and loss" and place the emphasis on autumnal musings with music haunted by reflection and ghosts. Harper may be loved by some of the best and most famous members of the rock aristocracy but his truculent nature and refusal to compromise gives him a uniqueness in British music in same way that Leonard Cohen another of the venerated 70+ club does on a wider world stage. "Man & Myth" is a hugely welcome addition to the one of the best canons of musical excellence currently at our disposal. The man is back on form and the myth is locked down solid.
on 29 September 2013
Aren't we incredibly lucky? We wait around in cuckoo land subjected to pop dross and TV talent longing for respite, and a sign of intelligence and depth, then the clouds break and a light shines through. But, as with buses, not just once but twice. Not only do we have a new brilliant album from England's foremost song-writer but we have an excellent album from his equally talented son Nick as well. I am happily sitting in my room listening to both, one after the other.
Neither of these excellent albums are Pop albums. They are both musically and lyrically challenging. They are both welcome highlights in a sea of mediocrity. Both, in their own way, beautiful, complex and works of art. They both grow on you.
This is one of Roy's most consistent albums. It has been compared to Stormcock but it is different. There are echoes of past albums but this is a mellow, reflective, mature work.
What a wonderful surprise. I hope Roy at last gets the recognition he has deserved for the past five decades!!!
Roy Harper has had a turbulent career: despite his famous friends (I won't namecheck them here again) his album sales have always been disappointing and the critical response has always been unpredictable. He hasn't been helped, ultimately, that nearly every Harper fan cites Stormcock (1971) as his greatest album, meaning that everything else has had to find some light beneath its shadow. Looked at now, though, his work has always been more consistent than it appeared at the time: he managed at least one great album in every decade: Folkjokeopus in the 1960s, several in the 1970s, Work Of Heart in in the 1980s, Death Or Glory? in the 1990s and The Green Man in 2000. For an artist whose back catalogue is still comparatively little-known, that's an exceptional track record.
Harper's (first?) great album for the 20-teens is Man And Myth, and the first thing to note about it is that there is not a single wayward moment on this album: anyone put off by the eccentricities that led Harper to describe himself as being like the "Loony On The Bus" can come to this album with confidence that all they will hear is a great songwriter (still) at the peak of his powers. Although the production is full and the arrangements often generous in scale, this is also not an album that sounds lifeless or bowdlerised.
There are echoes of several albums here: the fuller band sound that appears on three of the album's tracks may remind people of HQ or Bullinamingvase, but the rock side of the album is less obvious in the acoustic guitar-based ballads that dominate the album and are more reminiscent of Valentine, or The Green Man. Subtle use of strings gives these songs a breadth that was sorely missed from some of Harper's albums in the 1980s, and delicate ornamentation such as Jonathan Wilson's banjo on "Time Is Temporary" mean that songs "bed in" over several listenings.
This is nowhere more true than in the case of album centrepiece "Heaven Is Here", which sounds at first like one immensely long ballad but reveals itself with repeated listening as a sinuous sequence of ideas and moods. Co-produced by John Fitzgerald in Ireland, this is the track (along with its thematic pair, "The Exile") that will enter the discussion of Harper's greatest long songs alongside "Me And My Woman" and "One Of Those Days In England".
Jonathan Wilson is here credited as the California co-producer, but those who know his album Gentle Spirit will sense his deeper value in this album as someone who has clearly encouraged Harper to let his work breathe. Nothing is rushed here yet the only song that outstays its welcome is the curtain-raiser, "The Enemy".
Hints of Harper's retirement have always been misleading in the past, and there is no reason to think of Man And Myth as a final statement, but it would be a pretty emphatic one if it were. With rock journalists proving unusually receptive to this album, chances of his issuing a great album in the 2020s shouldn't be ruled out prematurely.
on 25 February 2016
Old Roy fans like myself approach new releases with a little trepidation - they're usually decent but nowhere near as pleasing as his 70's output- but I was surprised Man and Mythe was so good. Lyrically it's up there with the best with poetic musings on mortality (especially The Stranger), the unreality of reality (Time is temporary/January Man) and classical themes on the sumptious epic Heaven is Here. I'll admit Roy's voice doesn't hit all the high notes and shies away from extended notes - he is in his eighth decade! - but his accoustic guitar work is still strong. Also, Bella Union (producers of so many splendid folk-rock albums) have done a great job with the packaging- the glossy booklet is lavishly illustrated with portraits of Roy in various guises and the all-important lyrics are there in full. Imperfect but impressive- can you think of another artist in their 70s who could release such a decent set of tunes? May Roy release more of this qualitywork before he too becomes the stuff of legend.
on 24 September 2013
Even if he had never released another album, his work would have to stand as a unique contribution to music. Yet we got another another album and, hat's off, the wait was worth it.
This is a Roy Harper album. It could be by no one else. All the familiar elements are there. The extraordinary voice (still strong and still able to deliver a whole range of emotion), the superb guitar playing, the wonderful arrangements - the love, the anger, the wonder.
Yet this album has taken the familiar elements and used them to brew something new and wonderful. It is, indeed, a full flowering of the maturity hinted at by The Green Man. Rich and evocative this is an album that I know I will play over and over, as I have played every other album he has released. It is the work of a master. Note perfect. Word perfect. And delivered with a deceptive ease that is a thrill to listen to.
on 14 October 2013
I once went to a Harper concert ( dim and distant past) where he harangued the audience, accidentally damaged his guitar and walked off without playing a note. His music was a bit like that,difficult to know what you were going to get next. This contains pretty much the full Harper range and as always there are bits I prefer to others. But the ambition and passion are striking and its hard to imagine many artists prepared to take these risks. Some great playing and arrangements and the resulting album is like a mix of Hq and his earlier more accoustic sets. Whichever Harper you prefer you get it here.How refreshing to come back with this at seventy.
on 19 October 2013
I suppose with a name like Harper, Roy (and his son Nick, also a singer-songwriter of note) were probably pre-destined to enter the world of music. A notoriously spiky character with little interest in compromising his artistic vision, Harper was propelled to a degree of fame in the early ‘70’s by dint of his skills as a guitarist and composer, but as with so many other talented artists, never really made the commercial breakthrough his record companies hoped for and settled instead for a career as a noteworthy songsmith with a cult following. His classic albums may have emerged into a time where genuinely classic albums were incredibly numerous by todays’ standards; perhaps this is why he never made the impact his talent merited. In any case, he never went away, instead simply faded into semi-retirement, popping up to play a gig or festival here and there; but has now, with little fanfare, unleashed his first new album in thirteen years.
I couldn’t be sure, but if I was to guess what had spurred him into doing so, I’d say Mr Harper might have had his heart broken; why and by who isn’t for me to comment, but the general tone on “Man And Myth” suggests so; it is markedly plaintive and full of sorrow. But for all that, this is far, far more than some miseryfest; this is a set of brilliantly-crafted, superbly executed numbers from an absolute master musician. Many of his contemporaries may have sold out – commercially or spiritually – but there’s something that comes across in Roy Harper’s music and general persona that tells you that this is a man still far too proud and convinced of himself to fall into such shallow traps. The quality and attention to detail required to achieve any measure of success without compromise for such an extended period is what drives the likes of Harper to remain at the summit of his artistic powers, and so it is that he is still capable of producing a record as powerful as this.
“Man and Myth” is equal parts mature, innovative and in keeping with tradition, reaching into both the past and the potential for its inspirations. On “Cloud Cuckooland”, for example, Harper launches into a clever diatribe against the evils of the economic system with punctuation from some excellent saxophone playing. The centrepiece of the album, however, is undoubtedly “Heaven Is Here”, a fifteen minute epic which features some of his trademark guitar soloing – it is a shame that an artist this talented should not launch into instrumental mode more frequently – within a complex, subtle composition which develops as delicately and beautifully as a flower opening its petals. More soloing of equivalent majesty is forthcoming on “The Exile”, which closes the record.
While so many musicians from his era are content to tread water artistically, it is heartening to see that Roy Harper, having been away from the scene for so long, has returned with a set of songs which are not only worthy of comparison with anything he has produced but show genuine artistic and compositional development. In a world where fashions are transient, class, in this case, is clearly permanent.