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  • XII
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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 12 August 2008
"XII" is the last studio album produced by the original line-up of Barclay James Harvest, keyboards player Woolly Wolstenholme leaving prior to the recording of the follow-up due to musical differences with the other two song-writers, John Lees and Les Holroyd.

Some of those musical differences are in evidence on XII: "Turning in Circles" being the kind of pop-pap that would have made Woolly's blood run cold.

For alll that, it is a strong album and a fitting one for Woolly to end his career with BJH. Other than the aforementioned song, all of the others fit neatly together and XII has a good, album-balance feel to it. The songs are a mix of the more traditional BJH melodic, progressive-rock influenced numbers and those having a bit more of a commercial flavour, aimed no doubt at the European market where they had found huge fame with their previous album, "Gone to Earth".

So it is that "Nova Lepidoptera", "The Streets of San Francisco" and Woolly's "In Search of England" (a stunning song, the highlight of the album) sit alongside more radio-friendly numbers such as "Loving is Easy", "Berlin" and "Sip of Wine". The mix works well on XII - the sole exception, "Turning in Circles", being insufficient to spoil the feel - and it remains one of the best albums of the band's more commercially-oriented era (or less-progressive might be a better way of putting it) which began with "Gone to Earth" and, arguably, which would last until they broke up after "River of Dreams" in the late 1990s.

This remastered CD has excellent sound quality and a number of bonus tracks that I suspect will be of interest to "anorak" fans only as they are all different versions of songs already on the album - everyone else should stop listening after "The Streets of San Francisco"!
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on 17 February 2010
Many Barclay James Harvest albums a bit of mixed bag although the Polydor albums are stronger than others. This is the last one where the song writing is largely good although it is not without it's share of weak tracks. The good tracks though outshine them so much that it pulls the album into the four star league.

Loving is Easy is risqué pop song which would have benefited from being less risqué. It might not be classic BJH but it a decent pop song. Berlin is a classic and typical of Les Holroyd's slow song style, similar to The World Goes On and Play to the World. Perhaps the best example. We then get two examples showing the failing strength in the song writing. Tale of Two Sixties is weak, Turning in Circles in just terrible.

At least we are then saved by a rather forgotten classic The Closed Shop which is true hallmark BJH followed by Woolly Wolstenholme at his very best with In Search of England. Sip of Wine is passable but not too interesting - sounds quite West Coast American. Harbour is an good example of Wolstenholme's more straight forward guitar based songs. For the last three we get two typical slices of John Lees on good form with Nova Lepidoptera and Streets of San Francisco with a dreary Les Holroyd Giving it Up, more reminiscent of tracks on the albums that followed, sandwiched between. While there are occasional glimpses of BJH at their best on these albums this is last one that offers more than a glimpse. Seven and a half decent songs from eleven.

The bonus tracks are a shorter version of Berlin, a slightly less risqué version of Loving is Easy, but still too much for the BBC, an alternative mix of Turning in Circles that provides no relief from is terribleness, a first mix of The Closed Shop, sounding very similar to the final, and a very pointless instrumental mix from Nova Lepidoptera. Not very exciting really.
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on 20 December 2013
bjh make consistantly good albums this is one of their finest .

Last album with wooly wolstenholm on keyboard sadly not with us anymore
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on 19 February 2013
The follow-up to Gone To Earth proceeds in a similar vein, but if anything this is a more consistent album with better songs. Most of them fall into the Seventies soft rock style, including A Tale Of Two Sixties and Sip Of Wine. The neat arrangements, however, are quite interesting and really compliment the songs.

Another factor that elevates this album is the quality of the instrumental solos, for example the guitar in Sip of Wine and Giving It Up, and of course the harmonica in the closing track (on the original record), the Streets Of San Francisco, which also has some nice acoustic guitar riffs. Nothing too clever, but these solos are tasteful, and sound great!

Very little of the music is particularly adventurous, with the exception of In Search Of England, possibly the finest and most poignant of Woolly Wolstenholme's BJH album tracks. Yes, it does sound a bit like Procul Harum, with its swirling organ and chord changes, but it is a compact composition which sits surprisingly well with the rest of the material. Harbour is also Wolstenholme-penned and features unusual vocal arrangements.

Berlin is a fine, and relatively well-known, ballad. The Closed Shop, another good song, reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel; perhaps it's the fluty sounds in the background.

XII is an eclectic mixture of songs, and most definitely better than any of BJH's later albums. I like the cover as well! I would definitely recommend it, but you need to appreciate 'nice' late-Seventies soft rock in the first place of course.
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on 16 January 2016
excellent item - excellent service - A+++
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on 13 November 2009
Love this, taken me right back to the 80's, saw them life in Newcastle City Hall - those were the days! My two girls, both left school and go clubbing, like it too, recommend this for all
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on 23 January 2016
Wonderful Christmas present. A++
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on 30 July 2016
blast from the past
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on 15 March 2011
It is so good to hear this album again. I haven't listened to this since it was first released all those years ago. Well done Amazon.
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on 20 December 2009
Not impressed!
I hanker back to their brilliant album "Everyone is Everybody Else" and XII just doesn't come up to expectation.
Its a pitty but I think they've become a pop band! How is this possible?
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