Barclay James Harvest

25th Anniversary Concert

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Barclay James Harvest was, for its first few years, one of the real hard-luck outfits in the field of progressive rock and art rock. Though the group later enjoyed considerable success in Europe with the Polygram label, its first five years on EMI were littered with gorgeous songs that somehow never sold the way they should have. Perhaps it was just that they had too much musicianship and not enough personality; they were indeed, in some respects, "poor man's Moody Blues," John Lees and Les Holroyd being less charismatic than that rival group's Justin Hayward and John Lodge. This 1992 concert from the Town and Country in London is a fair if way-too-short account of who and what they were, 25 years into their history. To be fair, original keyboard player Woolly Wolstenholme wasn't present for the concert, but the band still acquitted itself extremely well, starting with an extended and touchingly emotive rendition of "Mockingbird". John Lees's and Colin Browne's guitars soar on "Medicine Man" and "Play to the World", Holroyd turning in a nicely nuanced dramatic vocal performance on the latter. There's a light show of considerable complexity accompanying everything here which -- coupled with some camera super-imposition and slow-motion effects -- helps make this relatively unanimated band look interesting to watch as well as hear for the duration of the show, which is under an hour. They do break up the pacing a bit as well, incorporating the rousing upbeat guitar-based "Life Is for the Living" into the core of their set around their slower, more serious keyboard-dominated pieces. The video is sharp and detailed, even when the light-show drops nearly to darkness, and the audio, whether in stereo playback or Dolby Digital 5.1, is state-of-the-art, the latter putting you just about center-stage. The disc opens automatically to a simple menu that offers a choice between the concert and a "Showcase," the latter consisting of excerpts and trailers from a large handful of additional progressive rock DVD's from Classic Rock Productions, the source of this disc. The only major deficiency in the design of the disc is the lack of a definitive menu for the concert, or a complete song list.

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