By the time Flashes From the Archives of Oblivion was released in 1974, Roy Harper had already released seven albums and had even opened for Led Zeppelin during their ninth American tour. Nonetheless, Harper was still a virtual unknown in the States, and only a minor figure in England, albeit one with an impressive name-dropping list. While Flashes did not change Harper's obscurity, it did serve as an effective summation of his stunning live work. Numbers like "Commune," "Me and My Woman," and "South Africa" all highlight Harper's beautiful voice, poetic lyrics, and startling acoustic guitar technique. Jimmy Page plays slide guitar on "Male Chauvinist Pig Blues," which legend has it was recorded at Royal Albert Hall in 1973. The liner notes are not forthcoming as to the origin of the tracks, stating they were recorded at various concerts in England at one time or another. While this lack of information is mildly irritating, it does not diminish the effectiveness of the songs. The CD version of Flashes lacks three songs found on the LP, and is actually stronger because of it. Two of those songs were recorded on Valentine's Day in 1974 and are rather sloppy, despite featuring Keith Moon and members of Led Zeppelin. The third song is a studio cut with Ian Anderson on flute. Completists can find these three tracks on the CD reissue of Valentine, where they aren't quite as incongruous. Harper's next two efforts, HQ and Bullinamingvase, included working bands and were much more rock-oriented than his solo efforts. But as an introduction to Harper's acoustic era, Flashes From the Archives of Oblivion is an ideal choice.
AllMusic Review by Brian Downing