Roy Harper

Hats Off

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"This CD is not a 'best of' record and does not attempt to be so," declares the first sentence of the liner notes. So, what do you call it, exactly, considering that its 14 songs span much of the 35-year period Harper had recorded during prior to its release? A 60th birthday commemoration, perhaps, or a reasonably listener-friendly introduction to Harper's quite variable output. The songs seem to have been selected with an eye to highlighting his collaborations with high-profile guests like Jimmy Page, Kate Bush, David Gilmour, Ian Anderson, and Paul McCartney, though it doesn't suffer for that. With a guy who's done about 30 records, a single-disc distillation is inevitably going to leave major gaps. But it does a fair job at assembling some of his more accessible tunes, all but four of them from the 1970s, though it does go as chronologically far as 1998. On the whole it's decent folk-influenced British rock that sounds less eccentric than many isolated Harper albums. The cuts on which Page plays are the most interesting, particularly "Same Old Rock" from 1971's Stormcock. Note, though, that several of the tracks are edited down from the original versions. These are sometimes minor and will not be noticed by neophytes, but in the case of "Me and My Woman," one of his finest songs (again from Stormcock), a track that originally took up most of an LP side has been whittled down to four minutes. In the liner notes, Harper contributes observations about the songs that are no less oblique than the lyrics he writes.

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