Roy Harper


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Lifemask was an emotional if not musical rebirth for Roy Harper, who nearly lost his life in 1972 due to a rare congenital circulatory disorder. When the album was released in early 1973, it showed Harper refining the acoustic music he had perfected on 1971's Stormcock. Some of the songs on the album previously appeared in a motion picture entitled Made, but the sound is nonetheless consistent throughout. "Highway Blues" and "South Africa" are the best-known songs on this set, and have remained concert mainstays for many years. The former is a strong opener and added a touch of synthesizer to Harper's instrumental stable, while the latter was a political comment on apartheid in the guise of a touching love song. "Little Lady" and "Bank of the Dead" (featuring Jimmy Page) are fairly similar in sound and context, but remain pleasant, if not classic, cuts anyway. The album-closing "The Lord's Prayer" is quite possibly the most confounding piece in Harper's catalog. It has all the benchmarks of one of his classics -- epic, album-side length, poetically obscure lyrics, many musical movements, and, as usual, guitar help from Jimmy Page. However, despite its potential, the song's a bit boring and doesn't approach Harper's former or future epics in terms of listenability. Despite that, Lifemask remains a strong album from Harper's progressive folk period, even if it is a notch below its predecessor, Stormcock.

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