Roy Harper

One of Those Days in England

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Roy Harper's second U.S. release found him in as uncompromising a mood as ever; who else would follow up HQ's (1975) elegiac grandeur with a sweeping, 20-minute epic like "One of Those Days in England"? Yet such conceits are exactly the quality that endear Harper to fans then and now; it's nothing less than a sweeping roundup of Western civilization's follies, such as an impersonal government that seems unable to offer a future beyond "rolling spliffs for Captain Kirk." Harper's since cited the song as his favorite extended track, which also opens the album in abbreviated, three-minute form, bolstered by the unlikely presence of Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals. (The song was even threatening to grace Britain's celebrated Top of the Pops chart countdown show, until Harper's label there, EMI, issued it as a free single.) The album continues the romantic yearning established on prior outings like HQ, Valentine (1974), and Stormcock (1971), an impression cemented by "These Last Days," "Cherishing the Lonesome," and "Naked Flame" -- which laments yet another favorite Harper theme, the ashes of fraying relationships. The full band does much to lend his lyrics the weight that they deserve, although Harper's vocals are emotive and soulful as ever. Harper's rowdy, playful side comes out on the rollicking countrified blast of "Watford Gap," his sardonic tribute to a café that served greasy fare to rockers like himself on the touring circuit (which EMI replaced with "Breakfast With You," after the owners threatened a lawsuit). The album didn't expand Harper's commercial pull beyond his die-hard fans, but his musical creativity burned brightly as ever, and is an exemplary snapshot of his '70s peak.

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