Richard Barnes

Take to the Mountains

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Richard Barnes was a vocalist with the U.K. pop group the Quiet Five before departing for a solo career in 1969, and over the next four years he cut a handful of supremely glossy pop records before launching a career in the musical theater in the London cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Twenty of Barnes' solo sides are collected on Take to the Mountains, and listening to them it seems it was his destiny to be a West End star -- while he doesn't exactly go overboard on these songs, there's a strong sense of brio in his vocal style, and Barnes isn't afraid to play to the last row of the balcony. Gerry Bron produced these sessions, and he clearly didn't hesitate to pull out all the stops, ordering up elaborate orchestrations and top-shelf studio craft on the Latin flavored "Maria Elena," the almost-psychedelic "High Flying Electric Bird," and the plaintive "I Think I'm Getting Over You." Barnes and Bron were also shrewd judges of material, and along with a number of songs from the catalog of Tony Hazzard, Take to the Mountains also includes some impressive interpretations of the works of Harry Nilsson ("Maybe"), Emitt Rhodes ("Live Till You Die"), Cat Stevens ("Hard Headed Woman"), and Paul Simon ("Homeward Bound"), and one surprise gem is a version of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "It's Getting Better," which was a hit for Mama Cass Elliot. Most of Take to the Mountains could pass for easy listening for casual listeners, but while Barnes was no rocker he was a gifted and intelligent interpretive singer, and this collection represents British pop at the peak of its form.

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