Roy Harper

The BBC Tapes, Vol. 1: 1969-1973

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This is the first set in a series of six, which has to rank as one of the most ambitious non-bootleg BBC projects ever released. Most groups limit these types of projects to two or three CD sets, but then again this post-Beatles Live at the BBC production was meant more as a treat for those few who already know Roy Harper's genius as opposed to a potential marketing coup. With the care of a limited release from a small label, this first set unearths four sessions from 1969-1973. The 1969 session suffers not from the sound quality, which is excellent, but from the erratic nature of Harper's early work. Only "She's the One" can rank with his later, more polished efforts. It's nice that Science Friction showed extra effort in finding the private source for the 1971 portion, but all four songs are annoyingly indexed as one track, and the sound quality is shaky. The sessions from 1970 and 1973 are the best, and are easily worth the price of admission. "Twelve Hours of Sunset" and "South Africa" are among the prettiest songs of the early '70s in any form, but these live versions are that much more moving due to Harper's fine voice and the lack of overdubs.