From softly focused pastoral passages at the end of the 60s to more muscular rock-outs two decades later, Barclay James Harvest were never a band to wallow in their own heritage.
Pompous enough to be labelled the “poor man’s Moody Blues” but sufficiently self-aware to call one of their songs just that, the young BJH released four albums on Harvest before achieving greater sales on Polydor.
Between 1968 and 1970 they made their way confidently through the midst of second-generation rock bands in the era of the supergroup.
By 1969 their first album Barclay James Harvest was issued on the newly formed Harvest label, and if you think the name tie-up is more than a coincidence then you’re right. “EMI were going to get this fringe label together and we flippantly suggested that they use Harvest and we all laughed about it. A month or so later we found out that someone from above had suggested Harvest.”
As labelmates of Pink Floyd and Deep Purple at the first peak of prog, they saw nothing pretentious about turning up the Mellotron, co-opting a full orchestra, and singing feyly of ladies named Galadriel and Ursula . . . or constructing mournful elaborate epics like Song With No Meaning or Mockingbird.
Rock music came of age because bands like BJH were orchestrating their music, and taking giant strides generally when it was still considered heresy to stray that far from formal training. In 1970 Dark Now My Sky was as deep and portentous to BJH fans as Dark Side Of The Moon was to be for Pink Floyd devotees in years to come.
Stuart ‘Woolly’ Wolstenholme