Barclay James Harvest: Eyes of the Universe (1979)

BJH’s 11th album is basically XII minus the musical contributions of Woolly, which still adds up to a pretty solid record. With sequencers and more modern keyboards, Eyes of the Universe draws a clearer parallel between BJH and the electronic balladry of The Alan Parsons Project. The comparison is most keenly felt on the material from Holroyd: “Love On The Line,” “The Song,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Lady.” As on XII, the creative spirit of John Lees seems confrontational and restless. Verses crash into perpendicular choruses, two of the songs employ anagrams and one of them (“Skin Flicks”) openly quotes the Moodies. For most of Eyes, it’s XII all over again as the band seems to limp into the new decade. That is, until the end of Eyes, when Lees and Holroyd present a pair of nearly perfect, languid songs the recall the autumnal and eloquent Octoberon. “Capricorn” features cut-up lyrics (a technique employed of late by Mr. B) and a beautifully melancholy melody, followed by Holroyd’s grand sonic statement, “Play To The World.” In point of fact, those two songs are not radically different than XII’s “Streets of San Francisco” and “Giving It Up,” respectively, but the sum effect of the two tracks together elevates Eyes to a higher level, which could probably be distilled into an extra, imaginary halfstar if you’re inclined to see things that way. Again, it’s not a bad record, but it is mundane enough to make you wonder what Woolly was up to.

Original LP Version
A1. Love On The Line (Holroyd) (4:40)
A2. Alright Get Down Boogie (Mu Ala Rusic) (Lees) (3:57)
A3. The Song (They Love To Sing) (Holroyd) (6:04)
A4. Skin Flicks (Lees) (6:51)
B1. Sperratus (Lees)
B2. Rock ‘N’ Roll Lady (Holroyd)
B3. Capricorn (Lees)
B4. Play To The World (Holroyd)

Expanded CD bonus tracks
9. Sperratus (unreleased single edit)
10. Rock ‘N’ Roll Lady (unreleased single edit)
11. Capricorn (single edit)
12. Play To The World (unreleased single edit)

Releases
1979.11.05 / Polydor / UK / LP / POLD-5029 / lyrics sleeve
1979 / Polydor / UK / CS / POLDC 5029
1979 / Polydor / US / LP / PD-1-6267 / lyrics sleeve
1979 / Polydor / Germany / LP / 2383 557 / lyrics sleeve
1979 / Polydor / Israel / LP / 2383 557
1979 / Polydor / Japan / LP / MPF-1279 / lyrics insert
1979 / Polydor / South Africa / LP / 2383 557 / lyrics sleeve
1984.07.12 / Polydor / Germany / CD / 821 591-2
2006.10 / Eclectic / UK / CDx / ECLCD 1049 / digital remaster w. bonus tracks

The Players
Les Holroyd, John Lees, Mel Pritchard with Alan Fawkes (saxophone) and Kevin McAlea (keyboards). Produced by Barclay James Harvest and Martin Lawrence; engineered by Martin Lawrence. Design by Alwyn Clayden; photography by John Shaw.

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