[Review] Barclay James Harvest: Gone To Earth (1977)

Another mellow and mildly majestic album that became one of the best-selling records in Germany.

Kronomyth 9.0: Barclay james harmony.

After years of musical chairs, Barclay James Harvest finally found a sympathetic producer in themselves. Gone To Earth continued Octoberon’s winning ways with its unique vision of orchestral pop and circumstance. That said, John Lees couldn’t resist taking a swipe at the band’s critics by reworking The Moody Blues’ “Nights In White Satin” into a song called (what else?) “Poor Man’s Moody Blues.”

GTE isn’t quite as quirky as their last (i.e., no “Suicide” to haunt your waking dreams), although it does follow a similar template. There is a simple, powerful opener (“Hymn”), lush harmonies (inviting comparisons to The Beach Boys this time), tautly constructed pop songs and another orchestral orgasm from Woolly. Highlights include “Friend of Mine” (their best approximation yet of contemporary Eagles), the tuneful and 10cc-like “Leper’s Song” and “Hymn” (and how little had changed since that fateful early morning). The album closes in a wash of brian wilsonics (“Taking Me Higher”) that is, in a word, lovely.

If I were inclined to rate albums (and I’m not), I might assign GTE an imaginary halfstar less than their last, since nothing on here tickles my imagination like a “May Day,” ‘Suicide?” or “Ra.” It does, however, continue to mine that same fertile middleground between perfectly crafted pop and artistic pomp exposed on Octoberon. One item of note is the overtly Christian theme of “Hymn,” as I had been godwatching the band for some time (“Sweet Jesus,” “For No One”). I can’t recall reading definitively that BJH was a Christian band, although much of their music takes the moral high ground (e.g., “Child of the Universe,” “Hymn for the Children”). If it’s true, they’re a shoo-in for the angelic choir.

Original elpee version

A1. Hymn (Lees) (5:05)
A2. Love Is Like A Violin (Lees) (4:00)
A3. Friend of Mine (Holroyd) (3:33)
A4. Poor Man’s Moody Blues (Lees) (6:57)
B1. Hard Hearted Woman (Holroyd) (4:29)
B2. Sea of Tranquility (Wolstenholme) (4:03)
B3. Spirit of the Water (Holroyd) (4:48)
B4. Leper’s Song (Lees) (3:24)
B5. Taking Me Higher (Holroyd) (3:32)

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. Lied
11. Our Kid’s Kid
12. Hymn (single edit)
13. Friend of Mine (single version)
14. Medicine Man

2CD + DVD Audio reissue
A1. Hymn
A2. Love Is Like A Violin
A3. Friend of Mine
A4. Poor Man’s Moody Blues
A5. Hard Hearted Woman
A6. Sea of Tranquility
A7. Spirit of the Water
A8. Leper’s Song
A9. Taking Me Higher
A10. Lied
A11. Our Kid’s Kid
A12. Hymn (single edit)
A13. Friend of Mine (single version)
B1. Hymn
B2. Love Is Like A Violin
B3. Friend of Mine
B4. Poor Man’s Moody Blues
B5. Hard Hearted Woman
B6. Sea of Tranquility
B7. Spirit of the Water
B8. Leper’s Song
B9. Taking Me Higher
B10. Loving Is Easy
DVD audio disc
C1. Hymn
C2. Love Is Like A Violin
C3. Friend of Mine
C4. Poor Man’s Moody Blues
C5. Hard Hearted Woman
C6. Sea of Tranquility
C7. Spirit of the Water
C8. Leper’s Song
C9. Taking Me Higher
C10. Loving Is Easy
C11. Our Kid’s Kid

The Players

Les Holroyd (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards), John Lees (vocals, guitars), Mel Pritchard (drums, percussion), Wooly Wolstenholme (vocals, mellotron, keyboards). Produced by Barclay James Harvest and Davie Rohl; engineered by Davie Rohl.

The Pictures

Sleeve design by Maldwyn Reece Tootill.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in September 1977 in the UK (Polydor, 2442 148), the US (MCA, MCA-2302), Germany (Polydor, 2460 273) and Japan (Polydor, MPF-1114) with diecut cover and lyrics insert. Reached #30 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1982 in Korea (Polydor/Sung Eum, SEL-R-G 587).
  2. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on June 2, 2003 in the UK (Polydor, 065 398-2) with 5 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2006 in Japan (Polydor, UICY-93047) with 5 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2014 in the UK (Back to Black, 535 145-4).
  5. Re-released on 2CD+DVD on September 2, 2016 in the UK (Cherry Red).

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