Barclay James Harvest, funny kind of name. The band originally seemed destined for great things, releasing two albums of psychedelic/progressive rock under the direction of Beatles engineer and Pink Floyd producer Norman Smith. Their second album, Once Again, is a minor classic in the annals of psych/prog rock, featuring such BJH staples as “She Said,” “Galadriel,” “Vanessa Simmons” and that quintessential BJH song, “Mocking Bird.” A BJH album from the Harvest period could be expected to contain pastoral ballads, scorching epics, classical arrangements and modest amounts of mellotron wrapped around the common themes of love, war and flight. What they didn’t contain were hits, and so the band moved to Polydor in pursuit of more aggressive marketing.
With the excellent Everyone Is Everybody Else, BJH began building its music almost exclusively around the songs of John Lees and Les Holroyd. A live double album captured the band in all of its orchestral glory, although it also marked the end of an era. Subsequent albums were progressively less progressive as the band courted more commercial tastes and began to pattern themselves after mainstream artists such as 10cc and The Eagles. The move paid off as BJH albums began to crack the UK Top 40 and extend their fanbase throughout Europe. The outstanding Octoberon is a highlight from this period.
The new direction didn’t sit well with Woolly Wolstensholme, however, and he left after the band’s 1978 tour to pursue his own classically inspired music with Maestoso. Beginning with their next album, BJH would (summer) soldier on as a trio, adding guest keyboardists along the way. While the band continued to have some success in their native country, it was in European countries such as Germany and Switzerland where they enjoyed true star status, including several #1 albums (Turn of the Tide, Berlin: The Concert, Face To Face).
In the new millenium, Lees and Holroyd decided to part ways, creating their own versions of BJH. Mel Pritchard, the band’s original (in every sense of the word) drummer, passed away in 2004. In 2014, Wolstenholme also slipped this mortal coil. Both leave behind a remarkable legacy of music in Barclay James Harvest that more people need to hear. And there you have it: a four-paragraph description of BJH that doesn’t mention The Moody Blues once. Oh, crud.