1971 (reissue 2002 EMI Records)
When I got to know Barclay James Harvest (BJH) in the late seventies I obviously bought a number of lp’s from the British quartet. My favorite in particular was “Once Again” (1971), with its colorful cover showing a figurative half butterfly on it. Each side of the lp opened better than good. She Said and Mocking Bird, I have listened to them over and over again. And the other songs? Because of my enthusiasm, they effortlessly went along in the same gulp.
Over the years BJH has had to deal with many lawsuits and keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme and drummer Mel Pritchard have passed away as well. Personally, I have been busy gathering their oeuvre together.
The remaster, which was released by EMI in 2002, has re-awakened my interest in the album, in fact: I am more enthusiastic than ever. I can say that over the years I have started to listen to music with more depth and that clearly has an impact on my findings regarding “Once Again”. Especially the combination of sixties with progressive and symphonic rock is beautifully portrayed.
Opener She Said is special in terms of composition. Two premature songs, Miss Bailey and And I Will Always Love Her, were merged into a new song and no, the songs were not just glued together. From one song the verse was taken and from the other the chorus. Ingenious. Due to its nice guitar runs it has resulted in one of BJH’s most powerful songs. It also has a remarkable mood tilt when peacefully a solo occurs on the recorder. Les Holroyd sings this song which makes it a really nice piece.
The next three songs all manage to hold the atmosphere well, despite the fact that the powerful band sound of She Said has made way for more moody sounds. For example, Happy Old World has an almost pastoral glow that is reminiscent of the light-hearted material of Genesis from that time. The keyboard work sounds very inspired, especially the organ in the choruses. With Song For Dying, the band makes it crystal clear that the Moody Blues were their great source of inspiration. It’s Mellotron all over the place.
Since the album was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studio, John Lees was able to use John Lennon’s Epiphone guitar. The instrument can be heard in Galadriel where subtle licks are played at the start. The lion’s share, however, is reserved for a large symphony orchestra conducted by Robert Godfrey. Although it is very beautiful, all the butterflies really start fluttering in the monumental Mocking Bird, a song with a beautiful structure and dynamic tempo and atmosphere changes driven by the orchestra. Strong themes and evocative vocal parts have placed this song among the top classics for years.
After Mocking Bird, it’s actually a bit done with the record. With its acoustic guitar, Vanessa Simmons is more like a friendly campfire song and the Ball And Chain, written by Wolstenholme, starts as a reasonable rocker but ends with the screaming vocals which ruins the song completely. Lady Loves can be described as a side song with a guest role for a very young Alan Parsons on the jaw harp. Well, if you hear poing, poing, poing, it’s not your WhatsApp.
The remaster contains five more bonus tracks including a previously unreleased orchestral piece. We also hear a live in the studio recording and some remixes. It really doesn’t add that much to it. The true glory of “Once Again” is clearly in the first five songs. They give you such a good feeling that you take the rest for granted, effortlessly.