BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST : WELCOME TO THE SHOW
Label : Polydor
Length : 58:12
Released : 1990
Review from Amazon : "Welcome to the Show", issued in 1990 some 22 years after their first ever record release, is Barclay James Harvest's late period masterpiece. Their early period, under the influence of their inspirational keyboards player Woolly Wolstenholme, had been dominated by a distinctive, very English, rock sound that occasionally bordered into progressive rock. As Woolly's influence in the band waned and their sound mellowed he left in 1979 to pursue his own musical adventure, leaving the band to reap their platinum record selling success in mainland Europe by developing a poppier sound over their next four albums. A 3 year break from recording before the issue of "Face to Face" in 1987 heralded a partial shift back to that earlier sound although, without Woolly's influence, never quite reaching it, leaving the last four albums to create their own soundscape. Friction between the two remaining song-writers in the band was becoming more evident as the band began to sound like two different bands; each of them pulling in a different musical direction. To be fair, the different musical flavour of Barclay James Harvest's songwriters has always been one of the attractions of the band but to work, they all have to contribute to each others' songs, develop a synergy that makes for a very distinctive and appealing sound. By the late 1980s that synergy had begun to evaporate with the musical result that their later albums were largely a series of patchwork songs, the exception being "Welcome to the Show". I have always been of the opinion that Barclay James Harvest's best albums have been those where the producer has managed to impose some authority over the band's sound to develop a very coherent and cogent album from the motley of songs presented for consideration and recording. We have Norman Smith's influence on their early masterpiece "Once Again"; Rodger Bain's influence on the heavier sound of "Everyone is Everybody Else"; Elliot Mazer's on "Time Honoured Ghosts"'s Americanish mellow sound; Pip Williams's on their pop masterpiece "Victims of Circumstance". And so, it's no coincidence that I attribute the success of "Welcome to the Show" to Jon Astley and Andy MacPherson's production. What the production team has done is to forge the very unique BJH sound and thread it throughout the songs on this album so that, like all their other best albums, the listening pleasure intensifies with each listen until the album becomes like an old friend - always pleasant to have around and listen to. The band obviously responded to their influence, turning out some impressive performances on a very strong set of songs. It was to be a pinnacle they would never again climb. The album is rich and varied, combining the pace of rocky numbers such as "Cheap the Bullet" and "Psychedelic Child" with slower numbers very reminiscent of the early BJH such as "John Lennon's Guitar" and "Shadows On The Sky". My particular favourite is John Lees's "Origin Earth, a pretty love song set in the far future, the space travelling protagonist having fallen for a picture of the long-lost mother earth - very whimsical!. Whilst there are no anthemic songs in this collection, the album's overall strength and coherent feel go to make it a true classic. I consider "Welcome to the Show" as second only to "Time Honoured Ghosts" in the band`s albums` ranking: praise indeed!. The reissued version of 2006 includes three bonus tracks; all live recordings, including one of "John Lennon's Guitar", which is quite different from the album version in that it has one of John Lees's excellent extended guitar solos to close out the track. However, for maximum pleasure the album should be heard in its originally conceived perfect form.