At the beginning of 1970 Harvest Records was six months in operation and an impressive catalog of 14 albums by unique and diverse artists put them in the front line of progressive music labels. As the ‘underground music’ subsidiary of EMI, Harvest was able to kick things off quickly with bands who were already signed to EMI and its other labels and fell into that category. The label’s first release was with such a band, Deep Purple (Book of Taliesyn) and they closed 1969 with another band recruited from EMI’s roster, Pink Floyd (Ummagumma). Harvest was the brainchild of Malcolm Jones who in 1967 joined EMI and was avidly following new and exciting music produced at the time by a multitude of artists, music that did not fit well into the mainstream fare that EMI focused on. He gained credit with the label after championing the band Love Sculpture as a blues rock outfit. Their frenetic version of composer Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance made it to #5 in the UK singles chart.
At the end of 1968 Jones was able to convince EMI’s board that they are missing the boat with young folks who are happy to part with their pocket money to acquire this music. In 1970, this article’s focus, Harvest released some of the best in progressive music of that year. This was the label’s most productive year, with nearly 30 albums added to its catalog. At the end of that year Malcom Jones left the label, making a prediction that “75 per cent of the album charts will be progressive music.” Sounds impossible, but in those days he was not far off. A quick glance at Record Mirror’s top 50 albums chart in November 1970 proves it.
Before we review some of my favorite albums on the label in 1970, a note that albums by Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother) and Syd Barrett (The Madcap Laughs) have been reviewed in A Year in Music – 1970, part 2: Progressive Music, and Kevin Ayers and the Whole World (Shooting at the Moon) has been reviewed in 1970, part 3: Progressive Music.
Harvest started 1970 with a bang. In January that year the label released three new albums: the aforementioned The Madcap Laughs by Syd Barrett, Deep Purple’s forray into symphonic rock with Concerto for Group and Orchestra, and an album by a new recruit, one Roy Harper.
Harper came to Harvest through his management team, Blackhill Enterprises, founded by Peter Jenner and Andrew King. These two were critical to the beginnings of Harvest Records. As managers of Pink Floyd they had an in at EMI and given the underground nature of their roster, it was natural to release their records with Harvest. One of these artists was Roy Harper, who had already released three albums and with the move to Harvest enjoyed the benefit of recording his fourth at Abbey Road studios. The result was Flat Baroque and Berserk, a wonderful album showcasing his voice and guitar playing. He gets help on the album closer Hell’s Angels, one of his rockier songs. Harper wrote on the album sleeve: “I was accompanied by three very dear friends whose names I cannot give you because they belong to another label. Enough to say that they turned me on to rock and I turned them on to the Karelia.” The musicians were Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson and Brian Davison, otherwise known as The Nice. A month after the recording of Roy Harper’s album The Nice recorded the album Five Bridges on which they performed “Intermezzo ‘Karelia Suite'”.
One of the album’s highlights is the song I Hate the White Man, about which Harper wrote in 2020 “I Hate The White Man was a song that wrote itself in 1968. To cut a long story short, I’d been involved in the tumult of that year.” My favorite on this album is very different in its sentiment, one of Harper’s most loved love songs. Over the years “Another Day” received a number of great covers. Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel performed the song on Kate Bush’s Xmas TV Special in 1979. Perhaps the best interpretation was by Elizabeth Fraser on the first This Mortal Coil album It’ll End in Tears from 1984. Harper’s original version gets a wonderful orchestral arrangement by David Bedford, marking the beginning of a long term collaboration between the two musicians that continued through other albums Harper released on Harvest in the 1970s.
The album was produced by Peter Jenner, who later commented that his role as producer was “’vibemaster’, trying to keep everyone happy and to keep it moving. As Harper said ‘Roll us another one Pete!’”. Roy Harper added in the liner notes: “I don’t want to philosophize and all that. All I’d really like to say is that I hope we can manage to have plenty of conflict but no war and hope that we can pass it on to our children.”
We move to another fine singer and one of the first to release an album on Harvest back in July 1969, his debut Rainmaker. In March 1970 Michael Chapman followed with one of his best albums, Fully Qualified Survivor. The folk singer, influenced by the booming folk-rock scene, added rhythm instruments with bass player Rick Kemp, later with Steeleye Span, and a new guitar talent. Chapman recalls: “They said we’ve got you some really great London guitar players and I said ‘sack ‘em I’ve got a gardener in Hull who can just take e’em all to the cleaners’.” That was Mick Ronson, soon to join Bowie and his backup band Hype. That band would morph into The Spiders from Mars and the rest is history.
Of note here is the participation of Paul Buckmaster, a great orchestral arranger in popular music. In 1970 Buckmaster lent not only his arranging skills but also his excellent abilities as instrumentalist to Fully Qualified Survivor. The opener to Michael Chapman‘s album is The Aviator, and you can hear Buckmaster’s wonderful cello accompaniment along with violinist Johnny Van Derek throughout the song.
The album is one of Chapman’s favorites. He later said “I was well pleased with, still am. It seemed to have a life of its own from the off.”
Bass – Rick Kemp
Drums, Congas – Barry Morgan
Guitar – Mick Ronson
Vocals, Guitar, Piano – Michael Chapman
Violin – Johnny Van Derek
We remain with the folk scene and two more excellent albums in that genre released by Harvest in 1970. The first is Full Circle by a trio named Forest. This was their second and sadly their last album. Moving to London from Birmingham in 1969 the band camped for a few weeks at John Peel’s flat and on his recommendation were signed to Harvest. Peel wrote this on the sleeve notes to their debut album: “The music, perhaps curiously, is full of sunshine, leaves and running water. It would be a waste of time to try and describe the rare treasures without price contained within. It would be nice for the Forest if you purchased these results of their lives and labours – but nicer still for you.”
Graveyard is an excellent track from that album. The song is sung by a phantom who recognizes the body it once inhabited. Adrian Welham, who wrote the song: “‘I did genuinely have a dream where I was looking at myself dead, basically. The moon was out that night, and if I’m conscious there’s a full moon I never sleep well, even now.”
Beautiful art cover drawing by Joan Melville, who also created the art for the band’s debut album.
Credits on this track:
Lead Vocals, Guitar, Cello, Whistle – Adrian Welham
Whistle – Martin Welham, Dez Allenby
One of my favorite albums on Harvest in 1970 is Love, Death and the Lady by sisters Shirley and Dolly Collins. The previous year they released the magnificent album Anthems in Eden, and on the strength of that album Harvest asked them to record a second LP in 1970. Following the same formula as the previous album, the recording session included musicians from the early classical music crowd including Christopher Hogwood on harpsichord. Shirley Collins: “It’s a rather dark and austere album, made at a time I was breaking up with John [husband and producer of the album Austin John Marshall], and the mood reflects that.”
Shirley Collins remembers the recording sessions: “It was wonderful to have had that freedom to record for a major label, even though by today’s standards it was speedily done. Peter Bellamy in offering criticism for the albums said they sounded like they were done in one take. Well, he should have known as well anyone that in those days that was often all you got!”
The album is full of somber murder ballads and all manners of death. Shirley Collins: “You can sing about murders and suicides and revenge and Lord knows what, and it’s all acceptable. In fact, I find those songs particularly fascinating because they own up to what human beings are.”
A favorite song on the album is Geordie, an interpretation of the traditional ballad. Shirley Collins recorded Geordie for the first time in 1959 for her Collector EP The Foggy Dew. In many English folk-songs poachers get transported to Van Diemen’s Land, but the poor soul of whom this story is told is condemned to death:
As I rode over London Bridge
One misty morning early,
I overheard a tender hearted girl
Plead for the life of Geordie.
Now Geordie robbed no store-houses,
He never murdered any.
He only shot a King’s white deer
All for to feed his fam’ly.
Musicians on the album:
Shirley Collins, vocals
Christopher Hogwood, harpsichord
Alan Lumsden, sackbut
Adam Skeaping, bass viol, violone
Rod Skeaping, bass viol
Eleanor Sloan, rebec
John Fordham, recorder
Dolly Collins, flute-organ, piano
Terry Cox, percussion
Peter Wood, concertina
Uncredited male chorus includes John Fordham and Royston Wood
In 1970 Harvest released an album curiously titled “Things May Come and Things May Go but the Art School Dance Goes on Forever” by Pete Brown and Piblokto! Poet and lyricist Pete Brown formed The First Real Poetry Band with John McLaughlin on guitar in the mid-1960s. His association with Graham Bond led to his work as lyric writer for many songs by Cream (I Feel Free, White Room, Sunshine of Your Love, Politician) and a lifelong collaboration with Jack Bruce. He was later part of the band The Battered Ornaments, signed to Harvest Records. After his dismissal from that group the day before supporting The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in July 1969, he formed Piblokto! The meaning of the band name is a condition among the Inuit that is manifested by attacks of disturbed behavior, screaming and crying, that occurs in winter.
Here is a fine song from the album, released as a single. High Flying Electric Bird was covered a year later by Colin Scot on his solo debut.
Pete Brown – vocals, Cornish slide whistle
Jim Mullen – guitar
Dave Thompson – mellotron, soprano saxophone
Roger Bunn – bass
Rob Tait – drums
If Pete Brown’s lyrics veered sometimes towards the political, Edgar Broughton Band’s went all the way in. The band played a mix of raw blues and experimental music. Band leader Edgar Broughton talked about his influences: “Howlin’ Wolf fascinated me as did Captain Beefheart. I found that the low tone with a rasp was fairly easy for me to produce but it is only one of several ‘voices’ that I use.” In 1969 the band performed a free concert at Hyde Park, playing along Blind Faith, Richie Havens, Donovan and Third Ear Band. Edgar Broughton on that experience: “We’d gone from playing to two hundred people in a pub or whatever to this massive, massive audience as far as the eye can see. I’d never seen an audience like that and so you could never forget that, just a sea of faces.”
In 1970 the band released their second album on Harvest, Sing Brother Sing. Broughton remembers the recording sessions: “We recorded in Studio 3 at abbey Road with Pete Mew, a fabulous guy – I learnt a lot from him. Sometimes I wonder how he put up with us with his elbow patches and his nice jacket.”
And about the second album: “It is always difficult to make a second album because you have lots of material that has been performed over and over for the first album. By now we were a little more in tune and more comfortable in the studios at Abbey Road. I still like parts of Sing Brother Sing.”
A favorite track from the album is The Moth, a great multi-part tune.
Edgar Broughton – vocals, guitar
Arthur Grant – bass guitar, vocals Steve Broughton – drums
1969 saw the band The Pretty Things in turmoil. The release of their excellent album S.F. Sorrow at the end of 1968 was not successful (more on that album here: S.F. Sorrow, by The Pretty Things). Guitar player Dick Taylor and drummer Twink both left the band in 1969. Singer Phil May remembers: “When I look back on it, for me Dick Taylor leaving was a kick in the balls. To me it was another one leaving the ship. But at the time I rode it because Wally and I had already half-way written Parachute. And when you have something like that, like a child, you’re going to make it see the light of day, you’re not going to give up.”
For the recording of their next album they recruited guitarist Victor Unitt from the Edgar Broughton Band and their former drummer Skip Alan. They changed labels from Columbia to Harvest through their manager Bryan Morrison and released the album Parachute in 1970. The album was produced by Norman Smith, who also worked with them on S.F. Sorrow.
The band had many difficulties with their record label, but luckily had Smith as their producer. May: “Norman, at the time was quite straight, he was quite an unlikely ally. He’d been the Beatles’ engineer, he was part of a corporate record label, EMI, which is a bit like the Home Office – it had very stable people in it. Yet he saw what we were trying to do. I’ve always said that we didn’t sign to EMI, we signed to Abbey Road and Norman Smith, and that’s the only two bits we were interested in.” After a single album with Harvest the band left the label in 1971.
Here is the track Grass from the album.
Phil May – Vocals
Vic Unitt – Guitars
Wally Waller – Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Jon Povey – Keyboards, Vocals
Skip Alan – Drums
We come to one of Harvest’s most successful bands, Deep Purple. In 1969 they formed the Mark II line-up of the band with singer Ian Gillan and bass player Roger Glover from the band Episode Six. At the end of that year they released the ambitious album Concerto for Group and Orchestra, playing along the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall a 3-movement piece by keyboardist Jon Lord. Their next album was released in June 1970 and marked a move to the hard-rock style that brought them instantaneous fame. ‘In Rock’ featured not only an iconic album cover, but also some of the band’s most enduring songs including Speed King and the non-album single Black Night. However the highlight of the album is the dramatic 10-minute epic Child In Time. Since its release it became a staple song at the band’s live performances, only to be surpassed by Smoke on the Water a couple of years later. Fantastic guitar solo by Ritchie Blackmore, who’s direction to the band was “If it’s not dramatic or exciting, it has no place on this album.”
Ian Gillan on the song and ‘the scream’: “We’d recently heard an album by a new band called It’s a Beautiful Day, on which there was a track called ‘Bombay Calling’. It was mainly instrumental, and was quite fast, but Jon became fascinated by it, and was tinkering with ideas on the keyboard. I started singing and the words came easily because we were all aware of the nuclear threat which hovered over us at this time which was probably when the ‘cold war’ was at its hottest. It was totally spontaneous and conceived without a storyline, and through its development, with the help of tight trousers, I discovered ‘the scream’.”
It’s a Beautiful Day reciprocated by using the riff from Wring That Neck on their song Don and Dewey from their second album Marrying Maiden.
Ritchie Blackmore – guitar
Ian Gillan – vocals
Roger Glover – bass
Jon Lord – organ
Ian Paice – drums
Here is a great live footage of the band performing the song in 1970:
As a progressive label it was expected that Harvest would release albums in the emerging progressive rock genre, and the two last albums in this review are a fine representation of that side in their catalog in 1970.
The Greatest Show On Earth was an interesting mix of a rock band with a strong Hammond organ sound and a horn unit resembling Blood Sweat and Tears. Brothers Norman Watt-Roy and Garth Watt-Roy previously formed the band The Living Daylights, releasing a cover single of the hit Let’s Live For Today in 1967. They later formed an eight-piece band with R&B and soul influences. In 1969 they signed to Harvest and started writing more complex arrangements with a horn section.
The album Horizons yielded the single ‘Real Cool World’. Like many albums on Harvest, the cover was created by progressive music legendary design team Hipgnosis.
My favorite track on the album is the epic title track Horizons. Of note is the excellent work of bass player Norman Watt-Roy, who a decade later became part of The Blockheads, Ian Dury’s band. His tasty bass lines can be heard on the hit ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’.
Bass – Norman Watt-Roy
Drums – Ron Prudence
Organ, Harpsichord – Mick Deacon
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Percussion – Tex Phillpotts
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – Ian Aitchison
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Percussion – Dick Hanson
Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Garth Watt-Roy
Vocals, Flute, Acoustic Guitar – Colin Horton-Jennings
We reach the end of this review, appropriately with the band that gave the label its name. Keyboard player Woolly Wolstenholme remembers: “When we arrived at EMI in Manchester Square there was no such thing as Harvest Records and when we met Malcolm Jones he was still looking for a name. ‘Any ideas gratefully accepted’ – of course we went for the jugular and suggested ‘Harvest – a feast of good things…’”. If you have not guessed it yet, this was Barclay James Harvest who in 1970 released their debut album with the label.
The band is well known for its full adoption of orchestral arrangements as an integral part of their music. Woolly Wolstenholme: “I wasn’t the instigator in heading in an orchestral direction, but I did embrace it wholeheartedly. Rather than dabble with it, I was totally convinced by the possibilities of orchestrating our music and saw it as the way forward.”
The orchestral arrangements were written by Robert Godfery. Wolstenholme continues: “Robert was a wunderkind from the Royal College. He thought he could realize his ambition of arranging and conducting an orchestra through us and offered to write arrangements and to assemble the musicians for an orchestra.”
My favorite song on the album is the track Dark Now My Sky. The song started as a three and a half minute ballad and developed into the 12-minute orchestral rock epic that closes the album. Wolstenholme: “When I came to record the spoken word Shakesperian introduction to Dark Now My Sky, I dressed in a cape with artificial hump on my back just to get into the spirit of the proceedings!”
The lyrics are influenced by the book The Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Excellent electric guitar by John Lees and of course, that mellotron by Wolstenholme.
John Lees – vocals, guitars, recorder
Les Holroyd – vocals, bass guitar, guitar, cello
Stuart “Woolly” Wolstenholme – vocals, mellotron, keyboards, guitar, harmonica
Mel Pritchard – drums, percussion
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, 1970 was a very productive year for Harvest Records. While not reviewed here, other records released by the label that year are worth listing:
- Ron Geesin & Roger Waters – Music from The Body
- Third Ear Band – Third Ear Band
- Quatermass – Quatermass
- Tea & Symphony – Jo Sago A Play on Music
- Dave Mason – Alone Together
- Chris Spedding – Backwood Progression
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also like this one about another wonderful progressive label in 1970:
Categories: A Year in Music