In the previous article dedicated to the Harvest Records label, we focused on 1970 which was the most prolific year for the label in the 1970s with next to 30 albums released. 1971 was a more relaxed year for the progressive label, with about half the releases as the previous year, but it maintained a high standard and the music was no less adventurous and interesting. Here is a review of some of the albums from the Harvest catalog of 1971.
Pink Floyd, Meddle
We start with a bang and a classic album by a classic band. In 1971, after touring their first #1 album Atom Heart Mother, Pink Floyd were back in the studio with Harvest house engineer John Leckie. Recording dates stretched over most of the year and the result was the album Meddle, released in October 1971. The crown achievement of the album, and one of the band’s most loved performances, is the side-long epic Echoes. 23 minutes of bliss starting with the classic ‘ping’ sound, an amplified grand piano ran through a Leslie speaker. The band first played it live earlier that year at a gig in Norwich. It was then called “Return of the Son of Nothing.” Nick Mason: “Echoes in its developmental stage was a series of unconnected parts, each of which was labeled, from Nothing Part One to Nothing Part 36.”
John Leckie, sound engineer on that album, talks about Roy Harper’s influence on the band around that time: “I’m sure that one of the reasons that they did ‘Echoes’ was because of Roy Harper. They shared management with Roy, and he was a big mate of the band. He was always around and he was working on Stormcock. I’d worked with Roy and I think that played a big part in my being hired for Meddle.”
Richard Wright: “The classic seagull sound wailing from Gilmour’s guitar was actually a mistake. One of the roadies had plugged his wah wah pedal in back to front, which created this huge wall of feedback. He played around with that and created this beautiful sound.”
Roger Waters on the meaning of the lyrics: “Echoes was an attempt to describe the potential that human beings have for recognizing each other’s humanity and responding to it with empathy rather than antipathy.”
The original idea for the album cover by Storm Thorgerson was a close-up of a baboon’s behind where the sun don’t shine. ‘No’, said the band and proposed a photo of an ear underwater.
The source for the original lyrics as sang in early shows in 1971 comes from a poem from Mohammed Iqbal called “Two Planets”:
Two planets meeting face to face
One to the other cried ‘How sweet
If endlessly we might embrace
And here forever stay! how sweet
If Heaven a little might relent
And leave our light in one light blent!’
Richard Wright – Hammond organ, piano, Farfisa organ, co-lead vocals
David Gilmour – electric guitars, acoustic guitars, harmonica, lead vocals
Roger Waters – bass, acoustic guitar and lead vocals
Nick Mason – drums, percussion, vocal phrase
Roy Harper, Stormcock
We naturally move from Pink Floyd to a fantastic musician mentioned above by engineer John Leckie, a friend of the group and future collaborator Roy Harper. In 1971 he released his milestone album Stormcock, to which I dedicated an article:
Roy Harper’s title for the album is an old English name for the mistle thrush, a bird popular in European countries. The male has a curious habit of singing during bad weather, hence the name Stormcock.
My favorite track on the album is Me and My Woman, a 13-minute long and complex song with multiple parts. For me it is Roy Harper’s finest moment where the composition, performance, arrangement and recording quality all come together magically. Harper uses the studio very effectively with multiple tracks of vocal harmonies, guitar parts and tasty effects on the vocal tracks. Most striking is the superb orchestral arrangement by David Bedford. The strings and horns not only accompany Roy Harper, they play counter melodies, sometimes with short bursts of horns and at other times with lush string passages. Bedford: “It’s rather like an opera. The themes and the basic riff keep recurring. I decided to give the verses a kind of baroque feel, then have these big sweeping strings for the chorus to differentiate the two. Me and My Woman was almost three songs fused together”.
Roy Harper – vocals, six and twelve-string acoustic guitars, piano
David Bedford – Hammond organ, orchestral arrangements
Jimmy Page (credited as “S. Flavius Mercurius”) – acoustic guitar on “The Same Old Rock”
Barclay James Harvest – Once Again
The band that gave the label its name followed up on their 1970 debut and released two albums in 1971, the first of them Once Again. This was the last album to benefit from the wonderful orchestrations that Robert John Godfrey (who later formed The Enid) created for their songs.
A long-time favorite track from this album and a mainstay in their live performances is Mocking Bird, written by guitarist John Lees back in 1968 while he was living with the parents of his future wife, Olwen. The song was also released as a single.
The album was produced by Norman Smith, famed engineer of early Beatles albums, and recorded at Abbey Road studios. Melody Maker in a magazine review that makes you none the wiser with a bombardment of nouns and adjectives: “A swirling sea of delicious songs penned without complexity, with a simplicity that is above all delightfully musical. Mocking Bird contains all that’s needed in subtlety and instant color.” At least it was favorable.
The album cover was designed by Latimer Reeves, based on an enlarged section from the cover of the band’s debut album. Open the gatefold and voila! Nice trick.
John Lees – vocals, guitars
Les Holroyd – vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards
Woolly Wolstenholme – vocals, mellotron, keyboards
Mel Pritchard – drums, percussion.
The Barclay James Harvest Symphony Orchestra
Orchestra Leader: Gavyn Wright
Conductor and Musical Director: Robert John Godfrey
Alan Parsons – jaw harp on “Lady Loves”
The Edgar Broughton Band
We seem to have an orchestral theme as a thread so far in this article, so lets continue with another one, again featuring composer David Bedford. We are talking about The Edgar Broughton Band’s self-titled third album. Bedford collaborated with the band a year before on the song Up Yours!, a satire about the General Election and British Government. The band, never shy from making a political statement, received no airplay for that song, but got a fine and uncharacteristically bombastic arrangement from Bedford.
Their third and self-titled album includes a couple of songs with arrangements by Bedford. One of them is Evening Over Rooftops, with Bedford contributing a dramatic opening for strings that sets the tone to a fantastic song.
Edgar Broughton remembers David Bedford: “He was a proper musician with certificates and things and it was nice to have him arrange strings and go and conduct them down at Abbey Road. David never patronized us even though he was a serious musician.”
The cover art by Hipgnosis is known to fans of the band as “The Meat Album” for obvious reasons. Vegetarians – stay away from the cover, but listen to the music, it is great.
Edgar Broughton – vocals, guitar
Arthur Grant – bass guitar, vocals
Steve Broughton – drums, vocals
Victor Unitt – guitar, harmonica, piano, organ, vocals
Michael Chapman – Wrecked Again
1971 saw the last album Michael Chapman would release on Harvest. Like its three predecessors, Wrecked Again was a commercial failure due to lack of appetite from the label to promote it. Chapman on the end of his contract with Harvest: “The Deal with Harvest run out and that was it, nobody asked me to stay, so I went.” However this is a fine album that saw the talented singer songwriter and guitar player back in form after the third album Window that he later disowned.
The album was produced by Gus Dudgeon of Elton John fame and features another frequent collaborator of Elton John from that period, the excellent orchestrator Paul Buckmaster. A number of songs, like Aviator from Chapman’s first record on the label, Fully Qualified Survivor, benefit from a dramatic orchestration. Chapman remembers: “I was pleased with the recording of Wrecked Again, but went away for a few days. I had spoken to Gus about putting brass on a couple of tracks – nice dry ‘Otis Redding’ sounding brass. When I got back I got a call saying Gus was in Air studios putting the brass on. ‘Do you want to go down?’, ‘Of course!’ – to find the entire fucking LSO including a bloke playing what seemed to be a cookhouse boiler with a lid which went up and down when he hit a bass note. Forty people playing – not Otis but wonderful.”
Accordion – Jack Emblow
Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Michael Chapman
Backing Vocals – Albert Hammond, Claudette Houchen, Liza Strike, Neil Lancaster
Drums, Percussion – Pique Withers
Bass – Rick Kemp
Lead Guitar – Ray Martinez
Here is Fennario, a fantastic song from that album with the orchestra adding a great dramatic element:
The Move – Message from the Country
Another musical entity to release a final album with the label is The Move, although this one is a transition from one band to another. In 1971 band leaders Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne had already decided to split from The Move together with drummer Bev Bevan and form a new group called Electric Light Orchestra, incorporating strings as an integral part of the group instrumentation. They signed with Harvest, who asked them to release one last album as The Move, a name that guaranteed some chart success. The Move’s final album Message from The Country was recorded at the same sessions as ELO’s debut, and they share many similarities. To differentiate between them, the band members decided to keep the strings-oriented songs on the ELO release.
The two brilliant songwriters shared similar sentimentalities when talking about that album. Roy Wood: “In order to alleviate the extra pressure of forming ELO, we decided to take it easy, experiment and just have fun making the Move album. This for me made the recording of Message from the Country a very enjoyable experience.” Jeff Lynne: “All these tracks were primarily great fun to do. It was all about experimentation, weird stuff, and being silly – like using the lyric sheet as a percussion instrument (triple tracked of course).”
Roy Wood – lead and backing vocals, guitars, steel guitar, recorders, bass, clarinet, bassoon, tenor and baritone saxes, percussion
Jeff Lynne – lead and backing vocals, guitars, piano, percussion, Wurlitzer electric piano, tack piano, Moog, percussion, drums on “My Marge”
Bev Bevan – drums, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals on “Ben Crawley Steel Company”
Here is the title track, and no, it is not an ELO album:
Electric Light Orchestra
For the last album in this review we naturally move to The Move’s sister album, Electric Light Orchestra’s debut. We discussed the shared recording sessions, so lets focus on the album opening track, the magnificent 10538 Overture. That track perfectly announced ELO and their fresh sound to the world.
The main songwriters talk about the track:
Jeff Lynne: “I think it was during the ‘Message’ sessions that I came up with 10538 Overture and Roy became brilliant on the cello. That magic combination was all we could have wished for and we loved it and played it back eight thousand times. It became the first-ever ELO song. Roy was becoming an amazing multi-instrumentalist. If you could blow it, pluck it or bow it, Roy could play it.”
Roy Wood: “After recording the basic backing track, the other guys went home, leaving Jeff and myself to run riot with the overdubs. At the time I was very keen on collecting instruments, and had just acquired a cheap Chinese cello. I sat in the control room trying this cello and sort of messing around with Jimi Hendrix type riffs. I ended up recording about fifteen of these, and as the instrumentation built up, it was beginning to sound like some monster heavy metal orchestra. In fact, it sounded just Bloody Marvelous.”
Jeff Lynne – vocals, piano, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion, bass, Moog synthesizer
Roy Wood – vocals, cello, classical acoustic guitar, bass, double bass, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, recorder, slide guitar, percussion, bass clarinet, krumhorn, drums on “The Battle of Marston Moor”
Bev Bevan – drums, timpani, percussion
Bill Hunt – French horn, hunting horn, piccolo trumpet
Steve Woolam – violin
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Categories: A Year in Music