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thedreamsociety—8

 

Released: 1998

1) Songs Of Love  2) Songs Of Love Pt. 2  3) Dancing All The Night  4) Psychopath  5) I Want To Be In Love  6) Drugs For Everybody  7) Come The Revolution  8) Angel Of The Night  9) The Dream Scoiety  10) Broken Wing  11) These Fifty Years

 

Following “Death or Glory,” Roy Harper was in many ways a shattered man.  He took a six-year break from recording and used that time to grieve, to go on a spiritual vacation to India, and to try and come to terms with his broken life.  When he emerged from his self-imposed sanction, he began working on the most ambitious project of his entire career.  Harper set out to make an autobiographical concept album dealing with the various dreams we all have at different stages of our lives: from our parents’ dreams being passed on to us, to slowly forming our own childhood dreams, teenaged dreams, and even dreams into the second half of life.  Because it includes songs dealing with life’s stages, the album is an eclectic mix of emotions, and one of Harper’s most diverse and brilliant records.  Unfortunately though, every song is far too long, making “thedreamsociety” one of the harder Roy Harper albums to appreciate.    

 

The opening number, “Songs of Love,” deals with the dream of meeting a potential love.  Harper has claimed that the album starts with a guy/girl relationship because that is how all life starts.  The tune itself begins with a spirited acoustic guitar riff, soon transforming into a beautiful duet with Misumi Kosaka.  Her voice isn’t amazing, but its foreign sound adds to the eccentric mood of the album and helps to make the tune sound as hopeful as it does.  The subsequent, “Songs of Love Part II,” deals with what happens when you actually meet your significant other.  It is another duet with Kosaka, but this time, the backbeat is far more menacing and the riff more rocking.  At five-minutes, it is too long, but the track is still a very good Harper rocker, with the middle instrument section particularly shinning.  Portions of these two songs appear off and on throughout the record, apparently signifying that no matter what we end up believing, we always carry with us where we came from.      

 

The six-minute “Dancing All The Night” was written for Harper’s mother (who died from complications after having him) and is his childhood dream of dancing with her all the night.  The tune actually sounds like three different songs pieced together with the beginning Skiffle section being a happy sounding tribute to Harper’s first musical love.  It is fast paced, country rock fun, but soon the tune transforms into a solemn, acoustic lament.  The change is sudden, but the beauty of the acoustic section is striking and the lyrics are beyond touching: “I’ll forgive you for leaving me here, in this beautiful place…”  Strangely, the coda is a minute and a half long, quirky, Cha-Cha-Mambo, making “Dancing All Night” one of the most bizarre songs Harper has ever written, but also one of the most moving. 

 

The Skiffle music returns with “Psychopath,” but this time it lasts throughout the entire song.  The track is more of a teenaged, wanna-be-a-rock-star-dream, with Harper never having sounded this backwoodsy (and using the genre of music that was so big in Britain when he was growing up).  Only lasting three minutes, with its tongue in cheek lyrics and twangy guitar jaunt, this tune is all harmless hillbilly fun.  I Want To Be In Love” is a fine acoustic ballad with brilliant orchestration.  It is a song about desire…your first real, physical and emotional crush…with Harper sounding hurt, vulnerable, regretful, but still hopeful.  The coda is a captivating minute long, hypnotic Indian chant that strangely ends with Harper singing a verse from “Songs of Love.”  Drugs For Everybody” is a happy, boogie song, slightly too long, but with the infamous line, “With Hillary, ancillary, to make sure Bill remembers to inhale.”  It is actually an anti-drug, satirical song in which Harper questions a society that makes billions of dollars selling drugs to people so they can change who they are, but live longer being someone different.    

 

The next four songs deal with dreams of adulthood, gradually coming to terms with accepting who you are.  Come The Revolution” is the dream of many in their twenties, hoping for a better world.  It is the slowest track on the record, but does have a very pleasing melody and fine lyrics including the line “You’ll be in the trash along with Pink and Floyd and the illusion that money is a gas.”  The ending coda features an excellent slide guitar solo by Nick Harper and another hushed reference to “Songs of Love.”  Angel of the Night” deals with the regret of previous dreams…how when we get older, we almost become embarrassed by our former ideologies.  It is another good tune, much more hard rocking, with excellent electric guitar solos and a great groove.   

 

The Dream Society” was written after reading a biography of Sitting Bull.  The song deals with how perfect our dreams make society seem…how we can go to sleep tired and lost, but wake up refreshed and reborn.  It is atmospheric and moody as hell, with a gorgeous, but forceful acoustic melody and excellent vocals where Harper sings harmony with himself.  The ending is a great, slow build up, that slowly incorporates drums, bass, and electric guitars layered on top of one another.  Broken Wing” is much more tender.  It is a heartbreaking acoustic song dealing with a lost love and is simply stunning.  The violin fills sound like bird calls and are superb, and the song is one of Harper’s most absolute brilliant and beautiful of his career and the highlight of this album. 

 

The fifteen-minute epic, “These Fifty Years,” closes the album with a dream in which Harper and Thomas Huxley have a conversation with god.  Huxley was one of the first scientists to bring Darwin’s theories to the Church in the mid Nineteenth Century, despite personal attacks and a Church hearing—an event, which Harper claims, changed the Church forever.  The majority of the song is just Harper and his acoustic guitar, but there are other flashes of instruments here and there, with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson featured on flute, a fine piano, a church organ, and an orchestrated final four minutes.  The song is sleepy and monotonous, but the fascinating story lyrics keep you interested, with Harper telling his most current dreams of the second half of his life.  The coda rules with Harper’s voice and Anderson’s flute dueling back and forth and overall it is one of Harper’s more effective long suites, with his great humor in full force.

 

Some would say that this album is in major need of editing.  It is gorgeous, PACKED full of genius, and impressive to no end, but it is seventy-three minutes long!  Each tune could have been shortened by at least two minutes.  Still, there are just so many dazzling moments here, I get lost in its ambiance.  This is Harper’s most elaborate album and one of his most impressive.  It is not something that is easily enjoyed, you can’t start your Harper catalog with this record, but for veterans of his sound, it will become one of your most played and loved of his work.

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