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Starting Point
Flat Baroque and Berserk9
 
Released: 1970 

1) Don't You Grieve  2) I Hate The White Man  3) Feeling All The Saturday  4) How Does It Feel  5) Goodbye  6) Another Day  7) Davey  8) East Of The Sun  9) Tom Tiddler's Ground  10) Francesca  11) Song Of The Ages  12) Hell's Angels

 

The Seventies started with Roy joining a new label, Harvest Records, a subsidiary of the enormous EMI, meaning Harper was to record in the famed Abbey Road Studios and work with such talent as Pink Floyd producer Peter Jenner.  Jenner was able to really capture Harper’s music and this is the first album of his that sounds absolutely professional.  Roy takes advantage of this opportunity by creating a stellar acoustic album, one of the most consistently amazing in his catalog.  But give it time to settle in on you before making a judgment…          

 

Don’t You Grieve” is a song written from Judas Iscariot’s perspective in his betraying Christ, but portrays Judas as just doing what he was supposed to do.  It has a bouncy rhythm and is catchy as hell—a definite highlight.  I Hate The White Man,” Roy’s most infamous tune, begins with a long spoken introduction about the difference between rich and poor countries in front of seemingly small, live audience.  Harper seems sullen and a little bonkers in this speech, but the tune itself is pure magic.  A long, political, passionate masterpiece, this tune is clearly one of Harper’s best.  “Far across the ocean in the land of look and see…” What a great way to begin a tale insulting a whole race.  Like most protest songs, it is too long, and isn’t something you can listen to over and over again, but the melody is excellent, his singing is downright moving, and the tune manages to keep me utterly entranced.  What makes it so righteous is that at the end he ties himself in with those he hates.  This is just ballsy, confident and pure Harper.

 

Feeling All The Saturday” is a nice, under two-minute, lazy folk-song, which, in a child’s sing-a-long melody, perfectly evokes Saturdays.  Like most songs on this album (and in his career in general), there is more hurt in the lyrics than at first glance.  How Does It Feel” is another political song that is way too long, but for those patient enough, is absolutely compelling in its simplicity…something like a much gentler and straightforward “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.”  Be sure to listen for the double-tracked guitar polishes towards the end, they are killer.  Goodbye” is weary and over five and a half minutes, but beautiful.  It is apparently Harper expressing his need to leave the music industry disguised as a lost love song.  Another Day” is…well…is just gorgeous.  Later covered by Kate Bush and by Peter Gabriel, the original version here contains elegant background strings, and is just so heartbreaking, it is crushing. 

 

Davey,” dedicated to Harper’s brother, has a slightly more sinister sound…it is extremely short, but cordial.  East of the Sun” isn’t much longer.  It has bookend harmonica solos and a nice melody, making it a charming little love song.  Tom Tiddler’s Ground” (apparently an English children's game similar to Freeze Tag in the States) starts with a conversation in the studio between Roy and Tony Visconti (later producer for David Bowie) whom the song features on recorder.  It is way too long, but lovely, and tells a nice story, obviously Dylanesque.  “Francesca” tugs at the heart.  It is short, but sweet, and should be about Harper’s daughter (if he has one), and if it isn’t…well, it is to me, so there.  It is just so gentle and inviting.  Song of the Ages” has sweet harmonics and is gorgeous.  After “I Hate The White Man” the album seems to be trying to kill you with its lazy charm.  Mellowing you to the point of exhaustion…and I was almost there…at that perfect “Pink Moon” point, when “Hell’s Angels” comes pouring in…  It always seems to get dumped on, and while it is completely out of place on this album (although it does stay true to Harper's tradition of ending his albums with a ridculous closing track), the song rules in its crazy organ fueled, electric rocking, lunacy.  Harper is backed superbly by the Nice (although not credited on the original release).  You gotta dig that guitar solo at the end when the bass leaves and then comes back in for more grooving…come on people, this is a sweet tune!  It ends abruptly with Harper’s manic, high laughter that is incredibly creepy and reminds us all that the man is insane.                     

 

Patience is the key.  Patience and repetition…yes this album is mostly slow and lazy, but it will suck you right in one day, if you give it the chance.  There is no filler…every song is good to great, but the uniformity might trick you into being bored.  Regardless of how you might come to feel about this album, the All Music Guide should be castrated for their reviewer ranking it as Harper’s second worst effort.  In fact…it is one of his best.  If you like acoustic folk music, this will be your new obsession for a few months.  A charming, beautiful album from a man on the verge of his masterpiece (Read on)…

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