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Valentine—9 
 
Released: 1974

1) Forbidden Fruit  2) Male Chauvinist Pig Blues  3) I'll See You Again  4) Twelve Hours of Sunset  5) Acapulco Gold  6) Commune  7) Magic Woman (Liberation Reshuffle)  8) Che  9) North Country  10) Forever

 

Valentine” is made up of the leftovers from “Stormcock” and “Lifemask.”  That simple fact is ludicrous any way you look at it…ludicrous because almost every song on this album can rival the best of each of those recordings.  It is utterly ridiculous that Harper had songs of this quality on top of two albums worth of material that most feel are his best offerings.  Despite being made up of outtakes, “Valentine” has a natural flow to it, as each of these songs center on different variations of love and different expressions on women.  Not necessarily politically correct, but always melodic, Harper delivers songs of forbidden love, one night stand love, unrequited love, parental love, and true love with his usual bravado.          

 

The opening tune, “Forbidden Fruit,” is just beautiful.  I love when harmonics are included in the general riff of a song, giving off that angelic sound.  Interwoven towards the middle and tail end is a children’s chorus, adding to the heavenly feel.  In truth though, this song might have a much eviler flavor. Reading the lyrics carefully seem to indicate that this is either about Harper being in love with a thirteen-year-old girl (which apparently Jimmy Page, his friend from Led Zeppelin, actually was at the time), or it was written from a perspective of a super sensitive teenaged boy longing after an unattainable love.  Not sure what to make of that information, but…oh well, the song is just plain charming.  Charm is most definitely not what Harper was after on the hard rocking “Male Chauvinist Pig Blues.” This sounds a lot like the Who and with good reason, as Keith Moon guests on drums and is his normal dynamic self.  Jimmy Page is also featured on guitar (actually only on the left speaker, while Harper, on bass and guitar, is on the right).  Overall it is a very good tune and proves Harper could be successful at fronting a rock band (perhaps giving him ideas for his next studio album). 

 

I’ll See You Again” deals with Harper loving a girl, but not being in love with her.  It is gorgeous, heartbreaking, and a very personal song for me having been in that terrible position once myself.  It truly is amazing how Harper is capable of writing such enchanting songs, while still giving them so much bite.  You’d think that with the subject matter, these songs would be all saccharine and lovey-dovey, but he just has this underlining tension that really makes his music unique.  Another great example of just what I mean is “Twelve Hours Of Sunset.”  I doubt a song can be written more atmospheric than this—moody, sweet, universal, and idiosyncratic all at once.  And yet, this is an enthralling love song…

 

Apcapulco Gold,” a piano based Tony Bennett like ballad, sounds like a million similar songs, but is unique in Harper’s enormous catalog.  He seems like a tired lounge singer here, and although filler, it is very suave filler about getting high.  Next up is “Commune…” Jeez, is there no end to this guy’s ability to write alluring love songs?  Harper claims it is one of his favorites, and there is no way it wouldn’t be as it is another absolute winner; as rhythmic and pleasing as any song he has recorded.  The background orchestration only adds to the drama and feeling.  Magic Woman (Liberation Reshuffle)” follows and at this point, I’ve got to ask, what the hell?  I keep waiting for a bad song…these ARE outtakes aren’t they?  But this is actually a great, battle of the sexes, temperamental tune with an excellent melody, intense lyrics, and a mood not found elsewhere on the album... Roy is pissed-off here.  The ending circus bit is stupid and does take away from the tune’s overall impact, but it still rules, and has some of Harper’s best guitar work on the album. 

 

Speaking of guitar, “Che” is an instrumental track dedicated to…well you guess.  Tim Walker joins Harper on guitar and they go on to produce a brilliant three-minute acoustic show.  Sounding distinctly South American, this is first rate.  Roy Harper’s version of the traditional “North Country” is next and has much better guitar playing and better singing than Bob Dylan’s version, but Dylan’s is the far superior tune.  Go figure.  The splashes of orchestration don’t work for me here, but it isn’t like a song of this caliber performed by Harper during his peek period is going to be bad… Roy closes out the album with “Forever,” a reworking of a song that originally appeared on “Sophisticated Beggar.”  This version is very similar, but is recorded, sung, and performed better.  I’m not sure why Harper decided to rerecord it, but I’m happy he did, as it turned a nice album track from his first album into maybe the highlight tune on one of his best albums.            

 

If “Stormcock” is just too challenging and “Flat Baroque and Berserk” too unvarying, then this might be the Roy Harper album for you.  For me it is his best album of traditional style songs and one of the most beautiful records I own, although Harper shockingly considers it to be ranked in the lower half of his albums.  Regardless, I guarantee that at some point in your life you have felt the way at least one of these songs describes, and if you are unlucky enough to relate to each of them, then we probably have more than liking this album in common.

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