1) The Game
2) The Spirit Lives 3) Grown Ups Are Just Silly Children 4) Referendum
5) Forget Me Not 6) Hallucinating Lights 7) When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease
Sometime in mid
1975, Harvest label mega sellers, Pink Floyd, were recording their follow up to “Dark Side of the Moon”
in Abbey Road Studios. For some reason, Roger Waters couldn’t get a take
on the song “Have A Cigar” that Floyd thought had the right attitude.
They really wanted a new voice…not part of the band, and so David Gilmour brought in his pal and label mate,
Roy Harper to sing lead. Harper flat out nailed the song and Pink Floyd’s
new album, “Wish You Were Here,” went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide. With Led Zeppelin asking him to open some shows for them and then naming a song after him previously, and
now guest appearing on a Pink Floyd album, Roy Harper was set to take the world by storm.
All he needed was a hit album…an album that would rocket him to stardom.
should have been that album. Despite previously having made acoustic records
that were clever, challenging, amazing, catchy, and heartfelt, Roy changed his sound drastically for this new recording. Apparently taking his cue from playing with Jimmy Page, Ronnie Lane and Keith Moon
on various shows and studio recordings in ‘73 and ‘74, Harper decided to form his own band called Trigger, made
up of Chris Spedding on guitar, Dave Cochran on bass, and former Yes and King Crimson member Bill Bruford on drums. With this new band, Harper set out to make a more rocking, and hopefully, more commercial record.
Strangely, the first track
on the album, “The Game,” is not Trigger at all. Harper still
fronts a band though…in fact it is a Supergroup: David Gilmour plays lead guitar, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones
plays bass, Chris Spedding adds further guitar work, and Edgar Broughton Band alumnus, Steve Broughton, handles the drumming. The song itself is over thirteen and a half minutes long and has parts that are very
well done, but ultimately leaves me unmoved. The main riff is a great hard rocker,
and the song goes through many musical changes, even having a Mexican vacation like section about ten minutes in…the
lyrics, dealing with the various problems of government, society, and personal relationships, are some of Harper’s most
focused and brilliant…the singing is typically tremendous…and the band, obviously, is talented…but something
is just lacking. Make no mistake about it, this is still a very good tune (and
one that might just be Harper's personal favorite), but it isn’t as instantly ear catching as some of his other long
cuts, and it just seems the band never came together to hit its stride.
Spirit Lives,” by contrast, has the feeling that “The Game” didn’t. The members of Trigger seem to mesh well and really hit a good grove with fine slide guitar work and a
biting closing solo, forming Harper’s greatest rock song. The lyrics here
are controversial, dealing with religion and government being instruments of control, and include lines such as “Goodness
lives where God is dead,” and “Love is the greatest triumph over Christianity.” In fact the original title of the song was “God Is Dead.” I, for one, happen to agree with what Harper is saying and consider this some of the best words he has
come up with…combine that with a great rock melody and this is just a tremndous song.
“Grown Ups Are Just Silly Children” is Harper doing Elvis.
The song is a rolling, old school, 1950s rocker. It isn’t a song
for the ages or anything, but it is fun and happy, and if Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
was a hit, why wasn’t this? This could have been the single that broke
the band, but somehow wasn’t.
is a major piece of work that apparently picks up where “Legend” from “Sophisticated Beggar”
left off. Trigger, again, hit on something here…they really were a tight
band. The song could have been good with just Harper strumming an acoustic, but
Trigger turn it into a lost hard rock anthem. “Forget Me Not”
features only Harper and is a standard ballad for him: great guitar, a nice melody, and well done. Not amazing, but still beautiful. “Hallucinating
Light” features Trigger in a mellower mood. Another ballad, this though
has more feeling behind it, with a great church organ backing. Harper genuinely
sounds in love and the tune is slow, but touching.
The closing track, “When
An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease,” is a very emotional song using a retiring cricket player as a metaphor for
life. I have never seen a cricket match in my life, but the tune really does
sound majestic. If it were about American football or baseball I’d relate
better, but as it is, I’m near in tears every time I play it. I lived in
England for over a year while I was a teenager, and this song is just so English…I couldn’t think of a better
tribute to a sports star, or really…being a sports lover in England. Plus
the orchestration is sublime and the tune is gorgeous making it one of Harper’s best.
Perhaps it was the anti-religious lyrics that turned
people away…or the cover created by Pink Floyd’s designers, Hypgnosis, which depicts Harper walking on water. Or maybe it was just Roy Harper’s lot in life.
Some acts shoot to superstardom with hardly any talent at all, and others, overflowing with talent can’t ever
catch a break. Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for you to overlook it
now. Based on his song analysis book, "The Passions of Great Fortune," this is
probably Harper's favorite album he recorded, and it is without a doubt, an excellent piece of work that
shows Harper in a more rocking light.