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Bullinamingvase—9

 

Released: 1977

 

1) One Of Those Days In England Part 1  2) These Last Days  3) Cherishing The Lonesome  4) Naked Flame  5) Waterford Gap  6) One Of Those Days In England Parts 2-10

Bonus Track:  7) Breakfast With You 

 

Roy Harper does pop.  Here Harper enters into the world of almost easy listening, mellow, cheerful music.  And he means it…this isn’t just product…he is genuinely happy on this album, and for good reason.  In 1976, he bought Vaulder Farm, a 20-acre working farm outside of Hereford, England, where he bred sheep.  Not just some hippie joke, Roy took the daily running of his business seriously, and was even featured in “Farmer’s Weekly” for his labor and praised for his prize livestock.  Living and working on the land brought a joy in Harper he had not known before and the joy carried over onto “Bullinamigvase,” much of which was actually recorded at the farm in his spare time. 

 

Harper’s usual musical gifts are thrown out the window in this atmosphere as the album lacks tension and the insanity that is Roy.  Instead “Bullinamingvase” presents a slick and commercial sound completely different from previous albums.  This sound is achieved with Harper recording much of the album with members of Wings (Paul McCartney’s backing band).  Paul and Linda themselves, even sing background vocals on the album’s first track (giving Roy a rare Top 50 hit). 

 

The entire album actually does sound A LOT like a Paul McCartney album (all be it with far superior lyrics).   One Of Those Days In England Part 1” opens the album with an incredibly catchy tune.  Without a doubt this is a well-crafted little song, but it just feels so glossy compared with Harper’s previous, more serious sounding efforts.  I honestly can’t believe Sir Paul didn’t write this song…it is that melodic and poppy (Alvin Lee of Ten Years After also guests on guitar on the tune, while Ronnie Lane handles the bass playing).  These Last Days” follows, but hardly returns us to the Harper of old.  In fact, hardly any of the songs on the album have any bite whatsoever.  The tension that is synonymous with Harper’s music is missing in most of the offerings featured on this recording.  Not that this makes any of these songs bad…it just means that this album is as big a shift in Harper’s style as you could imagine.  These Last Days” is slow, tranquil, and is so McCartney it should be a Wings track. 

 

Beginning with a haunting acoustic intro, “Cherishing The Lonesome,” seemingly is Harper acting more like himself, but this is just an illusion.  This isn’t old Harper; it is Harper interplaying his familiar style while experimenting with a new sound.  The song is captivating, contemporary and an album highlight—one of Roy’s all-time best tunes.  Naked Flame” is a happy sounding acoustic song—bouncy and cheery with a very catchy melody.  The lyrics though betray the atmosphere as they tell the tale of a broken relationship.  This is another excellent song, although slightly too long.  Wartford Gap” brought “Billinamingvase” into the news.  This minor country song with a sing-along chorus featured the line “Watford Gap, Watford Gap, plate of grease and a load of crap.”  This apparently pissed off the owners of the service station the song was referring to and was pulled from the album after the first pressing.  The tune fits the mood well, although is nothing more than filler.  Breakfast With You” replaced “Wartford Gap” on the album and is included on the CD reissue as a bonus track.  It has a nice grove, an even better guitar solo, and sounds nothing like Roy who has called it a "piece of pap."  It is pretty cool nonetheless, particularly for a throwaway tune that was not even supposed to be included. 

 

The opening track on the album is actually just a shorter, single friendly version of the album’s magnus opus “One Of Those Days In England Parts 2-10.”  This 20-minute epic is fantastic.  Beginning with a slowly strummed, almost spoken intro and including the famous lines “[maybe the government is] saving me for the job of rolling spliffs for Captain Kirk,” the song deals with the ups and downs of historical and present England and sounds like Pink Floyd circa “Animals.”  It manages to be rock, folk, opera, country, distressing, touching, and amazing all at once.  There are so many musical changes that it never gets boring and this might be Harper’s masterpiece.

 

Bullinamingvase” took me a little while to appreciate as it was just so happy sounding and slick, but I eventually grew to love it.  It has a sound unfamiliar in Harper’s catalog but somehow manages to feel fresh, even 25 years after it was recorded.  This should not be your first purchase from Harper, as it is not representative of his sound, but when you do get around to hearing it, the album will be an intriguing change of pace.

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