Thursday, July 12, 2012

THE PROGRESSIVE ROCK ENCYCLOPEDIA: B (Part.1)

                           TONY BANKS & BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST
    
                                BANKS TONY
  Tony Banks (born 1950) is a British composer and mainly keyboard/piano player.
He is primarily known for being the keyboardist & a founder member of Genesis.
He and Mike Rutherford has been members of Genesis throughout the band’s entire history.
   From his early years he received classical training in piano, and he taught himself to play guitar.
He met with Peter Gabriel in high School and together they formed a band named Garden Wall.
Later they merged with another band named Anon which included Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips. (The first drummer of Genesis) , and with the addition of Steve Hackett, Genesis were born.
   In the band he was the main composer, the keyboard/piano/organ player, and sometimes he contributed to the band with his 12-string guitar.  In very few occasions he was backing the vocalist as well.
   When P.Gabriel and St.Hackett quit the band, he was the first of the 3 remaining members to release a solo album. After him Phil Collins followed.
Unlike Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, who made significant success in their solo careers, Tony Banks solo albums achieved only modest sales.
   His solo releases consist of a few soundtracks for movies, a few pop-rock albums (In a couple songs Marillion’s former singer Fish is included), and a few classical albums.
  His most recent solo album was released last year, and it is entitled ‘Six pieces for orchestra’ performed by the ‘City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra’.
   Tony Banks lives with his wife Margaret (got married in 29/7/1972) south of London…

               
                      BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST
   Ah, one of my most beloved bands in general, but very underrated in Greece.
I think this will be a long one, so take a deep breath and start reading… :P
In my opinion their 40+-year-career consists of 4 major periods. Let’s name these periods now:
*The Early Years / The Barclay James Harvest Orchestra.
*Big Steps to success
*Going Downhill
*The deaths, and the split up in 2 bands
Ok, maybe I didn’t find any great names for these periods, but that was the best I could think of right now…
Let’s take the story from the start…
It was September of 1966 in Lancashire England, when John Lees, Les Holroyd, Stuart “Woolly” Wolstenholme and Mel Prichard decided to start a band under the weird name Barclay James Harvest.
Very soon (1968) they did manage to sign a contract with Parlophone for one single only, but after that they moved to the more progressive friendly Harvest label. (Harvest was a part of EMI).
Their first self titled album was released in 1970, gained very positive reviews, but failed in the market.
Their second album ‘Once Again’ (1971), gained good reviews once more, but again the sales were low.
This record contains many powerful and epic songs like “Song for Dying”, “She Said”, “Galadriel” and one of their most famous songs ever, “Mockingbird”. (‘Galadriel’ as you maybe understand was inspired from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R. Tolkien)
(At this point I have to mention that the band had, since the first record, the support of a full orchestra both in studio and live performances. In fact in some live recordings from their early days you may listen naming them ‘The Barclay James Harvest Orchestra’).
After the release of “Once Again” the band (and the orchestra) started their tour in order to promote the album.
In 1971 their third album comes out under the name “Barclay James Harvest and Other Short Stories”.
Again a very good album,which had the fate of the two previous ones.  After the release of this album and the tour that followed, they started having big problems with the record company.
The company was displeased with the very high cost of having a full time orchestra together with the band, whilst at the same time the sales of their records were very low.
So they decided to let them release one more record. If this album would fail as well, their contract would be over. Unfortunately the band was very tired from the many live shows and stressed at the same time, so their fourth album (Baby James Harvest - 1972) was probably the weakest of the first four. But again it contains some remarkable songs, like ‘Summer Soldier’ and the masterpiece ‘Moonwater’.
   After this album they moved from Harvest and signed a contract with Polydor.  The years of the Barclay James Orchestra had passed.  With their signing with the new company their fate changed immediately. The first album they released in Polydor (and 5th overall) (Everyone is everybody else - 1974), is considered their best artistic moment. Upon its release the album was very well received both from the critics and the radio stations, and the band was invited to BBC radio 1 for a session.
The sales were very good, and this album it is considered the turning point for the band on their way to the top. It contains 9 songs, almost all of them very good, and one of their biggest hits: “Child of the Universe”. With the release of their first live album in late 1974 they are closing their first period in the best way possible. “Barclay James Harvest Live” is an excellent double live record, and for the first time they entered the UK charts, toping at No.40.
Next year, "Time Honored Ghosts" is being released, a good album with a more “soft” sound that reaches at #32 in the UK charts. In 1976 they released the excellent “Octoberon” that reaches at #19 in UK, and made them very famous in Germany. “Octoberon” contains some very beautiful songs and a couple of new hits: ’Rock n’Roll Star’ and ‘Suicide’. (Speaking for myself the songs ‘The World Goes on’ ‘May Day’ and ‘Suicide’ are the best in this record).
But what they could not achieve in the last 9 years and with the release of 8 albums, they did with only one song! In 1977 they released “Gone to Earth” album, that contains the song ‘Poor Man’s Moody Blues’.
That song changed the status of the band in the music business forever, reaching at the highest positions of the singles charts all over Europe, and became a smashing hit!
The next year they released another double live album titled “Live Tapes”, and a few months later the album “XII”. After this album “Woolly” Wolstenholme quits the band to follow solo career for a while, before retiring from the music industry to pursue farming.
   The remaining 3 members decided to continue as a trio, with guest musicians. At the peak of their success they played at a free concert in front of Reichstag in West Berlin, in front of an audience of about 250.000 people. (30 August 1980). They were also the first western Rock band to play in an open air concert in pre-Glashnost East Germany, playing in Treptower Park in 14 July 1987 in front of 170.000 people.
   In the '80's and '90's they would be releasing records often enough, but the inspiration has gone.
In 1998 the musical differences between the members brought the band to an end. John Lees formed a new band called “Barclay James Harvest through the eyes of John Lees” that included also ‘Woolly’ Wolstenholme. Les Holroyd and Mel Prichard formed the band “Barclay James Harvest featuring Les Holroyd”.
   Mel Prichard died suddenly from heart attack in 2004. Woolly Wolstenholme suicided  in December 2010 having struggled with depression for many years.
The two remaining members continue releasing records every now and then, play live etc with their own bands, under the names I mentioned before.
   I have 2 videos for you here. In the first video is the wonderful 2-songs medley "The Poet & After the Day", and in the second one is the masterpiece "Moonwater", both with The Barclay James Harvest Orchestra. Sit back & close your eyes, open the volume, and let the music travel your mind...