John Lees’ modern-day line-up of Barclay James Harvest are doing anything but resting on the band’s laurels. After headlining the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2016 and a busy schedule since then, they have UK and European tours for the autumn of 2018. But there’s a particular date in the back pages of the progressive rock trailblazers that’s well worth marking in our reDiscovered albums series. It’s 14 June 1974, which marked the release of their fifth studio set, Everyone Is Everybody Else.
Barclay James Harvest had made their album debut exactly four years earlier, during their days on EMI’s Harvest label in the UK and Sire in the US, with a self-titled release in 1970. The quartet of Lees, Les Holroyd, Stewart ‘Wooly’ Woolstenholme and Mel Pritchard were critically admired in those early years, and a constant presence on the live circuit. But they wouldn’t feature in the UK album charts until they had left Harvest for Polydor, with a brief showing at the end of 1974 for the Live LP released by their new hosts.
Everyone Is Everybody Else was the album that preceded that, and with a new label came a new, and perhaps unlikely, production relationship. The band’s early releases had been produced by Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith, well known as the Abbey Road regular who engineered sessions by The Beatles, Pink Floyd and many others.
For the Polydor debut, BJH worked with Rodger Bain, whose background was less in their experimental, conceptual style and more in the hard rock arena of Black Sabbath. Bain produced that band’s first three albums in 1970 and ’71, including the classic Paranoid and its title track single. If the contrast didn’t necessarily make for the most harmonious sessions, Everybody… is nevertheless widely seen as one of the most accomplished in the Barclay James Harvest catalogue.
Lees wrote five of its original nine songs, including the anthemic opener ‘Child Of The Universe,’ and played some virtuosic guitar solos, notably on ‘For No One’ (no relation to The Beatles’ song). But there were also vital contributions from Holroyd and Pritchard, who wrote ‘Negative Earth’ and ‘Paper Wings’ together; Holroyd penned two more on his own.
One of these, ‘The Great 1974 Mining Disaster,’ bore a notable resemblance to elements of the Bee Gees‘ first UK hit single of seven years earlier, the story song ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941.’ The BJH version, described in their official biography as a “deconstruction” of the earlier hit, was written by Holroyd as a commentary on the real life miners’ strike which was looming large on the British political landscape at the time the band were making the album.
Woolstenholme’s writing contribution, ‘Maestoso (A Hymn in the Roof of the World),’ didn’t make the original album, but was included in the 2003 remaster, along with alternative mixes of other tracks from the ’74 release. But his keyboards and vocals were a key part of an album that showed BJH reaching a new level of sonic sophistication that would serve them well in the years to follow.
Purchase the remastered Everyone Is Everybody Else here.