This is probably the last definitive studio album from British crossover prog outfit Barclay James Harvest.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Barclay James Harvest
ALBUM: River Of Dreams
SERIAL: 537 576 2
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Les Holroyd – vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards * John Lees – vocals, guitars, keyboards * Mel Pritchard – drums, percussion
Additional Musicians: Kevin McAlea, Colin Browne, Jeff Leach, Jonathan Musgrove
TRACK LISTING: 01 Back In The Game * 02 River Of Dreams * 03 Yesterdays Heroes * 04 Children Of The Disappeared * 05 Pools Of Tears * 06 Do You Believe In Dreams * 07 (Took Me) So Long * 08 Mr E * 09 Three Weeks To Despair * 10 The Time Of Our Lives
WEBLINKS: Site Link
This is probably the last definitive studio album from British crossover prog outfit Barclay James Harvest. Depending on who you talk to, the band have fans on two sides of the fence; those that love their overtly prog days from the 70’s, and those who love their melodic rock/near AOR style poking through on their 80’s and 90’s material.
For me personally, I was never much into their prog stuff; I found it all quite tedious really, as with much of the other overblown outfits from that era. When Barclay James Harvest proved they could eek out a bit of melody then I become interested; and when the songs become shorter and digestible it was easier to take more of a passing interest. Already we’ve had reviews of their 80’s albums plus 1993’s ‘Caught In The Light’, and though long-time prog fans will show disinterest and even hatred toward this album, then it’s their loss.
The track title ‘Back In The Game’ may seem a little prophetic, but Barclay James Harvest die-hards never really bought the concept ‘hook line and sinker’, as a return to their prog roots was never going to happen. For melodic rockers though, you’ll be at home here, particularly if you enjoyed their mid-late 80’s material.
‘River Of Dreams’ is the age-old story of ‘what might have been’, and all the bad choices that were made, and the consequences which followed.. ‘All that dirty water in the river of my dreams’. The song itself is driven by a sing-along vibe with the spaces filled in acoustic and lush organ parts.
‘Yesterdays Heroes’ reads as if it has a story to tell. This ballad is quite dark and has much in common with Magnum on their slower darker moments. It’s a long piece too at nearly 8 minutes. ‘Children Of The Disappeared’ features contrasting passages though never reaching a maximum crescendo. A ballad, it reaches and grabs without quite holding on for dear life.
‘Pool Of Tears’ is a pleasant pop/rock number which is straight-ahead in approach without offering up anything significant, apart from some nice synth parts here and there. Barclay James Harvest eventually revert to their prog origins with the effortlessly good ‘Do You Believe In Dreams (Same Chance For Everyone)’. The vocal harmonies are straight out of the Brit-pop scene and will appeal to many here.
‘(Took Me) So Long’ takes a leaf out of the book of Mike + The Mechanics without going overly commercial. ‘Mr. E’ is an intriguing tale of truth and lies, dreams and nightmares; hope and despair – which is essentially what this album is all about. Musically it’s quite a bright affair not quite the doom and gloom as offered up by the searching lyrics.
Lyrically, ‘Three Weeks To Despair’ takes the sad-sack story one step further; a tale of woe played out over a gentle back-drop. Chaps, what happened to the happy pills? I like the Mr Mister like keyboard motif to ‘The Time Of Our Lives’; it tracks all the way through, a song that is both acoustic and orchestral laden, and finishes up the album on a brighter and melodic note.
This would be the last Barclay James Harvest album to feature the definitive line-up Lees, Holroyd, Pritchard, so is a bit of an epitaph as such. Originally, ‘River Of Dreams’ was not released in the UK, for whatever reason. It did receive a reissue in 1999.
For me, it’s a pity the band had to opt out on a whimper rather than a full-blown pomptastic cloudburst. But then again, Barclay James Harvest have never been about overblown music, preferring instead to create textures and tapestries. For what it’s worth, ‘River Of Dreams’ does have the odd moment of intrigue. Let this one play in the background and see what stands out for you.