Esoteric have released this re-mastered and expanded edition of Barclay James Harvest’s (BJH) album XII, which was the follow up to the successful Gone to Earth. The original release, on the Polydor label in 1978, helped to consolidate their success both here in the UK and Germany where they had a big following, achieving silver and gold discs respectively.
BJH were formed in the late sixties when two R&B bands from Oldham merged to create the Blues band The Blues Keepers; sponsored by local businessman (and manager) they practised extensively in a rented 18 Century farmhouse, eventually gravitating towards progressive rock and changing their name to Barclay James Harvest. BJH experimented with new forms of music, going beyond the guitar, bass and drums format to include strings, woodwind and brass, and to this end acquired a Mellotron to simulate these sounds.
There has always been some debate over the title XII, and what it meant, by a stretch it could be seen as their twelfth together, but the more commonly held explanation is that it marks their twelve years of making music together. However, this would turn out to be the last release before Woolly Wolstenholme packed up his Mellotron and left the band in June 1979, marking the end of one era of the band’s history.
Esoteric have done another excellent job with this three disc package. We have different mixes of the album across the two CDs, the original stereo mix and a new mix, and a DVD containing both of these plus a new 5.1 surround mix, with seven bonus tracks across the three discs. There is an excellent booklet with photos, and well written liner notes by Keith and Monika Domone, also included is a poster with a lyric sheet on the reverse.
Disc one contains the original stereo mix for the album, and to be honest it still sounds good. It contains some fan favourite songs, such as Berlin, In Search of England and Loving is Easy. Also included on this disc are five bonus tracks, including the rare single versions of Loving is Easy and Berlin, two first mixes of Turning in Circles and The Closed Shop and an ambient mix of Nova Lepidoptera, all of which are interesting but maybe for collectors only as they don’t appear to add anything new.
Disc two contains the new stereo mix, which I compared with the original on my Arcam system. The first noticeable thing is the volume of the mix, to achieve the same listening volume as the original I needed to turn things up a bit, not a bad thing as the overall sound is improved. The changes are subtle at first, but it becomes obvious that the vocals are cleaner and the separation of the instruments is a little more clearly defined. There is one bonus track on this disc, an alternate version of The Street of San Francisco. Overall this is a good re-master, which sounds good and is an improvement on the original without drastically altering things too much.
The DVD on the third disc contains a number of listening options; unfortunately I do not have a 5.1 system to hear the full benefit, but did listen to it through my Blu-ray player and Yamaha sound bar. The opening menu is easy to navigate giving you the option to choose between the new or original mix. The new mix offers three different options for listening, 96/24 Stereo LPCM, DTS 96/24 5.1 surround and Dolby AC3 5.1 surround, all offer great clarity and excellent separation between the instruments with a nice bass feel (although this may be due to the way my system is set up). Of the three new sound options the DTS came out top for me, followed as you would expect by the Dolby and finally the stereo mix. During play the TV screen shows the album artwork with in screen picture of various changing photos of the band. The sound quality is excellent, so I can only imagine what it would sound like on a full 5.1 system.
This is another interesting release from the BJH catalogue, an excellent package which should appeal to the fans, or to new listeners who like quality songs in a pop/prog sort of vein. I have enjoyed getting the chance to become more familiar with a later BJH album as I only have copies of their first four releases.
Disc One – Original Stereo Mix 24 bit re-master
01. Loving is Easy (4:05)
02. Berlin (4:58)
03. A Tale of Two Sixties (3:35)
04. Turning in Circles (3:33)
05. Fact: The Closed Shop (3:50)
06. In Search of England (4:18)
07. Sip of Wine (4:31)
08. Harbour (3:46)
09. Nova Lepidoptera (6:00)
10. Giving it Up (4:47)
11. Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco (5:49)
~ Bonus tracks:
12. Berlin (single version) (4:12)
13. Loving is Easy (single version) (3:46)
14. Turning in Circles (first mix) (3:32)
15. Fact: The Closed Shop (first mix) (3:50)
16. Nova Lepidoptera (ambient instrumental mix) (7:06)
Total time – 71:38
Disc Two – New Stereo Mix
01. Loving is Easy (4:33)
02. Berlin (5:15)
03. A Tale of Two Sixties (4:04)
04. Turning in Circles (3:33)
05. Fact: The Closed Shop (3:49)
06. In Search of England (4:25)
07. Sip of Wine (4:53)
08. Harbour (4:04)
09. Nova Lepidoptera (6:48)
10. Giving it Up (4:53)
11. Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco (5:54)
~ Bonus track:
12. The Streets of San Francisco (alternate version) (5:08)
Total Time – 57:19
Disc Three – DVD
New 5.1 Surround Mix, New Stereo Mix & Original Stereo Mix (96kHz/24bit)
01. Loving is Easy
03. A Tale of Two Sixties
04. Turning in Circles
05. Fact: The Closed Shop
06. In Search of England
07. Sip of Wine
09. Nova Lepidoptera
10. Giving it Up
11. Fiction: The Streets of San Francisco
12.The Streets of San Francisco (alternate version)
John Lees – Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Les Holroyd – Bass, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Banjo, Piano, Vocals
Woolly Wolstenholme – Keyboards, 12-string Acoustic & Electric guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Mel Pritchard – Drums & Percussion
Mike Timony – Cordovox (on The Closed Shop)
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings / Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: ECLEC 32563
Date of Release: 28th October 2016
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