Album Review

Barclay James Harvest – Time Honoured Ghosts: Album Review

The expanded and remastered Time Honoured Ghosts – here’s Barclay James Harvest from 1975.

Release date: 24th September 2021

Label: Cherry Red Records / Esoteric

Format: CD + DVD

A band whose roots lay in Lancashire and whose major fanbase lay in European territories. Sent out West to record in America. What could possibly go wrong?

The Cherry Red/Esoteric remaster is chance for many of us to indulge in a bit of nostalgia from the era, if not the mid Seventies in general. Personally, it’s an album remembered for songs like Jonathan and the wordplay on Beatles songs in Titles. The latter at the time seemed quite clever to a youngster on a path of discovery although time might have been less kind.

In hindsight, Time Honoured Ghosts is an album of transition. The period heralded a trio of albums that followed from Everyone Is Everybody Else, often placing as one of the top ranked in fans polls and the rawer live sound immortalised on Barclay James Harvest Live (my copy still bears the ‘special double album set £2.94‘ sticker). Time Honoured Ghosts may not have that status, yet a quick search reveals the THG/Octoberon/Gone To Earth trio from 1975-1977 all feature in the top four on the http://www.bjharvest.co.uk poll. Go figure.

The contrast comes in the sweeter lushness that was a result of the environment that saw a shift towards the kind of laid back California sun drenched vibe that might be found on an Eagles album. An album that was the American experiment; recording in San Francisco with Elliot Mazer proving quite differnt to the rolling landscape of their home base in Saddleworth.

It’s an album too that follows the pattern of a John Lees song followed by a Les Holroyd song, equal opps and all, yet with some animals being more equal than others, there’s always one from Woolly Wolstenholme. Usually a track that was often the track that stood out from the more predictable and distinctive songwriting directions of John and Les, and in this case with Beyond The Grave, one that often proved an album highlight.

A reappraisal can often throw up some surprises. On Time Honoured Ghosts, it’s the nudge towards what a splendid track Song For You is. One that might have dissolved into the mists of time before returning to say “remember me?” which for once I didn’t so had the chance to enjoy the thrill of re-discovery. Forgive the tenuous comparison, but it feels like BJH do The Who; the stirring guitar chords and synth lines before the main ‘theme’ crashes in. One whose general ‘beef’ makes it sound more of a Lees song rather than a Holroyd tune.

Package wise, the cover is that lovely warm sunset that if anything is an iconic, bucolic BJH image, the would make its way into the classic trio of late Seventies albums. And there’s the shadow of the similarly iconic butterfly too. As usual, a few extras tempt the deeper fans into adding to their collection. The Child Of The Universe remake might not be essential, but the option to experience the 5.1 surround up-mix is much appreciated. A set of five promo films that I’ve certainly not happened upon before, or maybe just haven’t looked makes this very worthwhile for a fan who might have lost touch. A final mention to the album notes, where Keith and Monika Domone lend their expertise (they’ve done books on the band) also show that some thought has been put into making the set as close as to definitive.

Here’s In My Life from the album:

Barclay James Harvest: Website

John Lees’ BJH online: Website / Facebook

BJH featuring Les Holroyd online: Website

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