Barclay James Harvest - Octoberon album review

One of BJH’s most enduring records

Cover art for Barclay James Harvest - Octoberon album

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Anybody who believes Barclay James Harvest were nothing more than polite progressive paragons should give this 1976 album a spin, because there’s depth, edge and humour here that delights and surprises.

The idea for the semi-mocking Polk Street Rag, for instance, came from the controversial movie Deep Throat, which you’d hardly expect to inspire such a band. But they tackle the subject with vigour. Ra is a dramatic piece based around the Egyptian sun god, borrowing a musical motif from Mahler. And May Day is a diatribe against political extremism and the bigotry it engenders – the track concludes with a choir singing six songs simultaneously, from Land Of Hope And Glory to The Red Flag and We’ll Meet Again. This brilliant device emphasises the confusion such views can sustain in the unwary.

Even the album title, which is a piss-take on Oberon, the Fairy King in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, underlines that there’s a lot more to the album than perhaps is clear at first glance.

This reissue has two CDs and a DVD, with new mixes. There are also two promotional videos and footage from an Old softwareuiphraseguid=“ea52f6e9-31a4-406e-b29d-7bf589ec6a51”>Grey Whistle Test performance.

A fine modern representation of an excellent album.

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021