Nick Harper: The Wilderness Years Volume 2

The troubadour’s finest tunes, finally whacked on wax.

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Concerned that none of his work had ever been released on vinyl, Nick Harper set about handpicking some of his own highlights.

Those here come from albums released between 2003 and 2008, and make for a brilliant cross-section of his idiosyncratic approach to making music. 2 Secs shares some similarities in approach to Jeff Buckley circa Grace. It’s beautifully sung with Harper’s voice climbing up into falsetto among dazzling acoustic guitar flourishes; makes you wonder if he’d have achieved more mainstream success if he’d stuck to that approach. But then he has many things to say and different ways of saying them. His mordant sense of humour emerges on the sex addict’s lament, Foreplay-Love Junky, a full band number which jumps around stylistically. With an irresistible momentum, By My Rocket Comes Fire is a delicious tale of a “mid-life cyclist” in the gym fighting aging with grit and self–delusion. The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold finds Harper transported into a medieval tournament, the surreal goings on reminding of the escapades in early Dylan songs. And he’s just as adept at writing disarmingly direct love songs, like the twin cris de coeur, Stronger and Lily’s Song.

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.