Watch: Barclay James Harvest Berlin DVD

 

The UK prog legends hop in the wayback machine to 1980
for Berlin –
A Concert for the People, out now on Eagle Vision.

 

By Lee Zimmerman

A band whose legacy has been all but lost to the ages,
Barclay James Harvest is in fact an outfit worth a recall. Prog rock in the
classic sense, they came of age in the late ‘60s, a time when others of their
ilk flourished and won the hearts and turntables of FM deejays everywhere. Sadly,
their cult following was confined to only a small circle of ardent admirers,
precious few of whom were spawned on this side of the Atlantic.
The band parodied their status on their signature song, “Poor Man’s Moody
Blues,” but in truth, their longing laments, swirling keyboards, grandiose
arrangements and lofty intents failed to secure them their own individual
niche.

 

Still, despite their relative obscurity, Barclay James
Harvest produced a consistent catalogue bolstered by beautiful melodies and
effusive sentiments. The relative indifference of the world at large aside,
they managed to find an appreciative audience in some sectors, Germany
in particular. Consequently, the massive free concert documented in this DVD,
filmed before an estimated 250,000 appreciative fans in 1980 (well before the
Berlin Wall came down), provides a remarkable document of both historical and
musical proportions.

 

 

That said, there’s little in the way of a back story – only
a scant few glimpses backstage before the extravaganza begins – but once onstage,
the band literally looks like it’s suspended in space. Scattered scenes of the
crowd sprawled in front of the Reichstag, the imposing German parliament
building, intermingled with close-up shots of the band going through its paces
and extraneous nature views provide the scenic set-up, but it’s the vibrant
repertoire, sweeping in its grandeur and rife with platitudes, that creates the
most indelible impression. Only nine songs from the actual concert are included
– a miniscule representation of their expansive catalog -but the rollicking
“Loving Is Easy,” a jocular “Sip of Wine” and the ethereal anthems “Child of
the Universe,” “Hymn” and “Nova Lepidoptera” convey their distinctive sense of
drama and spectacle.

 

Five bonus videos taken from their landmark mid ‘70s album Time Honoured Tales provide worthy
add-ons, with the clever – and moving – “Titles” being chief among them. A
paean to the Beatles, it strings together the names of some of the foursome’s
most beloved songs – “Long and Winding Road,” “Let It Be,” Lady Madonna” etc. –
and creates a sincere tribute as inspiring as anything in either band’s
collective catalogues. Like the rest of this sumptuous offering, this song in
particular offers all the evidence necessary that Barclay James Harvest are due
a new refrain .

 

 

 

 

 

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