BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
It may seem somewhat presumptuous, but in truth, it takes a title like Man & Myth to best describe Roy Harper, symbol of iconic insurgence and hero to such musical mainstays as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd (both of whom acknowledged Harper in their own recordings), as well as a host of millennials — Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart and Jonathan Wilson, among the many. A stern curmudgeon, unapologetic romantic and resolute anarchist, Harper created the blueprint for eccentric and eclectic British folk musings in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, decades prior to the quirky leanings of today’s so-called nu folk contingent. Harper’s output has been somewhat scattered of late — his last album, the dubious The Death of God, was released in 2005 — and the flashes of brilliance that characterised such seminal efforts as Lifemask, HQ and Valentine have been sadly scarce of late.
Not surprisingly, Man & Myth was, by Harper’s own description, four years in the making and, in a certain sense, payback by his keen disciple, the aforementioned Mr. Wilson, who co-produced the initial sessions in California. In many ways it resembles those early efforts of decades back, mostly a stark, steady strum accompanying Harper’s plaintive, slightly desperate rants and wail. Seven songs long, it offers the impression of one continuous tirade, despite the moments of sublime tenderness that illuminate tender courting tunes like “Heaven Is Here” and “The Enemy,” each of which bring to mind such heartfelt Harper ballads as “Commune” and “Another Day.” On the hand, Harper’s no stranger to rock — early albums employed the likes of Paul McCartney, Dave Gilmour, Jimmy Page and Keith Moon on various occasions — and when he quickens the pace and accelerates the intensity on the unceasingly urgent “Cloud Cuckooland,” it’s hardly surprising to find Pete Townshend joining in on the charge. A welcome, if somewhat belated return to form, Man & Myth can now be counted among Harper’s best.
DOWNLOAD: “Cloud Cuckooland,” “The Enemy,” “Heaven Is Here”