Barclay James Harvest : Rainbow
Ever since that group recorded Sergeant Pepper in 1967, there have been many excursions into art-rock, the fusion of conservatoire style in instrumentation with the electronics and idioms of pop. Deep Purple, Procol Harum, The Nice, and currently the Who, have had varying degrees of success with the risky mating of styles.
It is a pleasure to report that the quartet Barclay James Harvest gave a superb example of this fusion music at the Rainbow Theatre on Sunday night, working with an orchestra of 46 conducted by Mertyn Ford.
Even alone, BJH uses effects and tonal colouration very imaginatively. Woolly Wolstenholme plays electric piano, the Mellotron (a prerecorded tape console), and the Moog Synthesiser, making him virtually a one-man orchestra. Add to this the work of John Lees, Mel Pritchard and Les Holroyd, and the foursome comes on like a legion. Then add 10 brass and 36 string players and you can imagine what swirling climaxes and vibrant tapestries were created.
The nine works offered varied widely in scope and design. Mostly, however, one got the impression of a series of tone-poems that could be vaporous and bucolic one moment and turbulently contemporary city music the next. Surely this band and its orchestra are destined to leave a mark on the history of music, both pop and classical. Two supporting acts, Camel and Spirogyra, opened the ambitious programme, which was also augmented by an excellent light show. All told, quite an exciting evening for the 2,300 listeners.
Thanks to John Lock for locating this article, Jill McMahon for typing it
More mentions of Procol Harum in The Times
Procol Harum at the Rainbow with orchestra, three months earlier