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Barclay James Harvest Caught Live DVD

Barclay James Harvest Caught Live DVDFormed in 1967, Barclay James Harvest were one of the bands at the forefront of the then new music scene, moving away from rock and roll and the short song/single syndrome into the era of album oriented melodic/classical rock.  Their music has a distinct sound, as did that of most of the album based bands evolving in the late sixties and early seventies, but to generalise, could be described as falling somewhere between The Moody Blues and The Strawbs due to their orchestral approach and extensive use of the progger’s favourite – the Mellotron.

Classic Pictures Entertainment has uncovered Caught Live, a rare ‘rockumentary’, originally a cinema release, recorded in 1977 depicting life on the road during BJH’s most successful period.  The film features interviews with the band in their home town of Saddleworth (which hasn’t changed a lot over the past 25 years, incidentally), during their 1977 European tour (backstage, on the tour bus etc.) interposed with live performances of many well known tracks including Child Of The Universe and the famous (or should that be infamous – I’ll explain later) Mockingbird.  In addition, there are shots of setting up and dismantling the equipment, the ubiquitous Edwin Shirley Trucking vehicles not to mention sound checks.  The amusing highlight is where the support act has failed to turn up and due to lack of time to find a suitable replacement, talented roadie Trevor Warman is asked to fill the spot to which his first words are “How much?”  So Trevor armed with acoustic guitar and chair takes to the stage and pulls off a highly professional performance in front of the German audience.  Total running time for this part of the DVD is around 55 minutes.

But that’s not all.  The DVD also contains rare and previously unreleased footage of a concert recorded live in 1974 at The London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, highlights of which have to be Mockingbird and The Great 1974 Mining Disaster.  A superb performance by this long running band, this part of the DVD runs for about 23 minutes.

Other extras include well-written band member profiles and band biography, and a full discography.  Both the profiles and bio make mention of Robert John Godfrey who was at one time BJH’s ‘Resident Musical Director’.  The bio also mentions the long running legal action that RJG brought against the band culminating in a court hearing in 1994.  I interviewed RJG in 1994 during which this subject cropped up.  The action was brought as a result of a dispute as to RJG’s input and right to be co-credited with the authorship of Mockingbird, thus the reference earlier.

Technical Aspects

Sound quality is disappointing, as the 25-year old film copy that was recently discovered (and is the only known copy of this historic footage still in existence) needed a lot of restoring. Nevertheless, the picture quality is very good, and it is fair to say that overall, Classic Pictures have come up trumps.  Though the poor sound is obvious at the start it became less significant as I became absorbed in the performance.

Package features

The DVD has a fully animated menu (note, the Drury Lane concert is in the Extra Features section) and consists of the main feature film, Caught Live, The Drury Lane concert footage, band biography, band member profiles, discography, and sound settings.

The inside of the DVD tray provides full track listing of both concerts.

The DVD is multi-region PAL format, 4:3 screen ratio, with Dolby© Digital 5.1 and selectable Dolby© Digital stereo.  The total running time including extras is 85 minutes.  Release date 11th March 2002.

Summary

So many recordings of live performances have been lost over the years.  It is reassuring to find a company that is determined to uncover these lost gems, carefully restoring them and releasing them on DVD for nostalgic music lovers of which I am but one.  The music may sound dated to some ears but that is mainly due to the instruments used in that magical era of prog.  Waves of Mellotron, double neck guitars, long hair and haunting melodies are captured for posterity.  A must have for fans of both BJH and the genre in general.

Jem Jedrzejewski

Barclay James Harvest website

Classic Pictures Entertainment website

 

 

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