This 2-CD/DVD release is a continuation of the Barclay James Harvest reissues done by the good people at Esoteric Recordings. This year alongside, Everyone is Everybody Else, they’ve reissued their eighth album entitled, Gone To Earth. Originally released in 1977 on the Polydor label, it was released at the time the Punk scene was happening as the music press derided prog as considering them as “Dinosaurs”. While their previous album, Octoberon was released and did well in the UK Top 20 and the tour was a success, it hit them on a low note.
John Lees was ill by this time as they were getting ready for the next tour in Germany. They started working on this album in March of 1977 with Mandalaband’s David Rohl co-producing on the album as they were recording it at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, England. They saw production in themselves when they did Octoberon and it gave some experience on what they want to do next.
When the album was released in the fall of that year, it was packaged in a beautiful cutaway design by Maldwyn Reece who suggested the album title based on a publication on Australian owls. And the album itself centers on the symphonic textures and from the late Woolly Wolstenholme’s keyboards, gives it more of the pastoral wonders. You have the song Poor Man’s Moody Blues.
Done in the style of Nights in White Satin, it was taken from a review that stung them as they were considered them, well you guessed it, a “Poor Man’s Moody Blues.” Even though it is a curious title, it would later become a fan favorite and one of the most popular songs in their career. I love how in the midsection that Lees guitar is shining like a glowing diamond and hitting those higher notes in the frets in the style of Justin Hayward and it’s a beautiful composition.
Lees’ composition of Love Is Like a Violin, shows the band’s romantic side featuring the string section from Wolstenholme and then goes into a rocking twist before going back into the ballad tempo while heading into a funky direction of a Hard Hearted Woman before seguing into the symphonic adventures that deals with the Space Race between the Russians and Americans of the Sea of Tranquility. The music really tells the story of the competition of setting the first man on the moon.
And the lyrics makes you wonder you are on a voyage to the moon to be the first small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind. The opener, Hymn, which would later receive a lot of airplay in Germany, sees John go into the acoustical textures. With background vocals, mellotron’s, and a horn section. I can hear some essences of Yes’ Wonderous Stories in the background and it is a beautiful song that deals with don’t take a risk of flying, because you might not come down.
The new stereo mixes along with the 5.1 mixes done by Craig Fletcher who also did Everyone Is Everybody Else does another amazing job. I can hear some bells coming in front of the song, Hymn followed by layered guitars coming front as with Lees voices in front for Love is Like a Violin as more keyboards flow into the light on the Sea of Tranquility.
There’s also the bonus tracks including the rocking punch with an AOR atmosphere in the styles of Foreigner’s Blue Morning, Blue Day of Loving is Easy in which it would later re-recorded for their ninth album, XII. And their country-rock essence which would be a B-Side an homage to the Eagles with Our Kid’s Kid.
There’s also Lied which was recorded during the sessions in 1977. It dealt with troubled relationships. It didn’t make it on the album due to some other competitions that needed to be on Gone to Earth. When the album was released, it made to number 30 in the UK charts in which it didn’t do well. But then something happened in Germany. They were getting word-of-mouth.
With the songs in the discos and the album boosted and selling over 250,000 copies, it showed that there was no stop sign. They did tours in Holland, Germany, and Switzerland to a sold-out performances. And they were in my opinion, the people’s band in Germany. Now I enjoyed Gone to Earth. Does that make me say I love this album? Not really, but there is some potential and knowing what they have accomplished to finally get some recognition.
The 20-page booklet contains liner notes about the making of the album and pictures of the performances they did in Europe along with promos and a 1977 Hannover poster on October 30th. This is another spectacular reissue that Esoteric Recordings have done. And I can’t wait to hear more of the BJH reissues with the next one of XII coming out at the end of October of this year.
A big hats off to Mark and Vicky Powell along with Keith and Monika Domone of the Barclay James Harvest fanclub and also, Craig Fletcher for the 5.1 mixes and the DVD authorization by Ray Shulman.