Barclay James Harvest – Once Again remastered album box-set review

12 12 2022

Cherry Red are releasing a 3CD/Blu-Ray Remastered & Expanded version of Barclay James Harvest’s second album, Once Again on 27 January 2023.

Barclay James Harvest "Once Again" album cover


Originally released in February 1971, Once Again was recorded at Abbey Road studios and was produced by Norman Smith.

This new expanded edition features three CDs and an all-region blu-ray disc and comprises 44 tracks on the box-set. The set features the original UK stereo mix remastered from the original master tapes and also includes new 5.1 Surround Sound and stereo mixes by Stephen W. Tayler, a new remaster of the 1972 SQ Quad mix of the album and a multi-channel version of the 1972 Quad mix.

In addition, there is also a rare live performance recorded for BBC Radio One’s John Peel show in February 1971, and seven further rare bonus tracks, including an early version of Mockingbird and the full version of the unreleased piece White Sails (A Seascape).

This release includes a lavishly illustrated booklet with a new essay from Barclay James Harvest experts Keith and Monika Domone and a replica of a 1971 promotional poster.

The original album contains a remaster that is faithful to the original mix along with two bonus cuts and three live John Peel Sunday Concert performances. If you already know and love the album, there’s not much to add that you don’t already know, other than this is the album presented in its original form, sounding at it’s best.

Barclay James Harvest "Once Again" advert


Once Again was described by Prog magazine in 2020 as one of the fifty ‘most influential albums in the development of Progressive Rock’. The album includes an early BJH progressive classic in Mockingbird and one of the first recorded appearances from Alan Parsons, before he engineered Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and recorded the hugely successful Alan Parsons Project album series.

The remasters from the original master tapes were carried out by Ben Wiseman at Broadlake Studios in Hertfordshire.

The new Stereo Mixes and 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are by Stephen W Tayler at Chimera Arts, Real World Studios, Box, Wiltshire.

Much like the recent Bill Nelson’s Red Noise box-set, the new stereo mixes by Stephen W. Tayler offer the biggest surprises and rewards. The scene is set with the expanded to 10 minutes opening track. The mixes are very different, whilst keeping the feel and the mood of the original songs. With a wider mix, the album asserts itself further as a progressive classic.

The main difference is the removal of the hard-panning of the original tracks, and more prominent and powerful vocal mixes, meaning that I am drawn to these new stereo mixes. I love that Tayler has totally turned the mixes on their head, whilst avoiding the temptation to move the songs into a more modern setting, so the overall feeling remains faithful to the era.

Barclay James Harvest promotional photograph


Song For Dying, always one of the stronger tracks, uses new instrumentation that gives the song a different pace. Galadriel is more faithful to the original arrangement, but parts of the song, such as the horns, are noticeably more prominent.

Mockingbird is a revelation. With reverb adding to the percussive power, whilst keeping the performance intact, there is an added power to this career highlight from the band. The strings and vocal harmonies lift this new mix to unheard highs, removing the fog of time from the original mix.

Ball and Chain also benefits from the production tools available in 2022, with a widescreen production. The bonus tracks also benefit from the wider technological palette, with this early 70s rocker given more colour and depth.

White Sails (A Seascape) clocks in at just under the 12 minute mark, with aching strings giving the song a timeless feel. This abandoned from the original album piano and strings instrumental acts as a beautiful prelude to the second version of Mockingbird, Stephen W. Tayler’s reimagining of the powerful May 1970 version of the song.

The third disc offers a stereo mix of the quad version, with the 4th disc (not supplied for review) featuring a blu-ray containing the 96 kHz / 24-bit new 5.1 Surround Sound mix / new Stereo mixes /original stereo mix & 1972 Quadrophonic Mix.

The stereo quad mix adds further volume to the vocals and instrumentation, which is at it’s most effective on Mockingbird, with an added potency to the percussion.

The Cherry Red box-set is the definitive version of Once Again, and even if you own the original album, the new Stephen W. Tayler stereo mixes deliver a powerful, welcome additional version of these classic well-loved songs.

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Amazon

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Burning Shed

Tracklisting

DISC ONE

Once Again – The original stereo mix remastered

She Said
Happy Old World
Song for Dying
Galadriel
Mocking Bird
Vanessa Simmons
Ball and Chain
Lady Loves

Bonus tracks

Too Much on Your Plate
Happy Old World (Take One)
She Said (BBC John Peel Concert 1971)
Mockingbird (BBC John Peel Concert 1971)
Dark Now My Sky (BBC John Peel Concert 1971)

DISC TWO

Once Again – The new stereo mixes

She Said (new stereo mix)
Happy Old World (new stereo mix)
Song for Dying (new stereo mix)
Galadriel (new stereo mix)
Mocking Bird (new stereo mix)
Vanessa Simmons (new stereo mix)
Ball and Chain (new stereo mix)
Lady Loves (new stereo mix)

Bonus tracks

Mocking Bird (first version – May 1970)
Too Much on Your Plate (new stereo mix)
White Sails (A Seascape) (complete version)

DISC THREE

Once Again – The 1972 SQ Quadrophonic mix

She Said (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Happy Old World (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Song for Dying (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Galadriel (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Mocking Bird (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Vanessa Simmons (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Ball and Chain (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Lady Loves (1972 SQ Quad mix)

Bonus tracks

Galadriel (non-orchestral version)
Mocking Bird (non-orchestral version)

DISC FOUR (Blu-ray)

Once Again
96 kHz / 24-bit new 5.1 Surround Sound mix / new Stereo mixes /original stereo mix & 1972 Quadrophonic Mix

She Said
Happy Old World
Song for Dying
Galadriel
Mocking Bird
Vanessa Simmons
Ball and Chain
Lady Loves

Bonus tracks

Too Much on Your Plate
White Sails (A Seascape) (complete version)

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Amazon

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Burning Shed





Al Stewart: Year Of The Cat 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Box Set / 2 CD Remastered & Expanded Edition

24 01 2021

Al Stewart is releasing a 45th Anniversary limited edition box-set of his 1976 Year Of The Cat album, on 26 February 2021 as a 3CD/1DVD edition and a 2CD expanded version.

Year Of The Cat is newly re-mastered for the very first time from the original first generation master tapes by original producer Alan Parsons.

As well as the remastered album, the set includes a new 5.1 Surround sound mix from the original multitrack tapes and a previously unreleased concert recorded at the Paramount Theater, Seattle in October 1976, which is spread over 2 CD’s.

This is the definitive version of the album. Year Of The Cat has always sounded majestic, and was often the album used for hi-fi demonstrations, it sounded that good. Alan Parson’s remaster sounds so much more sympathetic than the previous 2001 remaster, which was a little too loud and forced. This is a lovely warm and colourful mix. Strings sound fresh and luscious, with amazing clarity.

One of the highlights of the album is the guitar work from longtime Al Stewart sidekick Tim Renwick, who also contributed stellar performances on the recent Sutherland Brothers & Quiver box-set.

On The Border is as good as the more well-known title track, and shines even brighter with this remaster. The Rhodes throughout Midas Shadow and the drums and percussion from Stuart Elliott (who also worked with Kate Bush on five of her early albums) sound wonderful.

In hindsight, If it Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It has a hint of the E-Street Band in it’s arrangement, especially the piano, but obviously not the vocals! I could go on and on about this album, but if you are reading this you probably know and love Year Of The Cat, so rest assured this is a must have version. Perfectly capturing a gently progressive meets pop sound, that sum up this aspect of the mid 70s airwaves, this is an album that fans of seventies music will have to add to their collection.

The other two CD’s in this deluxe reissue feature live recordings, which considering they are from 1976, are of very high audio quality, and offer lots of song explanations between tracks from Stewart.

The final disc (not supplied for review) contains the new 5.1 Surround Sound Mix & Original 96 Khz / 24-Bit Re-Mastered Stereo Mix By Alan Parsons. The set also comes with a 68-page book with a new essay featuring an interview with Al Stewart and a facsimile promotional poster plus a set of four postcards.

A cut-down version is also available – consisting of the remastered album plus a second disc with nine live tracks and without the 5.1 version.

Buy Year Of The Cat: 3CD/1DVD 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Boxset on Amazon

Buy Year Of The Cat: 2CD Remastered & Expanded Edition (the remastered album plus nine live tracks recorded at the Paramount Theater, Seattle in October 1976) on Amazon

Al Stewart: Year Of The Cat 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Box Set

Disc One:

Lord Grenville
On The Border
Midas Shadow
Sand In Your Shoes
If It Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It
Flying Sorcery
Broadway Hotel
One Stage Before
Year Of The Cat
Bonus Track
Belsize Blues
(Recorded At Abbey Road Studios September 1975)

Disc Two:
Live At The Paramount Theater, Seattle – October 1976
Previously Unreleased

Apple Cider Re-Constitution (Live 1976)
The Dark And The Rolling Sea (Live 1976)
One Stage Before (Live 1976)
Soho (Needless To Say) (Live 1976)
Not The One (Live 1976)
On The Border (Live 1976)
Broadway Hotel (Live 1976)
Roads To Moscow (Live 1976)

Disc Three:

Live At The Paramount Theater, Seattle – October 1976
Previously Unreleased

Nostradamus (Live 1976)
Sirens Of Titan (Live 1976)
The Post World War Two Blues (Live 1976)
Year Of The Cat (Live 1976)
Sand In Your Shoes (Live 1976)
Carol (Live 1976)
If It Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It (Live 1976)

Disc Four:

Year Of The Cat: New 5.1 Surround Sound Mix & Original 96 Khz / 24-Bit Re-Mastered Stereo Mix By Alan Parsons

Lord Grenville (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
On The Border (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Midas Shadow (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Sand In Your Shoes (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
If It Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Flying Sorcery (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Broadway Hotel (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
One Stage Before (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Year Of The Cat (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)





Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)

22 02 2013

The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) is the third Steven Wilson solo album, but where it differs from the previous two releases is that it was written to be performed with the musicians who make up his touring band. This gives a real cohesion to the album, which was produced by Wilson but features Alan Parsons as associate producer and recording engineer.

Steven Wilson’s albums, whether solo or with his main bands Porcupine Tree or no-man, have always been expertly produced. The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) takes it up a notch, with the best sounding Wilson release to date.

A case in point is album opener Luminol.  Devoid of vocals until nearly 5 minutes in, switching time signatures, bass-driven instrumentation and layered mellotron / piano all feature. The production allows the instruments the space to breathe, and there is no brick-wall mastering in evidence.

At times reminiscent of Yes, Luminol sets the scene for the rest of the album, which is a mixture of progressive and classic rock.

Drive Home is one of Wilson’s best songs to date. Like a modern-day Stars Die, layered harmonies, strings and acoustic guitar underpin a tale of loss and regret.

“Well love can make amends
While the darkness never ends
You’re still alone
So drive home”

Drive Home is the one track on the album that really harks back to that mid-70s LA classic rock feel, and ends with a breathtaking guitar solo from the newest member of the Wilson live band, Guthrie Govan.

The Holy Drinker is one of the darkest songs on The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories).  Featuring some wonderful interplay between Theo Travis and Adam Holzman, the first few minutes of the song wouldn’t sound out of place on Wilson’s previous album, Grace for Drowning.  But it then mutates into a mid-70’s classic rock Deep Purple / Pete  Townshend / Yes hybrid. Speeding up and slowing down, crossing genres at will, it’s clear that playing together over recent tours has really helped this group of musicians gel and become much more than a backing band.

Photo by Naki Kouyioumtzi

The subject matter for the album’s lyrics also help make the album a complete piece, like in those distant days when album’s were made to be heard in one sitting, not split into easily digestible iPod-friendly chunks. Drawing on inspiration from 19th Century ghost and supernatural writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, the lyrics touch on subjects such as the spirit of a busker who continues to play (badly) long after his body departs this earth (Luminol) and a man who is haunted by the ghost of his wife whose body he buried under the floorboards (The Watchmaker).

The Pin Drop has a real Martin Grech feel about the arrangement, and contains the wonderful line, that sums up the theme of the album:

“I have not lived and loved enough”

It’s the shortest track on the album, and one of the most immediate and powerful. Lyrically almost a companion piece to Porcupine Tree’s Heartattack in a Lay By, both sets of lyrics touch on regret and sadness as someone’s life reaches it’s premature end.

The Pin Drop is one of the tracks that I keep coming back to and one which would make a fine single – although do singles exist anymore?

The Watchmaker will probably appeal most to fans who lean towards progressive rock.  A slowly building pastoral sounding arrangement for the first quarter of the song, before the organs and percussion up the pace.  The mighty Nick Beggs really shines on this track.

Photo by Naki Kouyioumtzis

The Raven That Refused to Sing is the album closer, and what a beautiful way to end the journey.  Starting off like a track from Storm Corrosion, before developing into the song that will surely be a staple of Wilson’s live shows for many years to come.

I hear hints of Radiohead and Sigur Ros in the arrangement, but also a flavour of Wilson’s first solo release Insurgentes. It’s an incredibly moving song that hits you really hard the more you hear it.

“Sing to me raven
I miss her so much
Sing to me Lily
I miss you so much”

If you don’t shed a tear as the song reaches it’s climax, you have no heart, no soul, and you should leave my blog now!

The deluxe version of this album includes a CD of demo versions of all the songs – obviously Steven Wilson demos are the quality of most people’s finished albums, but they offer a fascinating insight into the albums development and show what an impact the musicians and Alan Parsons made to the finished release.

Album of the year already? It depends on what else comes out over the next 10 months, but I think it’s safe to say that The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) will be on my list come December 2013. A Wilson career best?  Yes, it’s up there with no-man‘s Together We’re Stranger for me, and is already shaping up to be my favourite Wilson solo release.

The only negative for me (which I touched upon in my Grace for Drowning review) is that the freedom Wilson seems to be really enjoying in his solo work means I really don’t see Porcupine Tree reconvening anytime soon.  I hope I’m wrong, as Porcupine Tree are one of my favourite bands, but with albums of this quality, the blow is somewhat lessened.

Watch the video for The Raven That Refused To Sing:

The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) is released by Kscope on 25 Feb 2013.

You can buy The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) in various formats, including vinyl, from the official Steven Wilson store on Burning Shed.

Buy The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) CD on Amazon UK

Buy The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) Bluray on Amazon UK








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