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Roy Harper


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Folk, folk/rock

Status:

Most recent release, Man & Myth (2013)

See also:

Roy Harper's site

Comparisons:

Lots and none. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

It's difficult to classify Roy Harper since, over the years he's fit into so many different categories, and yet doesn't really fit into any of them. At times he's taken the role of folk-singer with acoustic guitar, protest singer, poet, psychedelic prophet, front man for a rock band and balladeer. His songs vary from delicate love songs to astonishingly powerful political and social commentaries. His recordings have varied between extremely raw and highly polished, and his lyrics between the forthright and the highly obscure. Throughout his three-decade career he has continuously hovered on the brinks of both failure and success: just when he seemed poised for critical acclaim it somehow slipped away, and just as his situation seemed to become impossible, when anyone else would have given up, he seemed to come back with performances and music as strong as ever. (Currently, c. 1995, with the recent breakup of his marriage and the folding of the record company formed to re-issue his old recordings and promote his new ones, he seems to be at another low point in his career, but he is continuing to perform, write songs, and still shows no signs of giving up). Throughout his carreer he has also hung onto his values and refused to give way to commercialism with a tenacious commitment, and has consistently managed to produce songs with compelling music and thought-provoking lyrics (though he's also consistently interspersed them with some pretty lousy songs, but these don't seem too significant beside his flights of genius). Though he's never quite shaken off obscurity himself, he's influenced many other artists over the years, and many, including Kate Bush and Led Zeppelin, cite him as an influence.
     Roy has been one of the mainstays of rock/folk music: for more than three decades he's been consistently producing incredibly intense and beautiful music, refusing to bow to the pressures of commercialism or to chase success, and remembering that he is, first and foremost, a poet (which is not to say that not to say that Roy's music is entirely consistent).
      Roy Harper is an utterly brilliant lyricist, song-writer, and when he's not too stoned, performer. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

roy harper is quite a decent lyricist. a good album to start out with is once (which has the added bonus of the title track being a duet with kate bush). (woj@smoe.org)

One thing I will say about Roy's releases is that I *strongly* recommend previewing them before buying. He was always an odd guy, and would pretty much release an album of anything that popped into his head if the mood struck him. Some were brilliant; some were...well...less brilliant. (JavaHo@aol.com)

I consider Roy Harper an incredible guitarist, in songs like "McGoohan's Blues" and "One Man Rock & Roll Band" he is able to orchestrate an extended artistic vision with only six strings and ten fingers. However, I know from friends who have spoken with Roy, and they tell me he considers himself more of a poet than a musician. His son, Nick Harper, has inherited, and some might say, exceeded his father's prowess on the guitar. (mickey@io.com)

Comments about live performance:

This past Thursday night, woj, Don Keller and I saw Roy Harper at the Bottom Line. Roy is, for me, one of those mythic kate bushological connections, someone I assumed I would never be able to see perform live. woj and I figured this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we couldn't afford to miss. (2/97, meth@smoe.org)

live, roy harper, just plain forgets things—too much brain damage in his past not to have. fortunately, he copes and, well, i have to confess that roy's so godlike that i'd probably enjoy watching him giggle and heckle himself for 90 minutes. yeah, maybe it is just me. (woj@smoe.org)

Recommended first album:

Stormcock or Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion for older material. ...Descendants Of Smith or Burn The World for newer material.
     Actually I think Once is one of his weaker albums, though it's popular with kate bush fans for obvious reasons. If you really want to hear how emotionally moving and intense a male vocalist can be try Burn The World, or perhaps Death Or Glory. Or better still, check out the earlier albums, especially Stormcock.
     Actually, now I think about it, Unhinged, which is a fairly recent live album, would be the place I would recommend starting. It gives a much better impression of what Roy is about I think. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Recordings include:


(See website for full discography)


Sophisticated Beggar

Release info:

1966—Sundown (UK)—CDSD 051

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Skaila Kangaharmonica

Comments:

Roy Harper's very first album, a sort of garage recording. While his playing and songwriting skills are not as developed as in his later albums, this album has a fresh and lively feel about it that makes me rather fond of it. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith

Release info:

1967—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1035

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Curious, for established Roy Harper fans only. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Laurie Allan—drums

Produced by:

Shel Talmy

Comments:

Roy Harper's first album for a major label (CBS). The Awareness reissue contains a number of extra tracks. This album tends to be largely ignored, and, while not as good as some of his later albums, probably deserves more recognition then it gets. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Folkjokeopus

Release info:

1969—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1003

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended for established Roy Harper fans. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Clem—drums
Nicky—piano
Russ—bass

Produced by:

Shel Talmy

Comments:

This album is pretty inconsistent, containing some pretty awful bits and pieces, mixed in with some excellent songs. "McGoohan's Blues" is perhaps Roy's first 'epic' song, and the lyrics particularly are incredible. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

I've been re-listening to Folkjokeopus (the album that has "McGoohan's Blues" on it) lately. It's amazing. (mickey@io.com)


Flat, Baroque and Berserk

Release info:

1970—Harvest (UK); Capitol (USA)—SHVL 766

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Must have. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Brian Davison—drums
Keith Emerson—keyboards
Lee Jackson—bass

Produced by:

Peter Jenner

Comments:

This is perhaps the quintessential Roy Harper album. It's probably still his most successful and critically acclaimed album, and contains many songs which remain favorites amongst his fans. It includes "White Man", an extraordinary attack on racism and particularly on the genocide of the American Indians, which, while seldom played, is still probably the most requested song at his concerts, and "Another Day", which has been covered by This Mortal Coil, and also by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Stormcock

Release info:

1971—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 2001

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Must have. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Jimmy Page—guitar
David Bedford—arranger, keyboards

Produced by:

Peter Jenner

Comments:

Considered by many to be Roy Harper's finest album, this consists of four tracks, dealing with such subjects as war, religion and relationships, each of which is a masterpiece in its own right. The music is basically acoustic guitar with some additional instrumentation, though there is some orchestration in "Me And My Woman" for which reason I prefer live versions of this track. Nevertheless, if you only have one Roy Harper album in your collection this is the one to get. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

God! what an incredible release. For me, the definitive Roy Harper. Stormcock is a must-have. I have Stormcock, and I would recommend it if you are a Roy fan. It has very heavily layered acoustic guitar. The vocals are very reminiscent of the work her did on "Have A Cigar" on Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. (JavaHo@aol.com)


Valentine

Release info:

1974—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1015

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, arranger, electric guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Jimmy Page—electric guitar
Pete Sears—bass
David Bedford—arranger, keyboards
Keith Moon—percussion
Mike Gibbs—brass arrangement
Max Middleton—piano
Jo Partridge—vocals
Marty Simon—drums
Larry—vocals

Produced by:

Roy Harper and Peter Jenner

Comments:

As the name suggests, this is an album of love songs, though some of them with a rather peculiar slant. Like much of his work, this album is a little inconsistent at times, but contains some really excellent songs. The Awareness re-issue also has the left over songs from their re-issue of Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion at the end. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion

Release info:

1974—Awareness (UK)—AWCDD 1012

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Very highly recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Ian Anderson—flute
Jimmy Page—guitar

Produced by:

Peter Jenner

Comments:

A live album, taken from various solo acoustic performances, and also from a 1974 concert at The Rainbow, London, which featured such musicians as Jimmy Page, Keith Moon and Ronnie Lane. Overall the performances on this album are excellent, many being preferable to the original album versions, though the album lapses into a bit of psychedelic nonsense somewhere in the middle. Also the album features a certain amount of Roy's dialogue with the audience—enough to give you some feel for what makes his live performances so special. Originally this was a double album, though the Awareness reissue fitted it onto a single CD by omitting three tracks which they appended to the re-issue of Valentine. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

HQ (UK)/When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease (US)

Release info:

1975—Harvest (UK)SHSP 4046; Chrysalis (USA)—CHR1105

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Moderately recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper

Guest artists:

Bill Bruford—drums
Chris Spedding—guitar, musician
David Bedford—musician
John Paul Jones—bass, musician
Steve Broughton—musician
Dave Cochran—musician
David Gilmour—guitar, musician
The Grimethorpe Colliery Band—musician
Ray Warleigh—musician

Produced by:

Peter Jenner

Comments:

I've never been especially keen on this album, though many Harper fans hold it in high regard, and consider it to be amongst the best of his band-oriented material. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Bullinamingvase (UK) One Of Those Days in England (US)

Release info:

1977—Harvest (UK)—SHSP 4060; Chrysalis (USA)—CHR 1138

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Andy Roberts—guitar, vocals
Henry McCullough—guitars
David Lawson—keyboards, effects
David C. Drill—bass
Admiral John Halsey—drums
Paul McCartney—keyboards, vocals
Herbie Flowers—bass
Alvin Lee—guitar
Steve Broughton—guitar, keyboards, vocals
B.J. Cole—steel guitar
Percy Jones—bass
Ronnie Lane—bass, guitar
Jimmy McCulloch—guitar
Max Middleton—keyboards

Produced by:

Roy Harper, Peter Jenner, and John Leckie

Comments:

This is a 'band' rather than solo-acoustic album, but still maintains a predominantly guitar sound. The first track on side 1 and all of side 2 are taken up with one long piece: "One of those days in England", a satirical comment on the state of England at the time. Difficult to find, but well worth getting if you come across it. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

The Unknown Soldier

Release info:

1980—Harvest—819

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Kate Bush—vocals, musician
Don Grolnick—keyboards, musician
David Bedford—conductor, keyboards
Jimmy Maelen—percussion, musician
Andy Roberts—guitar
Jimmy Bain—musician
Haydn Bendall—musician
Steve Broughton—guitar, keyboards, vocals
Hugh Burns—guitar, musician
B.J. Cole—steel guitar, musician
George Constantino—musician
Jim Cuomo—musician
Sal DiTroia—musician
Timi Donald—musician
David Gilmour—guitar, musician
Neil Jason—musician
Dave Lawson—keyboards, musician
Will Lee—bass, musician
Tony Levi—musician
Andy Newmark—musician
Sara Pozzo—musician
David Scance—musician
Pete Wingfield—keyboards
Jo Partridge—musician

Produced by:

Roy Harper and Peter Jenner

Comments:

an old record that has finally seen re-issue on compact disc. while this may be of most note to ectophiles for the appearance of kate bush on one song, all of roy's records are good on their own merits. due to its relative unavailability, this one has some mythic greatness associated with it that it may not completely deserve, but the song "short and sweet" more than makes up for that, in my opinion. (woj@smoe.org)

The Unknown Soldier includes the song 'You', a duet with Kate Bush who claims Roy as one of her major inspirations. The album also features Dave Gilmour on 'Short and Sweet' a co-written piece, and 'True Story' which tells of Sir William Wallace and his plight. (mickey@io.com)


Work of Heart

Release info:

1981—Awareness (UK)—AWCD1002

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Roy Harper fans

Group members:

Roy Harper—synthesizer, acoustic guitar, guitar, electric guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Jimmy Page—guitar
Brian Davison—drums
John David—vocals
Steve Broughton—guitar, keyboards, vocals
Tony Carr—drums
Paul Cobbold—bass
Yvonne d'Cruz—vocals
Tony Franklin—bass, percussion
Dorian Healy—drums
Brian Hodges—bass
Darrel Lockhart—drums
David Lord—synthesizer
Charlie Morgan—drums
Dave Morris—synthesizer, piano, violin, keyboards
Dick Morrissey—saxophone
Ray Warleigh—wind
Bob Wilson—acoustic guitar, guitar, electric guitar, vocals
Dick Morrisey—saxophone

Produced by:

Roy Harper

Comments:

work of heart is roy in a more commercial-sounding mode: he's backed with a full band and the record is rather produced. that said, some of the songs on this record are wonderful ("drawn to the flames" and the epic "work of heart" itself in particular), but i think i prefer the demo versions available on born in captivity. (woj@smoe.org)

Born In Captivity

Release info:

1984—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1001

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Comments:

This was originally released privately as a very limited edition and later Awareness records was formed in order to re-issue and distribute it. Original copies of the album are very rare indeed. It was made from the demo tapes for "Work Of Heart" and consequently has a much more raw and less produced sound than that and Roy's other commercial albums of the time, which I much prefer. It also contains an excellent version of "Elizabeth", perhaps my favorite of Roy Harper's not-extremely-long songs. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

What Ever Happened to Jugula

with Jimmy Page

Release info:

1985—Beggars Banquet (UK)—BBL 60 CD

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—acoustic guitar, bass, guitar, percussion, electric guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals
Jimmy Page—electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Tony Franklin—bass
Nik Green—keyboards, synthesizer
Ronnie Brambles—drums
Steve Broughton—drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals
Preston Heyman—drums
Nick Harper—semi-acoustic guitar

Comments:

Jimmy Page's electric guitar makes for a very interesting offset to Roy's acoustic guitar and vocals. Lyricly this is a very strong album. It includes "Hangman", an extremely powerful condemnation of capital punishment, and "Hope", which Roy Harper co-wrote with Dave Gilmour and also appeared on Gilmour's first solo album. Due to Jimmy Page's presence, this is the only Roy Harper which is still available from a major label and easy to find. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

...Descendants of Smith

Release info:

1988—EMI (UK)—CDP 7901392

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Very highly recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Guest artists:

Nick Harper—acoustic and electric guitars, vocals, SP12 programming
Tony Franklin—electric bass, fretless bass
Nik Green—keyboards, piano
Stuart Elliot—drums, percussion
Kevin McAlea—keyboards, alto saxophone
Mark Ramsden—alto saxophone
Jacqui Harper—Mackintosh plus, backing vocals

Comments:

This is probably my favorite 'recent' Harper album. Very well produced, musically and lyrically superb, overall just a great album. The only track I'm not keen on is the first one, but there's a 'rough and ready' acoustic only version of that at the end of the album which is a lot better. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov

descendants of smith (also known as garden of uranium) is good, but not one of my personal favorites. (woj@smoe.org)


Loony On The Bus

Release info:

1988—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1011

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Worth getting if you like the other more band-oriented Harper material, but not high priority. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Comments:

Apart from the title track (which was new and inspired by a review of one of Roy's albums in a women's magazine), all the tracks on this album came from an unreleased 1977 album called Commercial Break. It contains a few very good songs (again including the title track) but overall seems inconsistent. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

loony on the bus is a sort of odds-n-sods collection. most of it is from the commercial break album, which was hastily recorded, never released by emi, finally saw the light of day as part of science friction's re-issue series, and is often considered to be one of roy's weaker efforts. there are a few other tracks tossed in for good measure, such as the first part of the epic "burn the world". loony is an odd, but enjoyable, album, but perhaps not a good starting place. (woj@smoe.org)


Once

Release info:

1990—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1018

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Very highly recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—guitar, harmonica, vocals, backing vocals, vox organ

Guest artists:

Tony Franklin—bass
Steve Broughton—drums, percussion
Mark Feltham—harmonica
David Gilmour—lead guitar, blues guitar
Nick Harper—lead guitar
Mazlyn Jones—guitar, dulcimer
Kate Bush—backing vocals
Jacqui Harper—backing vocals
Terry Cooke—backing vocals
A'nt Idy Harper—backing vocals

Produced by:

Roy Harper

Comments:

This album finds Roy in a very political mood. Songs like "The Black Cloud of Islam" are amongst the most controversial and hard hitting he's ever written. The lyrics are very forthright, and lack the obscurity and veiled references that are common to his songs. Musically it's a little inconsistent, though in parts very good.
     I wouldn't claim that it's not good, just that I felt a lot of the other albums are better. I think it's more the recording/production/general-feel of the album doesn't do the songs justice, though the songs themselves are good. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

many of the songs on there are somewhat dated: "the black clouds of islam" still carries some weight courtesy of hamas and the irani president, but "berliners" is tied to a pretty specific point in time. nonetheless, "berliners" is probably one of the most powerful songs i've ever come across. once is quite excellent, kate bush appearance notwithstanding. i always very moved by it and think it's quite musically good. you do have to agree that it's a good introduction. (woj@smoe.org)


Burn The World

Release info:

1990—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1019

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Very highly recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—guitar, vocals

Comments:

This is more of an extended single than an album. It consists of two versions of a single, 20-minute-long song called "Burn The World". The song was originally written for the ...Descendants of Smith album, but was rejected by EMI as being uncommercial. The first version of the song is the demo that was originally submitted to EMI, and contains various 'anonymous' guest musicians, while the second is a live version with just Roy and his guitar, recorded at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London. The live version is, to my mind, the better of the two. In addition to being an incredibly powerful song, it also does a very good job of capturing the intensity and power of Roy's live performances. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

"burn the world" is a twenty minute epic ("a single, innit?") which is plain stunning. there is a cd (and lp) out which has the studio version and a live version. the latter blows the studio version away, even if you don't count the acoustic guitar feedback frenzy. this song was one of those blasts of fresh air that restored my faith in music after one of my brief, but periodic, bouts of disillusionment. (woj@smoe.org)


Death Or Glory

Release info:

1992—Awareness (UK)—AWCD 1037

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Group members:

Roy Harper—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Nick Harper—lead guitar
Tony Franklin—bass
Gerry Fehiley—drums
Colm O'Sullivan—keys, bodhran
Michael Anthony—keys
Cara Mastrey—backing vocals
Ray Barron—bouzouki
Steve Barnard—drums

Comments:

Many of the songs on this album deal with the recent break-up of Roy's marriage, and his subsequent emotional turmoil. Consequently it's one of his most personal albums to date. The material is, perhaps, a little inconsistent, but it nevertheless contains some of the strongest material Roy has produced in some time. (anthony@csr.lbl.gov)

Further info:

Has appeared on Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, and David Gilmour albums. Had a track dedicated to him by Led Zeppelin, and did an album with Jimmy Page.

A DVD, Beyond the Door, was released in 2005.


Thanks to anthony@csr.lbl.gov for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2014-03-02 02:03:59.
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