Barclay James Harvest – Barclay James Harvest and Other Short Stories

The 1971 release from Barclay James Harvest titled Barclay James Harvest and Other Short Stories receives a deluxe treatment on Esoteric Records. This remastered and expanded edition includes 2 CDs and a DVD featuring a re-master of the original album mix, along with all new 2020 96kHz / 24-bit stereo and 96kHz / 24-bit DTS and AC3 5.1 surround mixes of the entire album.

BJH is well known for creating their signature mixture of epic orchestral rock and poignant harmony-laden ballads, all in the progressive rock feel. Recorded and released in 1971, this album was their third and was recorded at Abbey Road studios and was co-produced by the band and ex-Pretty Things member Wally Allen. Featuring such classic tracks as “Medicine Man,” “Ursula (The Swansea Song),” “The Poet” and their epic “After the Day,” the album was critically acclaimed upon its release. This expanded edition of... Other Short Stories comprises 40 tracks and features the original UK stereo mix digitally remastered from the original master tapes and also includes an all-new 2020 stereo mix on a second CD. The NTSC Region-Free DVD contains an all-new high resolution 5. 1 2020 Surround Sound mix, all new 2020 stereo mix, and original stereo mix 96kHz / 24-bit, all from the original Harvest masters. Additionally there are three rare US album versions of Medicine Man, Harry's Song and Someone There You Know, along with five BBC Radio session tracks from July 1971 and March 1972, plus two rare John Lees demo recordings from 1971 and three mono reduction mixes made at Abbey Road studios in July 1971.

The package includes an illustrated booklet that fully restores the original album artwork, a new essay, and a reproduction poster. The three discs are individually housed in mini-LP covers and all placed comfortably inside a clamshell box case. This is a nice upgrade to the earlier digipak deluxe editions that the band recently released on Esoteric Records.

When considering the audio content, I typically start my reviews with the surround mix. However, it is worthy to note that the new mixes are a vast improvement over the original stereo mix. Vocals have been brought forward and compression and congestion dramatically cleaned up. The new stereo mix is cohesive, alive, and presents the album in a much clearer light. The good news for long time listeners is much of the placement of instrumentation remains the same, including panning effects of the shaker, orchestration swells, and more.

Placing oneself in the sweet spot will yield a moderately immersive mix that absolutely offers discrete elements from the surround channels. Generally, I found the front speakers pulling more weight, which for some may give the impression of a front centric mix. However, I also felt that the balance was excellent and given how the surround channels are used for orchestration delays and discrete effects, this seems to work very well for me.

John Lees’ acoustic guitar is warm and tingles nicely while his lead vocals are clear and rich. On the other hand, there is a moderate difference between the two surround codecs and stereo mix for Les Holroyd’s Bass. Specifically, I found the DTS 5.1 provided a grumbly deep quality, while the AC3 naturally was thinner and sounded a bit empty. This leads me back to the stereo mix, which overall offered the most impressive sound of the bass as well as the drums and percussion work by Mel Pritchard. Yet, the orchestration parts conducted by Martyn Ford are somewhat buried in the stereo mix and become wonderfully separated into the surroundscape. In some cases, listeners may even find themselves sensing a greater amount of immersion when playing the AC3 stream. However, like the original mix, this codec suffers from compression that is likely to detract from a pure audiophile listening experience.

Still as much as I appreciate the surround mix, I find myself drawn to the new stereo mix as the overall balance is excellent. Woolly Wolstenholme’s electric guitar is zippy and punches through with ease, showing off the depth of Barclay James Harvest beyond the realm of acoustic guitars and strings.

For fans of the band, this deluxe edition is a must have, especially for those seeking a high-quality mix of this classic album. Surround collectors will also find this to be a great addition to their collection, even if they end up preferring the stereo version like me!

Released August 28, 2020.

 Format Info

2 CD + 1 DVD deluxe edition with all new 96kHz / 24-bit LPCM stereo and DTS & AC3 5.1 surround mixes.

 

 

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 About the Author

Wesley Derbyshire Profile Image

Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.

 

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