Polydor 1979 / Esoteric 2013
Cut down to a trio, British art rock legionnaire go across the water and tune in with the times .
Never taking themselves too seriously, what with the band’s self-proclaimed “poor man’s MOODY BLUES” status, this ensemble’s progressive leanings have always been a clever coating for a top-notch pop. Not surprising, then, that BJH were the first of their ilk to make the move, before YES and GENESIS, from the highbrow to the down-to-earth.
Keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme couldn’t agree and left, but the rest soldiered on, unabashedly, along the lines of “something old, something new, something borrowed”, running from BEE GEES’ falsetto disco pattern of “Alright Down Get Boogie (Mu Ala Rusic)”, with a broad smile, to “Rock And Roll Lady” which, for all its sweetly infectious drive, lifts the riff from “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”. Stitched to the opening salvo of brilliant “Love On The Line”, it’s that catchy.
So, while the hymnal “Play To The World” sounds as universal as the album’s title suggests, it hangs on the lyrical quote from “Only You”, yet “Skin Flicks” feels like an unhumorous, overlong attempt to go the 10CC route, whereas the harmonies of “Capricorn”, banal as it is, wrap around the ears in a warm and welcoming, if slightly bombastic, way. More so, atmospheric “Sperratus”, one of the best BJH’s ballads, possesses a swooping, rocking chorus, shot through with John Lees’ guitars, and “The Song (They Love To Sing)” soars, on Les Holroyd’s piano and Mel Pritchard’s percussion, beyond the matters of the heart. No real change of direction, then, just an alluring embrace of the band’s real selves and a securing of their European success.