Polydor 1978 / Esoteric 2017
With music as the food of love, melody harvesters take their multicolored wings and explode into space.
Always on a pop verge of prog, BJH were well attuned for a musical climate change the late ’70s would bring, and this album – their twelfth, also marking the quartet’s twelfth anniversary – became one of the band’s best offerings. If its predecessor “Gone To Earth” ended with “Taking Me Higher” to signal the ensemble’s new ascent, that’s where “XII” begins, at the emotional apogee of “Loving Is Easy” – to sign off once “The Streets Of San Francisco” has anchored the record’s flight to the bluesy ground. Yet there’s no biting the dust in the shadow of a tentative concept here; rather, there’s stardust in the songs’ cultural references which is so delectable.
It might be easy, indeed, to shoot down an idealist dream, and one decade after the Summer of Love the BBC succeeded in banning the LP’s opener – a heavy, though light, piece of organ-driven and synth-fueled cosmic delicacy – for its presumably suggestive lyrics that had been corrected in a single version, included in this reissue, but here the group offered their own ironic take on the previous decade in “A Tale Of Two Sixties” whose new mix has an additional half-minute of psychedelic, percussive wonder. Still, the Dickensian delight doesn’t come before the bittersweet “Berlin”: the most serious ballad of the band’s canon that would result, five years down the line, in their historical performance on the steps of the Reichstag.
Such a reality check is bolstered with “The Closed Shop” where Celtic march and baroque dance are linked to a reflection on unions policy, and also to “In Search Of England” – a hymnal dialogue outlining, in its orchestral scope, a thematic call-and-response between John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme’s pieces. A funnier contrast of earthly and celestial demands spices up “Sip Of Wine” and “Turning In Circles” by adding depth and punch to Les Holroyd-directed lyrical, if satirical, funk, yet “Harbour” finds the ensemble basking in the harmonies of homesick simplicity which “Nova Lepidoptera” unfolds into a rich, if wistful, tapestry embroidered with sci-fi glimmer in the same way “Giving It Up” is infused with a sunset surrender, so magical in a new mix.
This 3-disc package augments the remastering of original album with freshly fashioned stereo and surround sound upgrades which expand the record’s horizons, and make it another peak in BJH’s career. It would be the original quartet’s last work; their next LP, "Eyes Of The Universe" from the following year, is from a world that had no space for UFOs.