Category Archives: Music

Fifty years on I

We do seem to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of so many things right now. Including Barclay James Harvest, rock band.

I wanted to share the back cover of their first album. I love this picture. It seems to encapsulate the late 1960s:

Band on the run

There are a lot of rock bands that I like that have done concerts with orchestra. Barclay James Harvest, Renaissance, The Moody Blues, Steve Hackett, Procol Harum and others. Adding a decent orchestra to a rock band gives the sound something special.

At some point in the concert, someone in the band will say “thank you to our wonderful conductor XXX and the YYY orchestra for being so special tonight.” And there’s no doubting that a rock concert with orchestra is a special thing, for fans especially, even if it does not make economic sense.

But, one thing the band members also say elsewhere is that it’s very constraining. When you have 40 extra people who are working to written music, there’s no flexibility, you can’t improvise or alter a song’s speed or whatever. That’s why many bands do at least something without the orchestra playing, where they can flex their wings a bit.

I was thinking about this when I saw King Crimson in concert the other week. There are eight musicians, substantially more than your average rock band, each of whom plays on every track and has to make a contribution (well, there are exceptions, but more or less that’s true). It’s a mini orchestra, two quartets.

Their ensemble playing is impressive. The three drummers compliment each other very well, and rarely is one of them not contributing to the music in a significant way. And again, gaps have to be built in to songs to allow some change of improvisation. The biggie is Gavin Harrison’s drum solo in 21st Century Schizoid Man.

It’s great that the band members genuinely listen to it. and that the applause is lead by drummer Pat Mastelotto, who is the unsung hero of this band.