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Roy Harper

Prog Folk

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
5 stars If FJO had signalled the average music fan that he was intending to do more than straight folk, Stormcock is certainly the confirmation of this. Produced by Floyd manager and backed-up by just a couple of guest, including David Bedford for the arrangements, the album sports another B&W photo both on the front and back cover, this album is so inventive that it alone should clinch its PA inclusion

Just four lengthy tracks on this album, which starts on the more basic tune on offer, a descending Hors D'Oeuvre that is a tad too reminiscent of Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man (and a little too still for its 8-mins+ duration), especially in Roy's singing, but then again Cat Stevens would build an entire career on that feature alone. However the following 12-mins+ epic Same Old Rock is an absolutely marvellous and stunning song that starts with Roy's usual singing over his 12-strings guitar play, but as the track progresses, he gets help from Mercurius (that Mr Jimmy Page to you, boy!! ;o)) on second guitar (actually on lead guitar). By the middle of the track Roy has got us sooooooooo deep in his world by multitracking his voice than guitars, so wonderfully done, that you forget that the track is sooo "short" ;o))).

The flipside opens on the explanatory title,7-mins One Man R'nR Band which welcomes Jimmy Page again on lead guitar, developing a bluesey rock while Roy wails away on his vocal prowess, the track is ending on a loud bang that sounds as if you slammed shut the piano key cover while leaving a mike in between the bass strings, a perfect dramatic exit for yet another great tune. The closing Me And My Woman is the highlight of this album (that contains just highlights) and Roy first takes the track to normal folk territory, before David Bedford's conducted strings intervene a first time, solidly changing Harper's tune, taking a poignant solemn tone, before returning with string and horns attacking alternatively, every time bringing more dramatic tension, until the tracks breaks into a duet of 12-strings and oboe and so on for its 12-mins duration. Bedford's horn arrangement sounds a bit like the orchestra's intervention in Floyd's AHM title track.

While most fans will have a hard time pointing out a Harper "best" album, inevitably Storncock and Lifemask are bound to come in most top three and it's really no surprise as the album is poignant and thought-provoking by its lyric content. I'd probably tell the prospective proghead to start here or with Lifemask for a first contact with Harper's delicate world.

Report this review (#170300)
Posted Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Without question this is Roy Harper's best studio effort. Sure I can think of some excellent compilations and collaborative output from this legendary folk/prog/rock artist to be reviewed at another time but even the general critics have to agree in Stormcock being right up there in the vintage category. Four lengthy quality tracks make up Stormcock. Released in 1971 at the same time as Led Zeppelin IV and Pink Floyd Meddle, the quality of material compares favourably and comes very close in many respects to his mates from those two bands. Alan Parsons also contributed as Engineer. RH's best track IMHO has to be ' The Same Old Rock'. Musically supported by Jimmy Page but the combination of the mesmerizing guitar playing between these two on this song leads me to believe that this is perhaps some of the finest guitar work ever released in the musical world. Lyrics like 'All along the ancient wastes, our thin reflections spin, that gather all the times and tides at once we love within, that build the edges round the shrouds that cloud the setting sun, and carry us to other days and other days to one......' Another rivetting song is the passionate ' Me and My Woman. Roy Harper vocally at his best here too. It is worth noting that Roy Harper is also a highly respected poet and with lyrics like the above it is not hard to see why.

For any newcomers to Roy Harper this is definitely one of the albums to embrace. Consistently above excellent throughout, flavours of Zeppelin and Floyd but always with Roy Harper's distinctive stamp of individuality. Essentially a collective must have.

Report this review (#170576)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Roy Harper's unique body of work, along with that of John Martyn's, provides a great litmus test for thinking about the land where prog and folk meet. It is customary to begin with Harper's links to the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, who hired and cited him respectively (add to this Jimmy Page's appearance on "Stormcock" and Alan Parsons engineering). But what is it about Harper's own music that makes it a blending of progressive and folk, or simply prog folk?

Harper's 1971 release "Stormcock" is, whatever we want to call it, a simply remarkable album, consisting of just four lengthy tracks: "Hors d'Oeuvres," "The Same Old Rock," "One Man Rock and Roll Band" and "Me and My Woman." The second and third tracks extend beyond twelve minutes, but surely "progness" is not just a matter of song length, however much that helps. In some ways, these songs share some qualities with the likes of Dylan's more epic songs, "Desolation Row" or "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." Both present that gravity-defying feeling of songs that have taken off into the stratosphere, amazed at their own sense of ambition, with verses that just keep coming and coming like a dare. The first thirteen verses of "Hors d'Oeuvres," for instance, keep pushing the same endrhyme, from "assize" to "thighs" and on and on. And, again, like the Dylan of those particular songs noted above, Harper offers up lyrics of beatific surrealism and startling originality, even as he can then drop down into hilarious satirical lines like the following (again from "Hors d'Oeuvres"):

"The critic rubs his tired arse / Scrapes his poor brain, strains and farts / And wields a pen that stops and starts / And thinks in terms of booze and tarts / And sits there playing with his parts. / He says I'm much too crude and far too coarse / And he says this singer's just a farce / He's got no healing formulas / He's got no cure-all for our scars / He's got no bra-strap for our bras / And our sagging tits no longer hold a full house of hearts / And you know what, I don't think this little song's gonna make the charts."

While the songs here might have the basic instrumentation of folk music (solo acoustic guitar dominates), Harper opens his songs out to space to let them breathe and develop. Though at first each song may seem rather simple, they all build in increments that drive forward and outward. This is especially true of something like "The Same Old Rock." Never flashy, the album startles with its slow accumulation of strange sounds, organs, strings, echoed effects, and Harper's own vocal harmonies, which emerge unexpectedly from strange corners in the aural space. Though these songs don't seem to go through a large number of changes, they never end where they began, and they leave the listener with the feeling of an ever-opening horizon.

It is in these ways that Harper definitely creates a kind of progressive folk or folk-inflected progressive music. These songs test limits and leave the listener in new, unforeseen terrains, even as they keep the musical form and instrumentation fairly minimalized. This is not Genesis, but nor is it Pete Seeger (bless them all). Great contemporary figures like Joseph Arthur, Rachel Unthank and Beth Orton owe much to Harper's pioneering explorations. With Harper's entrancing voice, strange and wondrous lyrics, and unique compositional development, "Stormcock" is an album to return to again and again.

Report this review (#246060)
Posted Saturday, October 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Not only was the legendary folk singer immortalized by led zeppelin in the song "hats off to (roy) harper"; he also sang lead vocals on the pink floyd track "have a cigar" featured on the album "wish you were here". roy harper's angelic voice and incendiary guitar work make for an explosive combination. "stormcock" is his masterpiece, and worth a listen at any price. Singer/songwriter albums don't get any better than this; words, playing, singing are all top- notch, and he stretches the boundaries of songwriting and genre while he does it. Roy's got some albums that are nearly as good, but he doesn't get any better than Stormcock. I can't rate this album, lower than on 5 stars. Totally essential
Report this review (#281071)
Posted Sunday, May 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Hats off to Roy Harper indeed!

I always have a certain skepticism whenever I see a high-rated album such as Roy Harper's Stormcock. Could it be the fanboys giving it the publicity that it doesn't deserve? Naturally I approached this release with caution especially since I knew very little about Roy Harper aside from his vocal contribution on Pink Floyd's Have A Cigar and that Led Zeppelin named a track after him.

After hearing this release for the first time it was safe to day that Stormcock did in fact made a lot more sense. The music I heard was indeed Prog Folk with four compositions all stretched out to 7+ minute format. But my biggest discovery with this album was that it finally made me understand how Jethro Tull managed to achieve their classic album Thick As A Brick. To me it's obvious that Ian Anderson and the band were very much inspired by this album since they certainly borrowed a lot of their style from Roy Harper's performance. This doesn't mean that they completely ripped off this album but instead put their own unique spin on the ideas that were addressed on Stormcock. After all, this album never sounds like a band effort which is something that Jethro Tull really delivered on with their take.

The music on Stormcock is very mellow and while Harper's vocal style takes it many different directions the general mood generally stays the same all throughout the album. The combination of excellent musicianship with magnificent material makes it difficult for me to make any real distinctions between the tops and bottoms of this album. To me it's the opening Hors d'Oeuvres and closing Me And My Woman that make the highest impact even though The Same Old Rock is really not far behind. This is also the track that has inspired Thick As A Brick the most. Some of the melodies are almost carbon copies of Roy Harper's work and Jimmy Page's guitar work adds an interesting new side to the overall sound. One Man Rock And Roll is possibly the only track that, in my opinion, doesn't deserve the 7+ minute treatment since it looses its momentum 2/3:s into the track. It would definitely have made more sense to me if this track was shortened down to a 4 minute format while giving more space to the follow-up performance of Me And My Woman that I never can get enough even though I have 13 minutes of it!

Roy Harper's Stormcock definitely deserves the attention that it has received so far and hopefully more fans of Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick and Prog Folk in general would give it a go. Great work from an artist at the hight of his career!

***** star songs: Hors d'Oeuvres (8:37) Me And My Woman (13:01)

**** star songs: The Same Old Rock (12:24) One Man Rock And Roll (7:23)

Report this review (#285483)
Posted Monday, June 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Stormcock is great addition to any prog, folk or classic rock collection, if for no other reason than to hear the musical apex of the man who earned the highest respect of the members of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and other legends. Harper gave them an example of independent spirit and musical inspiration that they did not have within them, and Stormcock is one of the better albums I have heard of the folk genre; however, with a caveat, as there are definitely moments where Stormcock moves past folk and into progressive territory.

The folk: Hors d'Oeuvres and One Man Rock & Roll Band. The former is a decent folky song that probably does not have 8 minutes' worth of interesting musical ideas, but it's a good table-setter. The latter is a step up musically, with a loping, bluesy feel, and a riff that sounds great on the 12 string. I can also hear some clear Led Zeppelin similarities here as well.

The prog: Me and My Woman, and Same Old Rock. Both of these extended numbers are of the highest quality in my opinion. Here the music lives up to quality of Harper's lyrics, and both are also extremely well-paced. Me and My Woman has a dark feel throughout, from Harper's low delivery in the opening, to the aggressive guitar scratching toward the end, to the longing strings interspersed throughout. Same Old Rock may be my favorite folksy song of all time, with what could be a folk anthem toward the middle, and then exploding into a series of brilliant musical ideas, from Harper's overdubbed oohh and aahh-ing over tambourine to the sublime dueling 12-string outtro. Just fantastic!

Not quite a masterpiece due to the shorter tunes, but a very solid album throughout, and with some very, very high points during the extended pieces. A great addition to just about any music collection!

Report this review (#286229)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's hard not to rave about this album, but it really does deserve the high ratings and glowing reviews. A thoughtful record, it's one of Roy Harper's creative peaks.

Everything is just so well-executed. Harper's voice is expressive and dexterous, his guitar playing is inspired and exceeds the playing of guest Jimmy Page in its romanticism (who appears on The Same Old Rock) and is a worthy focal point. Though some subtle strings come in during Me and My Woman, the thirteen-minute closer, this is an album about the acoustic guitar.

Lyrically Harper spans idealism to pessimism and his words are often clever and sly. I found them to be most impassioned during The Same Old Rock. On his website, Roy says of the song "The Same Old Rock records my opposition to continued dependence on the cheap opium of convenient mass religion." Birds feature as effective symbols and are in wonderful sympathy with the folk aspects of the album, gentlest and used best on Me and My Woman.

At first glance, Stormcock has a very similar feel to its songs, a sign of its unity, but after repeated listens it reveals a surprising amount of depth and variety. Especially for an album with only four songs and a handful of instruments (among the guitars, there is some keyboard, strings and saxophone too.)

I've spent most of the time here describing but two songs, and while I personally prefer the opener to One Man Rock N Roll Band (which trails off to my mind a bit before the silence kicks in at its end) these two are good supporting players to the majesty of the two standouts.

A progressive treatment of the folk genre, this one is really worth owning. The liner notes speak of Roy and producer Peter Jenner feeling as though this album would be the one that 'broke through' for Roy, and that they had the greatest time recording it, evidenced by the happy photo of Roy on the cover. I know I'd be happy too if I'd managed something like this.

Track Picks: The Same Old Rock, Me and My Woman

Report this review (#453003)
Posted Saturday, May 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm glad to see this album up on the top 100 list, it definitely deserves to be there. The acoustic medleys on this album are all spectacular and the poetry is very pretty as well. The track that features Jimmy Page as the second guitarist "The Same Old Rock" is one of my favorite songs of all time. The dueling yet lilting guitar melodies create a musical atmosphere of prodigous delight. The flow of the intriguing poetic language with these intertwing guitars is like a calm stream fading and evaporating into black mist on a warm evening. At the end of the song Jimmy Page solos on acoustic guitar. It is an uncommon rarity among Zeppelin fans, but now that this album is being recognized it will serve as an enigmatic discovery and a new side to the ever-heavy-metal Jimmy Page. The other tracks on this album are great as well. Listen up, now.
Report this review (#459572)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Given the high rates of this album, I went to hear him: I was very disappointed, I honestly do not understand what's so nice and progressive in this music. Only acoustic guitar and vocals, the presence of Page is not enough to raise the quality; the melodies are not memorable, the tone of voice is not particularly interesting. I did not pay attention to the lyrics, but I think that these are not decisive for the quality of an album to be classified in the "prog" genre. This album may have been sung by Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, but I believe that they, even if not falling within progressive, would have achieved something much more interesting. For me, a tedious album and irrelevant, not only in the progressive music.
Report this review (#462072)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
5 stars Damn it, I wanted to be careful and as objective as possible about this record, but seems like it's not possible. Maybe because of how good this album is, therefore my 5 star ratings would be justified.

Nevermind. This album caught my eye by its very high rating. I thought that it's one of these not well known (and if it is, then only by fans, who are usually not that critical), but how wrong I was. I had to understand this mystery, but my conclusion is: This album is perfect. Such crude statement states it all. It's weird, but it does.

Guitar, that's the main thing here. So many wonderful positions to which you can bend guitar sound, so many warm tones. Of course, there are other instruments, but they're only accompanying g. And of course, Roy Harpers vocals, can't forgot to mention his voice, because it has lion's share on whole impression.

5(-), this will left you wondering how the hell you got into listening this, but you will be happy.

Report this review (#465270)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars While i'm far from being a fan of Folk music I can't deny that this is one of the classics. Released in 1971 this is considered to be Roy's high water mark. Harper certainly had his fans and that included many musicians. LED ZEPPELIN would name a song after him on their "III" album called "Hats Off To (Roy) Harper" while PINK FLOYD would bring him in to sing on "Have A Cigar" from their "Wish You Were Here" record. Kate Bush,THE WHO and many others have pointed to him as an influence. Whenever you see quotation marks (other than around the song titles) i'm quoting from the article on this album in the Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine. "Stormcock" seems like an odd title to an album doesn't it ? Apparently this came from "The Mistle Thrush, whose habit of singing into the teeth of a gale offered Roy Harper what he thought was a suitable analogy for his own career". "He emerged from London's Boho Folk circuit of the 60's as a singer-songwriter of alarming intensity, motored by a terminal mistrust of authority and an inalienable belief in everyone's basic right to individual freedom.While other folkies were protesting the Vietnam War, Harper was railing against deeper society ills... "Shaped by a traumatic early life-a fanatically religious step-mother, homelessness, prison, a spell in a mental institution-his music avoided the easy route too." This album touches on several subjects."There were savage attacks on war, the judicial system, rock critics and religious dogma, among other things, alongside an anguished plea to save the planet".Jimmy Page plays acoustic guitar on one track while David Bedford adds some organ and orchestration.

"Hors D'Oeuvers" is a rant against both the judicial system and rock critics of the day. Mostly acoustic guitars and vocals. We do get some backing vocal melodies before 3 minutes. "The Same Old Rock" is the anti-religion song although Harper says it's not that specific but "a discourse on the constrictive nature of any kind of dogmatic institution you care to name". Jimmy Page plays on this track.This is Harper's personal favourite from this album. "Jimmy is so intuative", he explains "He finds things he can identify with and that's what he did on that song. It was just an atmosphere he created and is one of those things you just remember forever in your life. Jimmy elevated it into something else entirely"."It's an astonishing piece of work all around, both men spinning soundwebs as complex as they are complimentary".

"One Man Rock And Roll" "is both a meditation on the madness of war and the peace movement's propensity for breaking out into full scale riots". "Me And My Woman" has orchestration that comes and goes throughout from David Bedford. Bedford says this is "like an opera"."The themes and basic riff keep recurring". It's a song about Roy's ex wife but also the enviroment.

If your a Folk fan this is a must but even if your not that big a fan of that style you need to check this out.

Report this review (#508129)
Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Hardly progressive folk, Stormcock consists of four extended folk tunes. The songs are as long as they are because the music serves as a foundation for numerous lines of lyrics (that more or less maintain the same melody). While Roy Harper has an okay singer-songwriter voice, I don't enjoy his occasional caterwauling. The falsetto isn't very good. Fans of folk or acoustic music in general will enjoy this album, but Stormcock might not prove interesting enough for the typical progressive rock lover.

"Hors d'Oeuvres" Using a simple descending bass note chord progression, the opener mostly consists of repetitive acoustic guitar and intermittent howling, including lyrical clichés ("Well you can lead a horse to water, but you're never going to make him drink").

"The Same Old Rock" The second song is more layered than the overly simple first one, offering dark twelve-string and six-string interactions. Perhaps the most interesting tune on the album (even if it retains the repetitive element of plainness), the first half is performed in a light major key, while the second half is murkier, with coatings of ominous vocalizations and percussion.

"One Man Rock and Roll" Harper offers another minimalistic song featuring acoustic guitar and his distinctive vocals. It's the most forgettable track.

"Me and My Woman" Light resonant singing and acoustic guitar open the final song of this folky quartet. The fingerpicking is the best here, and the light saxophone beneath the vocal is a welcome addition, as are the strings. However, the falsetto is at its worst.

Report this review (#562748)
Posted Saturday, November 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars You can leave your hat on!

This album is considered to be something of a classic of its subgenre on this site, sitting alongside some of the most highly regarded albums by Jethro Tull and Strawbs in the Prog Folk top list. But while the (best) music of Tull and Strawbs is progressive Rock with Folk elements, Roy Harper's Stormcock is acoustic Folk music with little or no traces of Rock (despite the fact that according to one of the song titles Harper sees himself as a "one man Rock 'n' Roll band"). What we have here is basically four extended Folk tunes, strongly dominated by acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Harper's vocals are rather weak and anonymous to my ears. His voice reminds me slightly of that of Al Stewart, but Stewart's voice is stronger and more distinctive.

The presence of any other instruments is very subtle and discrete. As, such the nature of this music is rather minimalistic and monotonous. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin guests on the album, but his presence too is very discrete. The members of Led Zeppelin were reportedly impressed by Harper's music and even made a song in tribute of him called Hats Off To (Roy) Harper. Personally, I find it all rather one-dimensional and monotonous. The songs - even though extended far beyond your average acoustic Folk song - are not particularly progressive as such. And frankly, I find them rambling and lacking in melodic content.

I have given this album several chances and I guess I have to conclude that this is just not my cup of tea. I thus cannot really recommend it. I am familiar with one other album by Harper that I liked more, 1975's HQ. That one was a lot more interesting and diverse and more Rock oriented. Stormcock is not a terrible experience, it just fails to leave any mark on this reviewer.

Report this review (#725118)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars If you'd only heard one of Roy's albums before, and enjoyed it, and then you sought out his 'biggest' work, what are your expectations? This was the quandry that confronted me.

The reality is, that the style is so very similar to that performed on the album 'Jugla', that I failed to find the 'groundbreaking' bit. That said, the original came from 1971, when things were a wee bit different. Typical Harper fayre, I'd call it.

Yet again, it's enjoyable, though perhaps not quite at the level of 'Jugla', although some 15 years did separate the albums.

So, for me, typical Roy Harper. Groundbreaking? I think not. Enjoyable, but brief. A variation on the Roy Harper theme, me thinks.

Report this review (#846159)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Roy Harper's Stormcock consists of a mere four extended tracks, and most of its running time offers the man and his guitar unaccompanied (with a few interventions from other instruments here and there, particularly on closing track Me and My Woman which benefits from some tasteful arrangements by David Bedford). Despite this the album never feels sparse or minimalistic, and Harper's song structures don't outstay their welcome either, working in enough progressive inventiveness that they are able to sustain their baroque charms over their full running times. Led Zeppelin fans will be interested to know that Jimmy Page guests here, though he doesn't make his presence felt that much.
Report this review (#941600)
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
5 stars Usually I try to write useful reviews and I try to explain a bit of the album in question or at least give my impressions about the music I listened to. With Roy Harper's fifth album, Stormcock (1971), is almost impossible for me to do so.

This is a kind of music that gets me in a way that is hard to put in words. 4 tracks, basically Roy his guitar and his voice. There are some guests and some fantastic overdubs but they're not the main reason to listen this album.

The way the melodies go on in a hypnotic way make you think how you actually got this little amazing gem get past you all this years??

They say better late than never and I couldn't agree more. It is music for the soul rather than music for the brain (as usualy is with Progressive Rock) and if you open your soul to it you can put this album and forget about the world for 40 minutes. And for me, that's all that really matters!

Report this review (#1383353)
Posted Monday, March 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars As a long time Harper fan, Stormcock is an incredibly frustrating album to me. It remains rooted, by Harper's own volition, in a purist folk asthetic that Harper was dead set against abandoning at that time, and I feel the album suffers because of it.

Harper is indeed the uncompromising artist that was so revered by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, as the album predominately features just Harper's acoustic guitar and (multi tracked) vocals. However, I feel that it's exactly this lack of compromise that roots the album in obtuse Dylanesque lyrics (it difficult for the uninitiated to realize that the song The Same Old Rock is about the evils of organized religion) and a monotonous feeling of sameness. Dare I say it, the man just takes himself too seriously on this outing. The gravitas of this material threatens to pull Stormcock under due to it's shear weight. It's far from a cathartic listening experience because Harper, for example, is focused on telling how bad the world is to a returning soldier, in the song One Man Rock And Roll Band, without ever offering constructive solutions.

Taken within the context of other albums released in 1971 such as Aqualung and Fragile, Stormcock was viewed as an eccentric folk album with "heavy" lyrics, no matter how indecipherable that they were at times.

It's evident to me that Harper was haunted by the ghosts of his contemporaries, such as Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, of whom he shared a residence in the popular Soho folk club Les Cousins, along with the afore noted Mr. Dylan, who gave up obtuse topical lyric writing some 4-5 years earlier, and that any flight of rock fancy added to Stormcock's music would have simply been an unforgivable act of folk purist betrayal.

It's only guest guitarist Jimmy Page and arranger David Bedford that adds much needed variety and drama to the album and rescues it from it's narcoleptic daze. Page, first, with his stunning coda and guitar interplay with Harper on The Same Old Rock, and then Bedford, by turning album closer Me And My Woman into a stunning finale by injecting the song with a deft mixture of baroque and avant-garde orchestrations that gave this song a much needed cinematic scope that's absent on the opening track Hors d'Oeuvres and the afore mentioned One Man Rock And Roll Band.

The fact these four lengthy and incredibly plodding songs (which make up the album) have an immediate tendency to overstay their welcome is another sign that monotony permeates Stormcock.

Stormcock is an iconic album in the Progressive Rock canon, but one that is certainly cut out for specific listeners. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1433432)
Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Stormcock is an unusual folk album for the fact that it has only four songs and that they are all performed, for the most part, by one artist (no offense, David BEDFORD and Jimmy PAGE). Roy and his engineering/production team are quite creative and adventurous with their rendering of background, support, and incidental musical support throughout the album, but moreso, on Side 2, with the heavy "Donovan-warble" effects placed upon Roy's voice and on he and Jimmy's guitars on 3. "One Man Rock and Roll Band" (7:23) (9/10) and on the album's highpoint, the haunting multi-faceted suite, 4. "Me and My Woman" (13:01) (10/10). (Did I mention how brilliant David Bedford is?) Despite this discrepancy between Side 2 and Side 1, Side 1 is still very good. The opener, "Hors d'oeuvres" (8:37) relies on Roy's DONOVAN-like voice dirging over a very repetitive foundation of two guitars riffing the same riffs over and over for the entire song. At the 3:00 mark background "choir" of mulit-tracked, heavily treated voices (all sounding like those of Roy, himself) begin accompanying the guitars and lead vocal. Around 4:30 an organ joins in the accompaniment in the background followed by an electric guitar solo in the final 45 seconds--after the vocal has ended. The song is also quite notable for the 5:50 point at which Roy acknowledges--in the very lyrics that he is singing--that his lyrics will most likely prevent the song from ever seeing radio play. (9/10) 2. "The Same Old Rock" (12:25) must rely more on its lyrical content for its appeal cuz, up until the 6:50 mark, I find it quite boring. (8/10) A fairly recent discovery for me, I liked it immediately and like the way increasing familiarity has helped it to grow even more in my esteem. Definitely a four star album, maybe even worthy of five.
Report this review (#1504337)
Posted Sunday, December 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Folk music is a genre as time-weathered as the most ancient forms of music out there. It's spanned generations at yet never faced a particular decline. Sure, the 20th century beckoned innovation left and right, such as the inception of jazz and rock as a pop culture medium. These genres, even though existing for a few decades, have been tampered with to the point of ridiculousness, discovering countless avant-garde pathways of musical experimentation. Yet folk hasn't really gone through a mainstream upheaval. Granted a genre as vast as folk is doubtless to maneuver through less traveled territories, which is definitely did in many different cultural landscapes. These ambitious takes on the genre were never financially popular. Most mainstream folk musicians were and are still content to patter out the same material as they were a hundred years ago, mainly because of society's familiarity and comfort with folk staying inside the proverbial box.

The 1970's ushered in the most eclectic and experimental period in recent history. Genres were not being introduced- rather they were being reintroduced in new clothes. Rock morphed itself into such genres as punk rock, disco, funk, and progressive rock (to a smaller extent). Jazz was delving deeper into perplexing territory on one side, but on the other hand genres like smooth jazz began to erupt in popularity. Hell, the two combined in the late 60's into jazz-rock, another newly-discovered music form. Still though, folk remained pinned in normalcy. Sure, psychedelic injections in the genre came from artists like Donovan, but the traditionalism still overshadowed it in popularity with acts like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. One artist tried to break this glass ceiling, however. Roy Harper.

To be fair, Mr. Harper doesn't necessarily require a grandiose introduction like some exalted king of tunes, but the man is quite the interesting fellow. In an interview, Harper states that he himself is not a fan of traditional folk music, and "was never really a bone fide member of the folk scene". Harper's difference from his peers becomes quite stark when delving into his music. He doesn't play like a romanticized pretty boy sticking to a linear set of sparing phrases that can be sung to make the crowd swoon, as much as he does a poet or a bard. Harper is a fan of John Keats, an 18th/17th century romantic poet, and it definitely translates fluidly into his work. He sticks mainly to lengthy songs, usually over the 8 minute mark, each filled with colorful language and rich stories. If you want to find good examples of these said songs, look no further than what is perhaps Harper's 1971 opus, Stormcock.

Stormcock is as progressive as they come. First, it has a short set of 4 tracks. Second, each track is individually lengthy, with the longest track being over 13 minutes. Third and finally, upon it's release, it was practically loathed by the labels. Marketing was practically impossible as radios refused to air it's tracks. Financially, Stormcock was a flop. A big flop. But honestly- who cares what the radios think in the end? Stormcock has since then has gained somewhat of a cult following and for good reason. It's influence has stretched quite a way to bands like The Smiths and modern folk/indie band Fleet Foxes. The album itself doesn't feature much diversity musician-wise other than Harper himself, except for Jimmy Page's under-contract-cameo as "S. Flavius Mercurius" and orchestral arrangements by David Bedford (who has worked with Kevin Ayers of Soft Machine). Roy Harper's musicianship is unique and extremely intricate. His guitar skill coupled with his sort of Ian Anderson-esque rasp color vivid literary pictures on each track. As someone who likes a bit of zesty writing, Harper is absolutely my medicine. The production is something highly praised, but personally I think it's rather rough at times. 'Same Old Rock' I know features far too blunt audio-balancing techniques and are usually just acceptable at best. I will give credit where credit is due though; the large production staff managed to master the art of atmosphere, particularly on the last track 'Me and My Woman' (we'll be coming back to this one). The echo of each instrument lends great power to every song, as well as giving it a great personality. More or less this album is guitar-centric, structured around Harper's overlapping acoustic and vocals but given different and interesting effects. If that sounded like something hackneyed to you, I'll admit that it is a bit. But usually where most 70's folk-cheese falls flat is that is becomes overly self-indulgent and you can no longer take it seriously. Stormcock has a certain subtlety to it that gives it a sense of maturity over it's contemporaries. This is mainly shown on the closer, 'Me and My Woman', which I've become convinced is one of the greatest musical compositions of the 1970s. Each movement in the song (especially the opening) flows almost perfectly into each-other, and the orchestral accompaniment does wonders to the piece. I'd really suggest checking it out on your own as it's one of the most worthwhile experiences I can recommend on this site.

Are you looking for an escape, my musically-frustrated friend? Then to reiterate: look no further than Roy Harper's Stormcock. It features some of the most soulful music to come out of the 70's folk scene, and is definitely top quality progressive material. Godspeed.

4.5 rounded to a 4 (mostly because of the production inconsistencies but also for the sake of this site's ratings system).

Report this review (#1676830)
Posted Friday, January 6, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the greatest albums of all time. Forget that it's a folk record, or a rock record, or a prog record. It's a masterpiece from begin to end.

Hor D'oerves is a song Roy Harper described in interviews as being lightweight. Compared with what came in the last 3 songs, that might be true, but it's a fine, laid back and rivetting start to the album.

The Same Old Rock is where the meat of the album really starts. An angry lament about the folly of organised religion, it weaves in and out before knocking you down with a killer coda (something the final track does too).

One Man Rock and Roll Band, probably is Roy Harper's second most played song live, after Cricketer from a different album. The Eastern influence and multiple ways it can be played is clearly fun to play. This version is probably the weakest of any, but that's not really a dig. It's a great, punchy song with distorted vocals.

Me and my Woman is a love song. Roy didn't write many, but what a song. Multiple different segments in here, the most progressive and probably the best song here (which is saying something). It's coda, the last 4 minutes or so is just spine tinglingly good.

Report this review (#1699480)
Posted Wednesday, March 8, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Objectively, Roy Harper's masterpiece (although he preferred HQ personally).

Perhaps the only totally consistent Roy Harper album with no bad tracks (it only has 4). It's just him in the main, with some help from Jimmy Page on "The Same old Rock", and some light orchestration from Peter Jenner on the closing epic "Me and My Woman". The opener H'or D'oerve's, and one of Roy Harper's signiture live cuts, One Man Rock and Roll Band are just Roy, doing Roy.

Everything on the record has a reason to bere there, and this is truly one of the few albums I listen to from start to finish everytime and find something new and exciting each time, even after 30 years.

This is a must have masterpiece from the most under-rated artist of the 1970s. If you enjoy, then move onto HQ, Lifemask, Valentine, Bullinamingvase and his earlier albums. I love them all, but this is without question the most special.

Report this review (#1699914)
Posted Friday, March 10, 2017 | Review Permalink

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