Roy Harper is seventy and living in semi-retirement as far as making new music is concerned. He has, however, been preparing to make his complete catalogue available as digital downloads for the first time beginning with this double set which is also released on CD.
These are, as the title suggests, love songs so there are none of the long musical excursions that Roy is also noted for. Thinking of a song like ‘I Hate The White Man’ it’s easy to pigeon-hole Roy as a political song-writer but that’s not really the way he is. Certainly he has strong views and principles that have made for edgy relationships with record companies. He is firmly opposed to organised religion of any kind but his thoughts on the existence of a deity are more complicated than the simplistic “God is dead”. Most of his songs are about people, family and lovers, and England in all its beauty and ugliness. Included in this set is ‘South Africa’ which could be an ode to a country imprisoned by apartheid or a metaphor for a woman of whom he says “We have never met each other but it can’t be long”. That’s the beauty of Roy Harper: you can analyse his lyrics fruitlessly for hours.
This album includes some of Roy’s perennial favourites: ‘Francesca’, ‘Commune’, ‘Another Day’ and ‘North Country’ amongst them but there are songs from later, perhaps lesser-known albums: songs like ‘Sleeping At The Wheel’, ‘On Summer Day’ and ‘Waiting For Godot’. The quality of the remixing/remastering is astonishing. Even listening in the car I swear I can hear things I’ve never heard before. The tracks drawn from Valentine are gorgeous with David Bedford’s orchestrations soaring and leaping from the speakers. Most of my Harper albums are on vinyl and although I’d never part with them I’m seriously considering supplementing them with new digital versions. Dai Jeffries
Artist Web Link: www.royharper.co.uk