Sunday, October 22, 2023

John Lees - A Major Fancy (1977 uk, fascinating mix of epic, prog, jazzy silky rock, 2010 double disc remaster)

Born Oldham, January 13th, 1947. John had no formal musical education, but took up guitar when he was fourteen. Educated at Robin Hill Secondary Modern and Breeze Hill Comprehensive, John went on to study at Oldham School Of Art, where he met Woolly Wolstenholme in 1964. They played together in the Sorcerers, playing Eddie Cochran-style rock and roll, and in The Blues Keepers, before forming Barclay James Harvest in 1967. He recorded a solo album, A Major Fancy, in 1972, but this was tied up when the band changed record label and was not released until 1977. 

John’s musical influences include Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joe Walsh and The Eagles. He also enjoys reading, his favourite books being Graham Greene’s A Burnt Out Case, science fiction novels (especially those of Ray Bradbury) and poetry. His hobbies include photography and amateur radio. John lives in Saddleworth with his wife Olwen and they have two children, Esther Jane (born 28th July, 1980) and John Joseph (who shares his father’s birthday, being born on 13th January, 1986). For five years John worked in the sixth form at Crompton House School, involved with the production of the GCSE and A Level students' Music and Music Technology coursework, but in July 2012 he retired from that work in order to concentrate fully on music once more.

By the time John Lees’ solo album eventually hit the harsh, gob-bespattered streets of 1977, it couldn’t have been more out of step if you’d tied its shoelaces together and started pelting its feet with stones. The Barclay James Harvest guitarist originally recorded the album in a comparatively benign 1972, when the charts may have been awash with glam rockers tottering around on glittery stack heels, but there was still room in the ranks for long-form soft-rock introspection.

As a direct consequence of that insanely protracted release schedule, A Major Fancy has never really received an unbiased hearing, which is a pity because it holds up surprisingly well. Produced by Wally Waller and abetted by a crack team of musos including Rod Argent, 10cc’s Kevin Godley and Eric Stewart, and Wally’s fellow Pretty Things Skip Alan and Gordon Edwards, it benefits from a reining-in of the characteristic BJH impulse to overstate. Admittedly, the BJH touchstone Child Of The Universe is unveiled here, but this version seems drier, cooler and somehow more credible. The attractively baggy Latinate jazz groove of Untitled No 1 – Heritage, meanwhile, is closest in texture to the Parachute-era Pretties. A whole disc’s worth of contemporaneous extras seals the deal.
by Marco Rossi 
Disc 1
1. Untitled No. 1 - Heritage - 7:54
2. Child Of The Universe - 6:18
3. Kes (A Major Fancy) - 2:33
4. Untitled No. 2 - 3:52
5. Sweet Faced Jane - 5:05
6. Witburg Night - 5:47
7. Long Ships - 5:20
8. Untitled No. 3 - 5:02
All compositions by John Lees
Disc 2
1. Untitled No. 8 - 4:36
2. Child Of The Universe (First Version) - 6:28
3. Witburg Night (First Mix) - 5:48
4. Untitled No. 2 (First Version) - 3:51
5. Untitled No. 1 - Heritage (Alternate Mix) - 8:16
6. Best Of My Love (Don Henley, Glen Frey, J.D. Souther) - 3:40
7. You Can't Get It - 3:57
8. Please Be With Me (Charles Scott Boyer) - 2:47
9. Child Of The Universe (Single Edit) - 3:41
Songs written by John Lees except where stated

John Lees - Vocals, Acoustic, Electric Guitars
Wally Waller - Bass, Congas, Timbales, Mellotron, Vibraphone, Tubular Bells, Moog Synthesizer, Harmony Vocals
Skip Allen - Drums, Tambourine
Rod Argent - Organ
Gordon Edwards - Piano 
Graham Preskett - Violin, Strings, Choral Arrangement
Rex Morrison - Tenor Saxophone
Kevin Godley - Percussion
Eric Stewart - Acoustic Guitar
The Mike Sammes Singers - Choir

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