Though he's at heart what we might call a fundamentalist folkie, Roy Harper may well be the most famous unknown guy in rock and roll, often referred to as "the longest running underground act in the world", so this push to re-acquaint him to the public is timely, especially at a moment when the industry and a number of its genres are in the doldrums. Harper was influenced by gents like Huddie Ledbetter, Josh White, and Woody Guthrie and, amidst a stint in the Royal Air Force, discovered he had little sympathy for the ways of the capitalist world. Faking madness, he received a discharge, but not before being subjected to electro-shock therapy. The government will have its pound of flesh.
This is his third release, originally printed in 1970, and solidly demonstrates the power and integrity of his work, viscerally demonstrated in the sophomore track, I Hate the White Man, a dazzling provocation in thought, act, and word. A protest against the imperialism of the European and American civilizations. Here, Harper's armed with only an acoustic guitar, a voice, and a pen, inditing and singing elegantly surreally worded denunciations of societies based in predatory advantagism:
Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Keith Moon, Bill Bruford, and other rock luminaries came to admire Harper not just for the attractiveness of his work but the man's personal integrity as well. His fights with record labels and social institutions were well known and showed an individual living his philosophy. Though he'd frequently grow experimental, this CD embodies the ground on which every one of his songs—over a rather astonishing catalogue of releases, especially now that he's recaptured the copyrights—dances and glowers. Probably best compared to Donovan's work for simplicity and hypnotic engagement, where Mr. Leitch celebrated life, Harper deconstructs it for the hidden menace and ambushes awaiting everyone. Those traps inevitably issue not just from institutionalized greed and insanity but interpersonal contretemps as well. In true poetic fashion, Harper lets none escape the microscope.
The guitarist-composer spent a lot of time in the States but never gained the status he should have, despite an almost fanatical fan base and the ongoing interest of some of progrock's top names (here, on the final cut, Keith Emerson's The Nice, provides a complete contrast to the rest of the LP, simultaneously demonstrating what killer lead lines Roy could produce when he wanted to), so it can only be hoped the act of keeping his work, now on Harper's own Science Friction label, in the public's face will result in a re-evaluation and re-influence of and by his material. God knows we need retrospection and invigoration desperately right now.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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