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Roy Harper - Counter Culture

Counter Culture

Roy Harper

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A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Ya say there's just too durn many selections in Roy Harper's toy box? Ya think ya might have a nervous breakdown trying to select which one to start with? Is that what's putting the grit in yer farina, Bunky? Well, fear not, Uncle Roy hisself has issued a 2-CD release of his faves through a 40+ year history. It's packed with killer material, legendary musicians, and tons o' musical surprises, all the while guaranteed to make you atractive to the opposite sex, freshen your breath, eliminate body odor, and vaproize latent urges to Republicanism.

It's doubly a treat that this compendium is arranged chronologically, but, with Harper, that's almost pointless, as you'll understand when you hear the first disc's opening cut with John Renbourn, Sophisticated Beggar, from the 1966 debut LP of the same name. It's as hip, nuanced, passionate, and clever as anything he put out for the next four decades. If you're a true folker, Harper's work can't be passed up if one wishes to be held in esteem in genteel crit circles or hip confabs. The man has constantly been more innovative than Dylan (other virtues render Dylan untouchable), as symphonic as Al Stewart, and as gritty and airy as Dave Cousins and Tom Rapp,

To show just how wry Harper can be without even thinking about it, in the intro to I Hate the White Man, he tells the crowd "Anyway, this is a…this is a song for the, uh…well, there's no need to name them, there's absolutely no need to name them. They are who they think they are." That, my friends, is a quote worthy of archiving with Bakunin, Chomsky, and the great anarchists, devastating for its layers of connotation. Roy's intelligence, sense of humor, passion, and musical virtues attracted the greats of England: Jimmy Page, Alvin Lee, Bill Bruford, David Bedford, David Gilmour, Kate Bush, and Andy Roberts (and will someone, please, for God's sake, re-issue Andy's solo LPs!), all of whom appear here, with more besides.

For FAME, I've recently penned critiques of Harper's Flat Baroque and Berserk, Stormcock, and Jugula, and, somewhere in there, I made the case that the man is seriously in need of critical re-appraisal, his work far too much neglected in the past. Every damn cut he's ever written sounds like it was scribed yesterday, fresh, immediate, and invigorating, filfulling precisely what folk was developed for. Were Harper to have been as broadly affective on all folkers as Mayall and Korner were on bluesrock, we'd have a much healthier, far brasher, and virtually fearless genre environment more explorative in its musicalities. Ah, but genius is not easily absorbed and so, while we wait, there's this set and his entire catalogue to keep the faithful warm, happy, and politically pissed off until the rest of the world catches up. Don't hold your breath waiting for the last part, but *do* cop this release to pass the time fruitfully in the meantime.

Track List:

  • Sophisticated Beggar
  • You Don't Need Money
  • Francesca
  • I Hate the White Man
  • Another Day
  • The Same Old Rock
  • Me and My Woman
  • South Africa
  • I'll See You Again
  • Twelve Hours of Sunset
  • Forget Me Not
  • Hallucinating Light
  • When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease
  • One of Those Days in England (Pts. 2-10)
  • These Last Days
  • Cherishing the Lonesome
  • The Flycatcher
  • You
  • Frozen Moment
  • Pinches of Salt
  • Miles Remain
  • Evening Star
  • I Wanna be in Love
  • The Green Man
  • Blackpool (extract)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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