They were called “The poor man’s Moody Blues” by some critics back in the early seventies, an appellation not without merit at the time. But Barclay James Harvest managed to tough it out through various lineup changes, label changes, and musical changes over the course of the decade. In doing so they managed to become a big enough deal to headline this massive open-air Berlin festival in 1980.
They never really caught on in the United States, which is why the appearance of this DVD is such a treat for some of us. BJH were what you might call an “acquired taste,” for many, as their music was never played on radio, and the magazines had very little to say about them. I actually bought my first BJH album in the local cut-out bin, knowing nothing about them except that I liked the cover.
Based on the nine songs performed here, the group were at a real high point in 1980. While their music is considered prog, by this time they had tightened things up considerably. In fact it is a little surprising that they were unable to pull off any crossover success in this period.. Their music reminds me a lot of what contemporaries such as The Alan Parsons Project and Genesis were charting with that year.
Besides the nine songs recorded live in concert, there is also an interesting item included from 1975 titled “Time Honored Ghosts.” This five-song sequence of promotional clips (early videos) is from the album of the same name, and has never been previously released. There is plenty to chuckle at regarding to the band’s fashion sense, and the dated effects don‘t help. But this was arguably their best album, and getting to see these vintage clips is something fans like myself will certainly appreciate. The five songs are: “Jonathan,” “Titles,” “Moongirl,” “One Night,” and “Beyond The Grave.”
The video quality is average, reflecting the state of the technology at the time, but it is acceptable. There is a very nice booklet included, which illuminates the events that led up to this appearance, along with photos of the huge crowd. The show captured on Berlin: A Concert For The People turned out to be their biggest ever, so it is nice that the cameras were there that day.
Including “Time Honored Ghosts” the DVD runs 79 minutes. While Berlin is clearly meant for BJH fans, I think it could appeal to anyone who enjoyed the mellower prog sounds of the era. And the outfits they sport really are to die for.