Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Roy Harper
Lifemask


Released 1973 on Harvest
Reviewed by argyle_heir, 16/05/2004ce


Having been released inbetween the acclaimed acoustic masterpieces "Stormcock" and "Valentine" it's not hard to see why "Lifemask" has been overlooked somewhat.

'Tis a shame though as it's a mightily impressive album once you get your head around it's lyrical, melodic and rhythmic complexities (which is half the fun with Roy's albums, admittedly. Well, it is with saddos like me anyway......).

It kicks off with the masterful "Highway Blues"- love the twiddly electric/acoustic duet in the intro- very Jimmy Page (who actually backs Roy up elsewhere on the record). In many ways I suppose this is the definitive solo Harper tune- a nigh-on perfect example of his uncompromising, hard hitting prog/folk with the melodies soaring skyward when you least expect them and time signatures being changed constantly.

The next two tunes, "All Ireland" and "Little Lady", are fairly uninspired next to the brooding opening song but things soon pick up again with the Page-assisted "Bank Of The Dead"- another powerful acoustic tour de force. Side A (if we're speaking in vinyl terms) wraps up with the album's most heartrending moment- the glowing love song "South Africa". The melody in this one reminds me of an early Caravan song in places. Great song.

As was the tradition with many artists in the early '70s, the entire second side is taken up wih the epic piece "The Lord's Prayer" which is split into five separate movements (no wait, come back- it's not as pompous as it sounds!!!!).

The first part is entitled "Poem" which does exactly what it's says on the 'tin'- Roy garbling incoherently about erections, wombs and a man from the stoneage for three minutes until he gets his (massive sounding) acoustic back out for the remaining 20 minutes.

I'll be honest- when you're in the mood for it, "The Lord's Prayer" is fantastic- a huge labyrinth of a song full of great lyrical twists and turns and interesting melodies- but if it's one of those days where nothing but snappy garage rock or whatever will satisfy your ears then the song just sounds like a boring, directionless pile of self-indulgent arse. Which it isn't. Unless you're not in the mood for it. Oh I don't know- judge for yourself (I like it anyway........most of the time).

Great album- worth a look in.


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