[sic] Magazine

Roy Harper – Man & Myth

Roy Harper is an artist in a perennial state of prime artistry even today at the age of 72. This reviewer saw him perform in Knebworth in 1978 supporting Genesis and much preferred his short surprise set to the extended light show of Collins and crew. He delighted throughout the whole concert especially with a virtuoso performance of ‘One of those days in England’ a song so typical of Harpers lengthy, lyrical, complex compositions. The man has been sporadically delighting us since his debut way back in 1966 but has kept his fans waiting a very long thirteen years for this new album Man & Myth .

The good news is that this is no wait in vain. On this new album Harpers remarkable voice is still an incredibly strong instrument sometimes subtle but not without the trademark angry overtones. His songwriting still screams pure class not least since Harper has always the played the game his own way often at significant personal cost. The album starts with the brilliant storytelling of the seven minute plus ‘The Enemy’ where that snarl heard on ‘Have a cigar’ is in top form telling a tale of how “the lads go out drinking/ while the girls try keep an eye/but no ones on duty this side of the sky” . These are songs of love, life and lust; always persistent themes which Harper has revisited time and time again without a hint of dullness. The lovely acoustics of ‘Time is Temporary’ is splendid and a deep heartfelt reflection that has been a Harper specialty throughout his career. If anything the brilliant ‘January Man’ is even rawer as Harper sings of how he “lost control of my emotions/tear run down my face” . It is truly up there with the great Harper songs. A harder folk edge is given to ‘The Stranger’ with some sterling guitar playing, whilst Pete Townsend guests on ‘Cloud Cuckooland’ with a Dylanesque feel, a huge rocking climax and vocal gymnastics from Harper that would put a 21 year old to shame. Finally it the myth of Orpheus condemned to a life of exile and misery that inspires the last two songs especially the 15 minute stream of consciousness ‘Heaven is here’. It is full of great word play and the time flies by. Harper tells of how the song is about the “psychology of loss … the man and myth travelling together” . Its dreamlike narrative leads to the albums conclusion in ‘The Exile’ a swirling track with Harper in search of absolution excellently co-produced by Jonathan Wilson .

Measuring Man & Myth against Harper epics such as Stormcock is utterly pointless. If anything what this album achieves is to build on the themed grouping of songs that were included on the anthology Song of love and loss and place the emphasis on autumnal musings with music haunted by reflection and ghosts. Harper may be loved by some of the best and most famous members of the rock aristocracy but his truculent nature and refusal to compromise his art give him a uniqueness in British music in same way that Leonard Cohen another of the venerated 70+ club does on a wider world stage. Man & Myth is a hugely welcome addition to the one of the best canons of musical excellence currently at our full disposal. The man is truly back on form and the myth is locked down solid.

Find out more