Roy Harper — The Unknown Soldier
(Science Friction HUCD031, 1980/1999, CD)
by Jeff Melton, Published 2000-05-01
Typically Roy Harper doesn't fall into a progressive rock vein, preferring to create an English version of Bob Dylan's never ending hippie dream. But in 1980 he amassed several friends whose collaboration brought about a mature focused work with more complex arrangements and dynamics than any solo album performance to date. Fellow contributors included Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Kate Bush, Tony Levin (pre-Crimson, Peter Gabriel), and Dave Lawson (Greenslade). To say that the album has a distinct edge to it is an understatement considering that Gilmour co-wrote several pieces on the album including an alternate version of "Short and Sweet" from his own first solo album. Sung by Harper on this version, the piece is entirely more creditable and forceful. Also falling into the aggressive song category is "You (The Game Part II)," an ominous duet with Kate Bush. "Ten Years Ago" is driven by Tony Levin's Stick bass and describes a forlorn look upon dreams which passed unrealized from the 60s. The real scorcher on the album is the album's closer, "True Story," with Gilmour's galloping guitar segueing into the mix after a dark synth intro. Harper is at his most expressive relating the story of William Wallace (also chronicled by the movie, Braveheart) and his brutal demise. In contrast there a few ballads as well as the acoustic title track which works as a contrasting element in the overall mix of compositions. This is the first time the album has been available on CD from Harper's own label. The Unknown Soldier is an overlooked classic that will also appeal to fans of Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull.
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.