Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Not a good place to start
Elliot Knapp | Seattle, Washington United States | 04/09/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For those unfamiliar with Roy Harper's sprawling and generally brilliant catalogue, ...descendants of Smith (which is the same record as the alternately titled Garden of Uranium) is definitely not the best place to start. For those fans already familiar with Roy's late 60's-70's heyday, it remains a record that is interesting in places but is really only of interest to big fans and completists.
Recorded during his 1980's commercial nadir, Descendants of Smith features the recognizable 80's production (synthesizers, plugged-in, processed-sounding acoustic guitars, and slick band arrangements) that seemed sometimes to rob Roy's typically fantastic songs of their warmth and to gloss over their accessibility. On albums like Born in Captivity / Work of Heart, and, to a lesser degree, Jugula (which didn't sound quite as "80's"), the songs generally outshone the production. Unfortunately, Descendants of Smith doesn't have as many good songs--many are interesting experiments, like the twisted talking blues/rap of "Liquorice Alltime," or the somewhat bizarre electronic vocal manipulation of "Same Shoes"--but interesting as they may be, they don't hold up very well as solid songs with memorable lyrics, instrumental parts or melodies. Likewise, a few songs simply don't compare to Roy's classics; "Maile Lei," for instance, really doesn't compare to many of his 60's, 70's, or even 90's-present love songs. "Laughing Inside," the album's throwaway opener, lacks the wild, reckless and irreverent humor that typifies many of Roy's delightfully enjoyable throwaways of the past.
There are a few tracks that stand up to repeated listens. Both title tracks ("Garden of Uranium" and "Descendants of Smith") are worthwhile. The former is a smoldering political indictment, and the latter is something of a future-gazing statement about mankind. "Pinches of Salt" is another classic acoustic ballad, and "Desert Island," lifted from "Burn the World," has a great sentiment, although the keyboards and screaming 80's sax take it down a notch from its original version (found on the Burn the World single).
Overall, I think Descendants of Smith suffers most from a lack of cohesion--there isn't much flow to the album, and the high points are few and ill-timed, so they don't provide a framework on which to hang this uneven album. Thank goodness he came back with a vengeance on the fabulous Once. Like I said earlier, this album is really only of interest to big fans and collectors. If you're just getting into Roy's music, I'd recommend starting with anything from the late-60's period to the end of the 70's. If you're already a fan of his most famous records and want to get into the 80's records, the best ones are Jugula (with Jimmy Page), The Unknown Soldier, and (I think) Work of Heart. All of these can be found for less cash at royharper-dot-com, and Roy'll get the money."