Messy album gets saved by the bonus tracks
Joao Nunes | Portugal | 12/09/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith is Roy Harper's second album and it is very different from his debut. For Genghis Smith Roy got a proper producer (Shel Talmy, known for his work with the Kinks and the Who) and there's definitely a sense that Roy wanted to be hip too and was aiming for some radio play. The acoustic guitar is still present but now there is a backup band in almost every song, with keyboards, strings and all. But of course Roy is not that easy and the songs are too weird and complex.
Sophisticated Beggar had no plan and that's what makes it so special. Genghis Smith has a plan but it is the wrong plan. This is not the Roy Harper we all love (well, I speak for myself, as a fan, but I think you'll agree).
And there are good ideas in these songs. They have the Roy Harper blueprint on them. But even the best of these - 'You Don't Need Money', 'All You Need Is' - are sub par in Roy's catalogue. Roy complicated things too much, twisting melodies around until they loose focus and arranging them as hip chamber Pop numbers.
Then there is one song right in the middle of this mess that has nothing to do with the rest of the album and is absolutely beautiful. 'What You Have' is the only song that features only vocals and guitar and a simplicity that brings back the best of his debut album. Dedicated to his wife Mocy, it's also one of the most touching and heartfelt songs that he ever wrote. It's a shame that this mostly overlooked gem is so forgotten even among the fans.
Funnily, it's the extra material that the this CD features that is much more interesting. No less than 7 extra tracks. Maybe this was a way for Roy to upgrade a bit this album which he calls in the liner notes as the "Skeleton in the cupboard".
And it works! Thanks to them I'll give it an extra star.
'Midspring Dithering' and 'Zenjem' are from a single of the same year and would fit perfectly on Genghis Smith. In fact they are better than most of it.
Even better are 'Zaney Janey' and 'Ballad of Songwriter' originally from the USA version of Folkjokeopus. These are great rocking tracks, very much in the spirit of 'Sgt. Sunshine' or 'She's the One' from that album.
The last three songs are from BBC Radio sessions and you can also find them on The BBC Tapes Vol.1.
The acoustic version of 'She's The One' is great. Without a backing band Roy Harper performs much more loosely and freely.
Last but not the least, there is 'It's Tomorrow And Today is Yesterday' which for me is the long lost Roy Harper gem. I would rank this among the top ten Roy Harper songs. So why wasn't it originally on any album? This is clearly from the time of Flat Baroque and Berserk and my guess is that Roy thought it sounded a bit like 'East Of The Sun' with the harmonica and all.
All these extra tracks would make more sense spread through Genghis Smith, Folkjokeopus and FB&B, but as it is Genghis Smith gets all the benefits."