Tells it like he sees it.
Another Muslim | New York, NY, The Great Satan | 04/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Really, Roy Harper's "The Black Cloud of Islam" is not a rant against all Muslims but agaionst those hwo would kill in the name of Allah - just as a rant against the Christian Right would not be a rant against ALL Christians, or a rant against Israel would not necessarily mean a hatred of all Jews. As a Muslim I see his point all too clearly - it disgusts me when I hear our people back up their atrocities with MY religion. It disgusts me just as much those who stay silent, who though opposed to the terrorists and tyrants would rather not speak out against them simply because they are "fellow Muslims" - they are not MY kind of Muslims, though."
Other reviewer obviously a Harper novice, cause Harper is a
Mr Musical Snob | Coventry, RI USA | 11/09/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Don't let that reviewer scare you from discovering one of England's finest singers and true intellectuals. Obviously, this other reviewer knows almost nothing about Roy Harper. Harper has spent his career being critical of ALL organized religion. He certainly doesn't save all his disgust for Islam, you want critical lyrics of Christianity, listen to "The Spirit Lives" or "The Game". "The Lord's Prayer" is far from a positive portrait of the follower's of Christ. So, yes, "Black Cloud of Islam" is negative on Islam, but this is hardly a foreign stand for Roy to hold organized religion in contempt. "Berliners" is extremely moving WW2 epic, not to mention the power of "Once", the title track. While Harper is an extreme talent, this is only a good example of his work. To get the true measure of his talent check out: "Stormcock", "HQ", "Flat Baroque and Berserk" (which features some scathing criticism of the history of imperial western gov't in "I hate the White Man"), "Lifemask" or "Bullinaminvase"- all are better representations of this true visionary than this release, but "Once" still has a lot to recommend it. So, novices to Roy should do a little more research on their subject before taking his intellectual criticism personally or feeling like the singular target of his angst."
Quality, controversial comeback
Elliot Knapp | Seattle, Washington United States | 12/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1990, after roughly a decade of experimentation with popular technology and recording techniques and unsuccessful label relationships, Roy Harper released this album. Once is in some ways a return to Harper's early 70's style--mostly acoustic, less band-oriented--and sounds all the better for it. This review is designed to consider the entire album (not just one controversial track, like the other two reviews have done), and it's also designed to encourage you to buy this album. In most of my Roy Harper reviews, I encourage people to buy the album from his website, www.royharper.co.uk, since Roy runs that website and will get a larger share of the profit he deserves on the music. With Once, however, I don't recommend that, because it's out of print. Finding the album used is the only option, so I recommend buying it here on Amazon while it's still cheap and available. Now for the music:
The album's opener and title track is a classic--in the vein of "The Game" (from HQ), Roy sizes up the human predicament with help from David Gilmour and Kate Bush. The track (like much of the album) is deceptively simple, but it has grown on me by leaps and bounds. The second track is a great spoken word piece. "Nowhere To Run To" proves that Roy is still adept at expressing his alienation from a backward society, and it adds some great-sounding blues harmonica to the mix.
"Black Cloud of Islam" is one of Roy's most controversial songs (see the arguments below for a taste of the controversy). Both sides of the debate have valid points, since Roy's song calls on very real, well-documented instances of violence and what the Western world views as oppression, but also moderately unrealistically charges all Muslims with the crimes committed by a minority of Muslims. Instead of blindly arguing about this song, interested people should read Roy's latest diary entry on the above mentioned website entitled "Cloudy Days," for his own side of the story. Regardless of the debate, I think this song proves just how unique, challenging and fearless a songwriter Roy Harper is--who else in this age of homogenized superstars releasing poorly-written hackneyed patriotic cash-ins and Christmas compilations would have the wherewithal to write such a challenging, controversial piece? If you stop for a second and consider the rest of Roy's output, he's written even more devastating religious criticism, it's just been directed toward Christianity. Nobody seemed to mind that as much. Enough said about "Black Cloud."
Listeners obsessed with "Black Cloud" would do well to listen to the rest of the album--Roy's uncannily talented fingerstyle accompanies the nonviolent, equally challenging "If," in which Roy sings "where's the love you're always talking of when you can't stand man to man?" A message of peace pervades Roy's work--it's just complex. Likewise, "Berliners" praises the tearing down of the Berlin wall. "For Longer Than it Takes" is a love song that, in hindsight, heartbreakingly foreshadows the coming storm on Death or Glory?. "Ghost Dance" rocks in a Harper folky way, and existentially considers the ideas the rest of the album has been wrestling with.
Once is a great album--it's up there with Roy's best, even with the controversial inclusion of "Black Cloud." Writing off this album because of its difficult, controversial material would mean missing out on one of the most challenging voices of an era, and skipping out on the compelling message of religion-free peace that Roy has been propounding his entire career. On top of that, it's great music with characteristic guitar and soaring vocals that only Roy can do. You don't have to completely agree with Roy to have your state of mind be positively influenced by his music and poetry. It think this album is worth it."