The Sophisticated Beggar
Album available as:-
Re-issue of Strike JHL105
My first record, 'Sophisticated Beggar', was nothing short of a wild journey into deepest space. I had only just booted a very troubled childhood into touch, when suddenly, DING!, I was making a record. To say that I was overjoyed with the progress at the time would be a colossal understatement.
I was invited to do so by a friend of a friend who had a primitive but well organized set up in an outhouse in the garden. I ran wild and Pierre Tubbs and I made a good record. There are many enjoyable tracks and in it's own little way 'Sophisticated Beggar' was a microcosm of much that was to follow.
I still hear many of the songs being called for during performances! Unfortunately however, they have been superseded by bolder efforts which I tend to favor more in a performance. Nevertheless, I'm still proud of my first record.
- Roy Harper
Recorded under primitive circumstances and not distributed well on initial release, Harper's debut proves that the definitive cult folk-rock singer's idiosyncratic weirdness was firmly in place from the start. Mostly but not wholly acoustic, there are lingering similarities to Donovan and Bert Jansch, as well as a light similarity to Al Stewart on occasion. But Harper's scrambled lyricism is already his own, as is his peculiar melismatic phrasing. Those two traits combine to give the impression of a singer-song writing dyslexic, not able or willing to write words that are easily digested and apparently unsequenced in any linear fashion. That isn't the most appetizing recipe, but it's leavened by fairly attractive British folk melodies and very accomplished guitar work (the liner notes infer that John Renbourn and Ritchie Blackmore helped out). Although this is largely acoustic, electric guitar and backing are used from time to time, as well as reverb and backwards effects that give it a dated charm. Certainly the most uncharacteristic arrangement is "Committed," a crunching, ominous rock tune whose first-person account of madness recalls Syd Barrett's most distraught work (and is if anything more distraught than Barrett's loony tunes). And speaking of Pink Floyd, "October 12th" makes you wonder if Harper's influence didn't find its way into the post-Syd Floyd on tunes like "Grantchester Meadows."
- Richie Unterberger. Copyright (c) AMG. All Rights Reserved.
China Girl (Harper)