3/23/17 – Roy Harper “Stormcock” (1971)

Roy Harper is a folk singer-songwriter that’s been making music since the late 60s and has built up a pretty massive discography, but Stormcock remains my favorite of his. In fact this album ticks a number of ‘favorite’ boxes for me – favorite folk rock album, favorite Roy Harper album, and probably favorite 70s album. When I started my vinyl collection, I made sure to grab this asap.

Stormcock features only 4 songs, each 8-13 minutes long. Each has it’s own completely unique flavor, and they NEVER feel like they drag on. On each track, Roy Harper demonstrates how effortlessly he shifts in range and scope. At times quiet and intimate, and the next epic and massive. This feels like the definitive “folk rock” album – featuring the best of both genres as Roy blends them seamlessly.

Hors d’Oeuvres a bitter song, something that is not rare to Roy Harper – he often writes very political and pointed songs. He takes jabs at the courts, his critics, and even the everyman. Already he’s on the defensive with this album, knowing the critics will spite him, saying Roy has no real answers for the problems he addresses, and his music won’t even be popular. Roy just replies with one of my favorite lyrics of all time:
“Well you can lead a horse to water
But you’re never gonna make him drink
And you can lead a man to slaughter
But you’re never gonna make him think”

The Same Old Rock has some of my favorite instrumentation on the album. The guitar playing on this song is just superb, the two acoustics dance around each other all throughout, bouncing ideas back and forth. The song ends with a 4 minute long jam that is simply epic. Roy Harper is an absolutely fantastic singer, and he shines on this track as he does on the whole album. As for the lyrics, I’m still trying to decipher them.

One Man Rock and Roll Band is another political song, but this time it’s an anti-war piece. The first part is welcoming back a soldier to society, and has the brilliant line “You don’t need your gun, man, we’re already dead”. It’s a very anti-military song, even questioning if the veterans of wars were heroes. The “One Man Band” is applied to both society and the military, both seen from his eyes as drifting towards “Doomsday”. Roy is not afraid to speak his mind about anything, and I’m glad. I don’t always agree with his stances but I respect that he’s got a strong view of issues, and expresses those views beautifully.

Me and My Woman closes out the album with a reflection on what feels like a long relationship that Roy has had. It’s got such a wonderful sense of the passage of time, and he seems to mourn the death of this relationship, especially with lyrics like:
“What a lovely day
What a day to play at living
What a mess we make
What a trust we break
Not giving our wings to our children
O how we fail them
O how we nail them”

The song is about much more than that though. He branches out into broad themes of life purpose, and the future, before coming back to “me and my little woman”. Needless to say the instrumentation is absolutely fantastic on this track just like the others. It, just like the other 3 songs, have so many memorable lyrics and melodies that I find myself thinking about this album quite often. This record is absolute genius, and I can’t recommend it enough. REQUIRED listening for folk rock fans.