Parker Burwell Toop credit Jak Kilby


The Harvest Label - the 70s ‘Underground’ in one box

My generous friend, who had previously lent me the Elektra box set, also provided me with another absolute monster, a five-CD collection of recordings from the Harvest label. This was an EMI subsidiary, formed to capitalise on the ‘progressive’ or ‘underground’ scene that had developed in the late sixties, and which lasted from 1969 to 1979, by which time punk and new wave had rendered it completely passe and out of step. But any Baby Boomer born between 1950 and 1964 should have some memory of the music released on Harvest, with its distinctive green and yellow logo. It lasted for a decade, one that was perhaps the most notable of all, in terms of experimentation within the form. A dip into this box releases the madeleine aroma of the times in my own memory banks, and of years sat in front to my dansette listening to ‘the sounds of the seventies’.

It’s impossible for someone of my age and background to be objective about this kind of stuff, and it is a fascinating process to sift through material that was considered to be cutting-edge in its time, but has since had fifty or so years to be assessed and reassessed. Some it has been found room, perhaps reluctantly, in the Hall of Fame/Infamy, others consigned to the Hall of Antiques & Curios. Some just belong in a freak show. It is still a joyous exercise to listen to, however, and the set is packaged in the usual sumptuous and Alexandrian manner by the EMI Art Department. The huge retrospectives always make Memory Lane a most pleasant byway to wander along, as compared to a ‘stream’ or a USB stick. Or even a cloud..

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Banner and book cover photo credit: Jak Kilby