There is a lot to shout about Roy Harper’s new album Man And Myth which happens to be his first studio album in 13 years. The excitement over this release has been building for a year, when he spoke to Folk Radio UK last year (interview here) he was clearly enthused that he hadn’t lost his mojo:
“I wrote four new songs in four weeks, which was a real surprise. I realised I’ve still got it, that I’ve not lost it,” he says, quickly adding “… not that I’ve lost it, but that things break the flow … I can still do it even though there’s so much else to do now: you need a nanny, a butler, an A&R man, a lawyer, a publisher … all jobs you do for yourself now. So getting back to the really important thing, imparting your mind onto tape or whatever…”
Time is Temporary is the first song to be shared from the album:
Roy Harper – Time Is Temporary
Sat 17 August – ESCOT PARK – Beautiful Days Festival
Sun 18 August – GLANUSK – Green Man Festival
Tue 22 October – LONDON – Royal Festival Hall
Fri 25 October – MANCHESTER – Bridgewater Hall
Sun 27 October – BRISTOL – Colston Hall
In 2011, Harper performed a special show at the Royal Festival Hall in celebration of his 70th birthday, where those who joined on stage included Joanna Newsom, Jonathan Wilson and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, who once penned a tribute called ‘Hats Off To Harper’. David Gilmour not only played on record and stage for Harper, but Pink Floyd engaged him to sing ‘Have A Cigar’ on the band’s landmark album Wish You Were Here. Fellow collaborator Kate Bush has called Harper “one of the greatest English songwriters” while the late John Peel declared, on his death, that cricket obsessive Harper’s “When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease” be played at his funeral. Johnny Marr, meanwhile, has stated that Harper’s 1971 opus Stormcock was “intense and beautiful and clever.”
Having moved to County Cork in Ireland in the late ‘80s, and in between planting trees, publishing a book, a DVD, two important compilations and attending to re-mastering his back catalogue, Harper hasn’t endeavoured to release a follow-up to 2000’s The Green Man: “I’ve written poetry, prose, essays and articles and gone through the motions of being Roy, but I didn’t have the will to make another album until recently” he admits. “I was inspired to write again around 2009, by many of the younger generation finding me and asking, who are you? But it’s also been those of my own generation, who said they’d never bothered to listen to me until now, but in the process of looking for something else they might like, they’d found me, and some said they now knew why they’d kept hearing my name. Good for your confidence when things like that happen. I wrote ‘The Stranger’ round about that time (2009), and then fell into what turned out to be another long song. I’d picked up the guitar after a long break, and this song started to engage me with different tunings and ideas, and suddenly I was off to the races again.”
Four of the seven tracks that constitute Man And Myth were recorded with Jonathan Wilson at his studio in Laurel Canyon. The recently discovered keeper of the West Coast rock flame had been assembling a Harper tribute album and the two struck up a friendship after meeting backstage at Wilson’s show – Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde was also present – at London’s Borderline in 2012. ‘Heaven Is Here’ and ’The Exile’, the album’s epic closing tracks, and ‘January Man” were subsequently recorded back in County Cork.
Man And Myth is incontrovertible proof to everyone of Roy Harper’s persisting brilliance, with many hallmarks of what has singled him out since his first album 47 heady years ago.