This is only the second Roy Harper album I own. A friend gave me a copy of Stormcock in April of this year as a gift, and I was impressed by it enough that I wanted to check out his work more closely. I'd been thinking of getting Death Or Glory for a while, partly because Nick plays guitar through all of it (okay I'm predictable) and partly because I got a tape that had a few songs from it on it and was intrigued to hear more.
Well, for the most part Death Or Glory is gorgeous. I've been listening to it quite a lot since I got it in July and I haven't tired of it yet. I don't love everything on it - I'm definitely going more for the introspective ones. I do think it works really well as an album, with the (mostly) unifying theme of lost love. As the Stormcock mailing list was discussing this album, I decided to go over it track by track:
Death Or Glory - Sounds just a bit Floyd-ian to me. Love the guitars. Good start, even though it's a bit more "in-your-face" than most of the album.
The War Came Home Tonight - Nice harmonies and guitar work, but not one of my favourites. I like the sentiment!
Duty - Great poem.
Waiting For Godot Part Zed - The vocal carries this one, and it is lovely.
Next To Me - "I lost the only reason that I ever had". The first one on the album that tears at my heart. By the last line I'm a mess, but in a good way, if that makes sense!
The Methane Zone - Not sure where this came from. It made sense when I read that it had been added later - it just doesn't seem to fit with the rest.
The Tallest Tree - Nice enough, and cool guitar lines, but it doesn't grab me. Reminds me a little bit of Pat Metheny and his Latin work, but I've liked that better.
Miles Remains - The instrumental section sends shivers up my spine. Hats off to Nick. :) And the vocal and lyrics are beautiful too. I love this one.
The Fourth World - My favourite of the "louder" songs on this album. Again, fantastic guitar playing. Very angry vocal and very cool. Roy swears well. ;)
Why? - One line and then run, but interesting!
Evening Star - What a great wedding song - ah if only I had heard this album 7 years ago! I can definitely "hear" Nick's guitar playing in this one, unless they are that much alike...
Cardboard City - A nice enough song, and I don't really mind it, but again it jars in the middle of the quieter songs. I would have loved to hear Evening Star run right into the next one. Ah well that's what CD programming is for, I guess!
One More Tomorrow - This song makes me cry every time I hear it. Damn you, Harpers. ;) My favourite song on the album - I can feel Roy's pain in every word. And again, the guitars (12 string?) add to the mood. I'm a sucker for a minor key! Don't ask me which one, I'm not that good haha.
On Summer Day - It's so delicate and lovely, and what a great end to an album. Can't say much except how beautiful it is, and it reminds me of my favourite Nick Drake songs. All of them!
The verdict: even with some low spots, worth checking out if you're a fan of Nick's playing, or Roy's work, or just a fan of passionate, highly emotional, very beautiful songs. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.