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Barra (UK) - 1987 / 2002 - "Eternal Magus"
(61 min, "English Garden", a division of "Hi-Note")

Track List:

1. Eternal Magus 3:14
2. Gifts For Violet 3:05
3. Gnosis 4:56
4. Green Man 3:34
5. Journey 4:23
6. Palestine 4:24
7. Seafever 3:59
8. Universe 4:35
9. Battlescars 4:02
10. Badda 4:28
11. Never-Never 4:43
12. Silverman 3:33
13. Blushing Red 4:10
14. Power of Three 4:05
15. Seafever (2-nd version) 4:31

All tracks: by BARRA, except:
9, 11, & 12: by Sparkes & Parker-Sharp.


Alan Wishart - guitars; keyboards
Tracey-Ann Sparkes - vocals
Colin Cummings - bass 
Clive Parker-Sharp - drums; programming

Produced: by Parker-Sharp & BARRA, except
11 to 14: by Parker-Sharp & KCF.
Engineered: by I. Shaw, S. May, & BARRA.
Mastered: by D. J. Burrows at "Disque Rue Bis", UK.
Artwork & design: by Colin Masson (of The Morrigan).

Preamble. Barra was formed in 1984 and, thanks to extensive gigs, quickly became a very popular band at that time (at least in the UK and Ireland). Barra's sole album, "Eternal Magus", was recorded in 1987 and, according to the contract that the band signed with the Furry Records label, it should've been released the same year. Unfortunately, the people at the label had changed their mind to release the album, and when the band's hopes for new contracts failed to materialize, Barra split up.

The Album. Most of the songs that are presented on the only Barra CD (no instrumentals here) are about a real progressive Hard Rock with elements of Celtic music and those of both of Symphonic- and guitar-based Art-Rock. These are Eternal Magus, Gifts For Violet, Gnosis, Green Man, Journey, Universe, Battlescars, Silverman, Blushing Red, and Power of Three (1 to 5, 8, 9, & 12 to 14). The alternation of the vocal and instrumental parts, heavy and soft structures, etc, is typical for any of the said nine songs, though both of the vocal and instrumental musical palettes remain original and tasteful throughout the album. The riffs and solos of electric guitar, most of which are heavy and quite harsh, passages of acoustic and semi-acoustic guitar, those of synthesizer, and the parts of rhythm section play a prominent role on most (if not all) of these songs. The bright keyboard solos aren't present only on the album's title track, Green Man, and Power of Tree (1, 4, & 14), while Universe (8), apart from the solos of synthesizer, features also the piano passages. All four of the remaining tracks (and so far, I don't count the album's closing track) are ballads, three of which, namely: Palestine, Badda, and Never-Never (tracks 6, 10, & 11), are just filled with magic - in both of the vocal and instrumental parts. By the way, Palestine is quite a heavy ballad, which, above all, is notable for varied interplay between the slow, yet, heavy riffs of electric guitar and soft, symphonic passages of piano. This is the only ballad on "Eternal Magus" that is in many ways about the album's predominant stylistics. Instrumentally, Badda consists of slow, yet, diverse and very interesting interplay between the string-like passages of synthesizer, solos of electric and bass guitars, and passages of semi-acoustic guitar (no drums here). With its excellent solos of acoustic guitar and clavier-like passages of synthesizer, as well as all the other soloing parts, Never-Never is, in my view, the best ballad on "Eternal Magus". Consisting exclusively of rhythms of acoustic guitar and vocals, the first version of Seafever (7) is the simplest and certainly the worst track here. Located in the middle of the album, this opus looks really strange, being surrounded by excellent songs, all of which, moreover, were performed by the whole band. Whereas the second version of Seafever (15, which is the last track on the CD) is the only composition on "Eternal Magus", the stylistics of which is nothing else but a real Symphonic Art-Rock. Of course, if I were in Clive Parker's shoes, the second version of Seafever would've been placed on track 7 and vice versa. (In fact, it was exactly the band's drummer who have prepared and produced all the materials for this CD release.) Finally, it must be said that Tracey-Ann Sparkes is an excellent singer-chameleon, though most of the vocal parts on the album are of either a dramatic or romantic character.

Summary. As I've mentioned in the beginning of the review, Barra's music is original and free from any influences. Nevertheless, some comparisons between their creation and those of Iona and The Morrigan (the early-to-mid period of The Morrigan, to be precise) are inevitable. So if you like both or any of these well-known bands, you should like Barra as well.

VM: January 2, 2003

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