By the time John Lees’ solo album eventually hit the harsh, gob-bespattered streets of 1977, it couldn’t have been more out of step if you’d tied its shoelaces together and started pelting its feet with stones. The Barclay James Harvest guitarist originally recorded the album in a comparatively benign 1972, when the charts may have been awash with glam rockers tottering around on glittery stack heels, but there was still room in the ranks for long-form soft-rock introspection.
As a direct consequence of that insanely protracted release schedule, A Major Fancy has never really received an unbiased hearing, which is a pity because it holds up surprisingly well. Produced by Wally Waller and abetted by a crack team of musos including Rod Argent, 10cc’s Kevin Godley and Eric Stewart, and Wally’s fellow Pretty Things Skip Alan and Gordon Edwards, it benefits from a reining-in of the characteristic BJH impulse to overstate. Admittedly, the BJH touchstone Child Of The Universe is unveiled here, but this version seems drier, cooler and somehow more credible. The attractively baggy Latinate jazz groove of Untitled No 1 – Heritage, meanwhile, is closest in texture to the Parachute-era Pretties. A whole disc’s worth of contemporaneous extras seals the deal.