Stormcock is the fifth album by English folk / rock singer-songwriter and guitarist Roy Harper. It was first released in 1971 by Harvest Records and is widely considered his best record.
Harper was inspired by a trip to, and time spent in, Big Sur, California. “Me And My Woman” is a love song backed by David Bedford’s orchestral arrangements (Bedford would also collaborate on some of Harper’s later releases). “Hors D’Oeuvres” was inspired by the fate of Caryl Chessman who spent nearly 12 years on death row – at the time the longest ever in the United States – before being executed in a gas chamber in May 1960. “One Man Rock’n’Roll Band” is a critique on the pointlessness of violence.
“Same Old Rock” is an attack on government, the history of war, and organized religion featuring both guitar work and a final intense solo by Jimmy Page.
The album’s four extended songs showcase Harper’s talents, both as a songwriter and guitarist. But, significantly, Stormcock “…epitomized a hybrid genre that had no exclusive purveyors save Harper — epic progressive acoustic.”.
At the time, the album was not particularly well promoted by Harper’s record label. Harper later stated:
They hated Stormcock. No singles. No way of promoting it on the radio. They said there wasn’t any money to market it. Stormcock dribbled out.
Nonetheless, Stormcock would remain a favourite album of Harper’s fans. In October 2013 NME placed Stormcock at 377 in their list of “The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time”
Although the album features Jimmy Page on guitar, upon its release, Page was credited as “S. Flavius Mercurius” for contractual reasons.
In 2006, 35 years after its initial release, fellow Mancunian Johnny Marr of English alternative rock band The Smiths said:
If ever there was a secret weapon of a record it would be Stormcock. I don’t know why it’s such a secret. If anyone thinks it might be a collection of lovely songs by some twee old folkie then they’d be mistaken. It’s intense and beautiful and clever: [Bowie’s] Hunky Dory’s big, badder brother.
The album’s title, Stormcock, is an old English name for the Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus). The male of this species “is most vocal in the early morning” and has a “tendency to sing after, and sometimes during, wet and windy weather” which “led to the name “Stormcock””. It is also, perhaps, a metaphor for Harper himself. Harper has an appreciation of birdlife and has made reference to many birds within songs on his albums. (by wikipedia)
Roy Harper achieved some acclaim with releases like his debut, Sophisticated Beggar, and Flat Baroque and Berserk, but 1971’s Stormcock was his first effort that was a fully realized success. Even though all four long songs on the record were arguably superior in subsequent live versions, this is one of only a handful of Harper’s albums that has no weak cuts. “Hors d’Oeuvres” had been previewed two years earlier in a faster incarnation, but this version is pleasingly lethargic in a way much like Pink Floyd’s “Fearless.” “The Same Old Rock” is an extended musical poem about the narrow-mindedness of organized religion and features several movements, including one of Jimmy Page’s best solos, even though the notes list Page as S. Flavius Mercurius. After the strangely melodic “One Man Rock and Roll Band,” the album ends with the grand “Me and My Woman.” This version, while slower than the definitive live take from Flashes From the Archives of Oblivion, features lush orchestration by David Bedford. All four lyrics could stand on their own, showing Harper’s vision to be much more profound than the typical stoned poet.
His musicianship on acoustic guitar is revelatory, at once thoughtful and hard-edged. Stormcock, in fact, epitomized a hybrid genre that had no exclusive purveyors save Harper — epic progressive acoustic. In this style, Harper amalgamated the best elements of associates Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and folk artists like Bert Jansch into a winning stew of thought-provoking acoustic music. Harper dabbled in this style with mostly good results for the rest of his career, but never again would one of his albums exclusively have these type of songs on it. Stormcock represents a truly original vision comprised of oft-heard parts rarely assembled and therefore is on par with other heavyweights from the class of 1971 such as Led Zeppelin IV or Meddle. (by Brian Downing)
Roy Harper (guitar, vocals, piano)
David Bedford (organ)
S. Flavius Mercurius (Jimmy Page) (guitar on 02.)
01. Hors d’œuvres 8.37
02. The Same Old Rock 12.24
03. One Man Rock And Roll Band 7.23
04. Me And My Woman 13.01
All somgs written by Roy Harper.