English folkie Roy Harper is an idiosyncratic figure, using his undeniable talents to promote political interests and an often unsavoury hippie lifestyle. But he has such a warm lilting voice, excellent guitar technique and fine sense of melody, that he almost always comes across charmingly, even if his lyrical stance lacks political correctness. Valentine is a collection of outtakes from his acclaimed early seventies releases Stormcock and Lifemask, but it hangs together well as an individual statement. As the title implies, most of the tracks are romantically themed. In his worldview it seems like women are mainly around for sex, cooking and cleaning, but his general likability cancels out the less savoury elements of his lyrics, even if ‘Magic Woman (Liberation Reshuffle)’, where Harper brags of seducing a feminist, takes it a step too far. Many of the tracks were recorded live in studio with just Harper and his guitar, sometimes with some nice orchestration laid over the top. The only full blown rock song is ‘Male Chauvinist Pig Blues’ where Harper teams up with Jimmy Page to create an interesting collage of guitars, assisted by Keith Moon on drums.
Most of Valentine is low key and charming; Harper includes a charming cover of ‘North Country’ while ‘Twelve Hours of Sunset’ has the dusky ambiance that its title implies. Harper’s liner note description of ‘Acapulco Gold’ as “lounge lizard music with a sting” is entirely accurate, as it travels into another sexually themed bridge, while ‘Commune’, perhaps the album’s best song, is another charmer despite some disturbingly intimate images. Despite his overuse of sexual themes, Harper is an accomplished enough lyricist as well, with thoughtful phrases like “love isn’t jealous/or bitchy and callous/she’s here for us all and she’s ours.” ‘Forever’ is a nice humble closer, while ‘I’ll See You Again’ is a soaring ballad, underscoring the fragility in Harper’s voice. Apart from 1971’s classic Stormcock, I haven’t been particularly impressed by Harper’s other albums, but his best moments are very good.