Roy Harper has, it seems, always existed in the place between this album title’s two words. He’s famous enough to have been the subject of a Led Zeppelin song, and to have sung another for Pink Floyd, but yet somehow largely unknown too.
The time left to right such wrongs would seem to be leaking away very quickly. And Man and Myth, set for U.S. release on October 29, 2013, doesn’t shy away from the subject. “Time is Temporary” contemplates, with an unflinching eye, the end of the things — while “January Man” laments “a lifetime astray.” Even his classically Homer-ian journey-song, the 15-minute long “Heaven is Here,” finds a way to turn the hero’s adventure into a mirror on life’s third acts: “How do I retrace my youth,” Harper piercingly asks, “from present lie to former truth?”
All of that — this is Roy Harper we’re talking about, right? — is leavened of course with throat-punch moments of snarky wit, as he opens with the angry “Enemy” and then hooks up with the Who’s Pete Townshend to tear into modernity’s mindless escapism on “Cloud Cuckooland.” By coupling “Heaven is Here” with “The Exile” to end things, Harper also convincingly recalls career highlights like “The Same Old Rock” from 1971′s Stormcock, still this utterly unforgettable outburst of fuck you-folk. (Stream it!: “The Same Old Rock,” with Jimmy Page.)
Ever the mercurial figure, the still stunningly strong-voiced Harper has thrown aside an announced retirement from the last decade for a return-to-form moment that blends patented elements of his past with a 72-year-old’s newfound perspective. Alas, Harper may yet never become the myth he’s always deserved to be, but he’s certainly given us another reason to rethink that sad state of affairs.