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Procol Harum - Something Magic CD (album) cover

SOMETHING MAGIC

Procol Harum

 

Crossover Prog

2.99 | 115 ratings

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Xonty
4 stars Procol Harum's swan song "Something Magic" is definitely worth a listen, and easily gets a 4-star rating from me. There are some spectacular moments in here, but the album needed to be more thorough and consistent to get 5 stars, but otherwise the arrangements are more or less all excellent. The album cover and gatefold sleeve are also in need of commendation - sublime pieces of artwork and such a beautiful illustration of "The Worm And The Tree", beside the narration. Ignore the low rating of this album, and give this a listen - it's a very subjective album and takes a while to grow on you. I can totally see why the experts have rated this so lowly, but perhaps most importantly, the regular simpletons like me don't put their emotions aside in their reviews. It just sort of connects with you, or at least the more lazy average reviewers who only vote albums that they like or find interesting to review.

The title track is such a bold, symphonic opener. Fantastic orchestration, and each little overplayed couple of notes almost makes you feel empathetic or protective over their flaws (the kind of thing the collaborators oversee). The verses, bridges, and so on are all so excellently constructed, and those little piano flecks from Gary add so much to it. Overall, displays a marvellous personality and portrays the culmination of the band's chemistry. "Skating On Thin Ice" comes out of this. A very heart-warming song, with a lovely swing to it and some great rolling piano chords. Simple but without a doubt, very effective as a prog ballad. "Wizard Man" is much more upbeat, with quite a country rock feel that suits the whole band eerily well! A great change from the more serious opening 2 tracks, but I'm glad the whole album was like it. As I've already said, awesome arrangements and some remarkable songwriting. The variation and how different each track is from the last is very clear on this record. The harmonies and chord progressions, as well as playing styles of each member also works particularly well on the song.

"The Mark Of The Claw" is a great song, but had much more potential as far as the guitar and piano goes. Nonetheless brilliant, and there are a few excellent biting guitar licks, although the solo could have been improved. The verses are very powerful and slide almost seamlessly into the sort of swinging chorus. Probably the weakest track but essential to the album. "Strangers In Space" is a very luxurious little ballad with more of Brooker's unmistakable emotional vocal straining and orchestration. The bass and guitar, plus those glissandos work so well together. Quite a dreamy song, teamed with mildly insane and despairing lyrics give it an alluring charm, along with those smoothed chords and the sensitive jazzy keyboard adding something magic (pun not intended) to the atmosphere.

"The Worm And The Tree" is an incredibly majestic prog rock epic in my opinion, not dissimilar to the title track to begin with. It employs some deliciously simple leitmotifs and soon evolves and developed into a more orchestral piece, not hanging too long onto the delightful yet potentially boring tune. The narration comes out of the build-up, with quite intriguing lyrics but not up to an adequate prog rock, even Procol Harum standard, especially towards the last couple of verses. I like how it is spoken, because it gives a more story telling quality to the song, which I think it needed. The offbeat syllables also work well with the general unease in the theme of the piece. The band's songwriting abilities and the talent of each band member shines through on this track in particular (Part 1), and as I've already said includes some undeniably magnificent moments.

Part 2 suddenly interrupts with some more keyboard arrangements teamed with more imaginative chord progressions and counterpoints. Considering this was created during the punk revolution clearly shows the band's determination to write good music, and wouldn't find a few rebelling youths bad-mouthing it. Anyway, the track goes a little downhill and repetitive, but they do paint a great picture of the knight riding in with the sound effects. The thumping piano encapsulates the pain and solidity (hard to describe) of what the "worm" or whatever it signifies for you feels as it is killed. Mick Grabham really shines in the "Battle" section with his absolutely heavenly solo backed by a full orchestra. So ambitious and attacks your senses like nothing else - one of Procol's best moments as a band, if not the best.

Part 3 starts off with a peaceful, clear image of the scene but Brooker's narration soon becomes repetitive and predictable, as well as the piano. It improves when the strings and percussion come in though, but still a little dreary for the ending of such a grandiose album. The "Epilogue" section then concludes the whole thing, with some more skilful songwriting and some more meaningful lyrics, although to a lesser extent than earlier on. More outstanding arrangements, probably the best in the band's career in my opinion, and after the incredible relaxing yet overpowering climax is reached, the opening theme is reprised and more accentuated as the band milk it that bit more. It fits beautifully to the end of the classic, active Procol Harum era and does make me a little sad, but the flattened 2nd always makes me smile and remember their quirks.

B(+): A treasured album from my collection, that is probably the most alienated album from my friends and my own musical tastes as anything in there, making it even more personal. Just heaven.

Something Magic: ***** Skating on Thin Ice: **** Wizard Man: **** Mark of the Claw: **** Strangers in Space: **** The Worm & the Tree (Part 1): ***** The Worm & the Tree (Part 2): **** The Worm & the Tree (Part 3): ****

Xonty | 4/5 |

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