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Procol Harum - The Well's on Fire CD (album) cover

THE WELL'S ON FIRE

Procol Harum

 

Crossover Prog

2.98 | 54 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

alextorres
3 stars I was prompted to listen to this album again and to write this by the sad news that Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher find themselves in court fighting over royalties from "A Whiter Shade of Pale", the band's momentous song, which is credited to Brooker & Reid and for which Fisher now claims part credit, some 39 years after its release. Eh? Yer wat? How sad is that as another demonstration of us humans' inability to communicate and get along, even with our own friends. I think it is tragic.

And here, on "The Well's On Fire", from as recently as 2003, we find Gary and Matthew playing and writing alongside each other, contributing to a very fine album that has moments of excellence reminiscent of the early Procol Harum! Hey ho...

Whilst this is not a brilliant album, I still think that to be able to produce something this good 36 years after the release of their first, "Procol Harum" in 1967, is quite an achievement. In doing so the band have gone back and tried to emulate some of that early sound texture: clear piano, Hammond organ textures and jagged guitar - all hallmarks of the best Procol Harum period. I suppose this opens them up to the accusation that after so long in the business they ought to have progressed from where they were nearly forty years ago but, on the other hand, this work is released under the band's brand-name and fans of the band will enjoy listening to this music.

Having said that, "The Well's On Fire" is not as good as those early works that fans hold in the highest esteem: "Procol Harum", "Shine on Brightly" and the later "Grand Hotel" - what it misses in comparison with those albums is the consistent brilliance and a real "showstopper" of a number.

There is some excellent music here that is worthy of those early albums. The opener, "An Old English Dream", has that wonderful quintessential early Procol Harum sound, done at that slowish tempo that suits the piano, the organ and Gary's voice so well, but still lets you know that you're listening to a rock band - it's a superb song! It's followed by an out-and-out rocker, "Shadow Boxed", that is infectious and brilliantly crafted - a simple song but excellently delivered. The contrast between slower and rockier numbers, interspersed with the occasional bluesy song, is applied throughout and works well for the album's overall feel.

Other excellent songs include "So Far Behind", an up-tempo number with occasional echoes of "Conquistador"; "Weisselklenzenacht", an instrumental with occasional echoes of "A Whiter Shade of Pale", the bluesy "The Question" and "The Emperor's New Clothes", a slow waltz.

Unfortunately, the excellence of these songs is not matched by others. For instance, "The World is Rich", a "conscience" song, and "Fellow Travellers", which muses on life, both fail to inspire the listener to their respective causes. The effect of these and a couple of other workmanlike songs is to take the shine of what could have been an excellent album. As it is, it remains a very good, and worthy addition to the Procol Harum legacy, without blowing your socks off.

Sadly, given the court fight between two of the key members of the band, "The Well's on Fire" is also likely to be the last album for Procol Harum. The album certainly provides a far more fitting finale to such a fine English band than the shenanigans in court.

alextorres | 3/5 |

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