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Procol Harum - Shine On Brightly CD (album) cover

SHINE ON BRIGHTLY

Procol Harum

 

Crossover Prog

4.05 | 222 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Damn those Procolers, they're getting lazy...they decided that, instead of recording a new album, they could re-record the first one, and, get this...NO ONE WOULD NOTICE! So they release ANOTHER bout of samey sounding dark organ rockers and weird music hall numbers. Except, wait, this time around, no music hall numbers! Well I noticed.

Alright, so, although the sound doesn't quite progress, there are a couple moments of artistic progression. For one thing, the darkness factor is turned up throughout the whole thing, and in at least one case, the weirdness factor is REAL high too (and all those darkness and carnival images make me wonder if they were listening to Strange Days a lot before they recorded this). Oh, yeah, there's also this whole rock suite thing...

Best song? Hmm...a bit easier than the first album, since I know it's one of the first three. We start off with two organ rockers, and "Quite Rightly So" is a brilliant opener for the album, with some of the best organ work the Procolers ever put out. It somehow manages to be hopeful, but thoroughly depressing too. Same for the lyrics and the vocals, and the guitar solo sounds perfectly in place (this time...what, I heard the pre-album version first!).

Next there's "Shine on Brightly," which is PROBABLY the best thing on the album. Gotta love those crazy ass lyrics (which the Floyd eventually ripped off...stupid the Floyd), but there's also those clever guitar screeches behind the equally clever melody. "Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)" is just plain weird. It moves in a couple of sections, the first a piano-driven psycho pop song, the second an ominous guitar/organ buildup, and finally...a carnival music breakdown! I'm serious. Not to be missed.

The next couple of tracks aren't quite as good. Maybe just as fun though. "Wish Me Well" is our obligatory heavy blues. The lyrics are fantastic, but the tune itself is kind of average. And where's my manic soloing? Robby, why'd you let me down? Oh well, considering that it's a "clap along" number, it's pretty good. But, likewise, the best aspect of "Rambling On" is the concept. The tune is even less memorable, but you have to love a song whose opening line is: "A local picture house was playing a Batman movie." See, it's a little ditty about a man who Wished He Could Fly (like Batman). Oh, and, best use of fade out on the album. Get it? They're "rambling on." Heh (stoopid Led Zep though; first, they rip off the Procolers' patented "heavy Gothic blues" style, then they steal a song title! Couldn't they do anything themselves?).

The piano ballad "Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)" COULD have been beautiful. In fact, the orchestration is just about perfect. But no, Brooker had to have this overblown, tongue-in-cheek vocal delivery. Oh well, I guess it is supposed to be sort of funny too. But, in that case, it's kind of throwaway. Stick with the beauty, boys.

Still, "Magdalene" can just be viewed (even if it shouldn't) as an intro to "In Held Twas in I," the proggiest thing EVER recorded to date And this is STILL pre-Court damn it! I wonder why everyone forgets this. Maybe because it sucks?

Okay, it doesn't suck. Much. But it DOES contain all kinds of standards of a prog opera; there are: multiple movements, sound effects, extended solos, spoken words. All that's missing is an orchestra...wait, spoken word?!? Yeah, and you know what? It's actually okay. We begin with "Glimpses of Nirvana," which is just some poetry read over some sound effects, but I actually don't mind a bit. Perhaps because it's the Procoler style, and I'm biased, but I SWEAR that that's decent rock poetry. Besides, the line, "If I can communicate, even though the words I use are pretentious and make you cringe with embarrassment" pretty much sums up the entire prog movement in a breath.

This is followed by a blast of proto metallic riffage saddled with some descending piano. Now, the SECOND half of "Glimpses," also poetry, does not excite me that much (and the less said about sitars in general the better...although, they're actually okay here). Luckily, we eventually get to "Twas Tea Time at the Circus," which is a really fun, organ (calliope?) driven carnival number. Love the imagery. Then you've got "In the Autumn of My Madness," which is probably the best movement in the thing; the interplay between the acoustic and electric guitars is fantastic, and the tune itself is no slouch either. Great lyrics, naturally.

This slowly fades into a mess of weird looped noises, then some menacing guitar. This last maybe a bit too long, but bleeds into "Look Into Your Soul" a pleasant harpsichord driven bit. Hardly captivating though. But the guitar solo is nice. Then "Grand Finale" starts up. It's a sufficient "closer." I mean, it's good, mind you, but just not "Repent Walpurgis." Which, as some have suggested, it's just a tad derivative of. And perhaps it is (moody, classically, piano/guitary, but with a choir this time. Get it?).

So, in relation to the first album, a bit of a letdown. In fact, considering how good that one was, this is practically a full star lower. However, a disappointing album by Procoler standards is still pretty good by everyone else's.

The variety factor, the ONLY issue with the first album, is even lower here. All the openly humorous stuff here is gone; there's no "Mabel" on this one. Of course, songs like "Skip Softly" and "Rambling On" are still amusing, but it's harder to distinguish the humor from the darkness now.

Now, in the album's defense, that's partly because this album IS way darker than the first (if you can believe that (if you can believe the first album was dark)). I actually do like that, even if it does mean killing the variety.

Well, variety aside, there is also the issue of a few lackluster songs. As much as I can come to appreciate "Magdelene" and "Wish Me Well," the melody of "Rambling On" and certainly the weaker parts of the suite will never quite catch up. The lyrics are a different matter. Naturally. They're all quite excellent.

But I still gave it a four, right? The first three songs are absolute classics. And the musicianship hasn't gone down a scrape; if anything, it's better! The organ banged excellently, the guitar is far more present, and the drums are (as usual) magnificent. Wilson really holds the whole affair together.

So I'm really actually quite fond of the album, there are just certain factors that prevent it from going any higher. It's a very worthy album in its own right, and can be just as enjoyable as the first. Well, almost...

(Damn, these things seem to be getting more and more technical...oh well, ne'er you mind, 'cause there's only three bonuses, and you heard 'em all! Seriously. The first, "In the Wee Small Hours of Sixpence," is the upbeat piano rocker with the downbeat, introspective lyrics that was on my copy of Procol Harum. The second is "Shine On Brightly," only, get this, in ITALIAN! Already the Boot Nation is showing some interest in progressive music. And finally, there's our favorite piano ballad "Homburg," but this time, it's in STEREO! Yeah. All three are still great songs, but totally useless on the remaster. If you haven't heard "Sixpence" before, that'll be your best song. If you have, I dunno, go with "Il Tuo Diamante," at least Brooker's accent is sorta funny.)

The Whistler | 4/5 |

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