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Procol Harum - Broken Barricades CD (album) cover

BROKEN BARRICADES

Procol Harum

 

Crossover Prog

3.32 | 146 ratings

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SteveG
3 stars Broken Barricades is the fifth studio album released by Pocol Harum and is one of rock music's greatest "should have beens." As far from the twin keyboard sound of piano and Bach influenced organ that propelled the group to stardom four years earlier, Broken Barricades relies primarily on Gary Brooker's piano, BJ Wilson's drums, Robin Trower's blues based guitar riffs and Chris Copping's Jack Bruce inspired bass playing. Copping plays organ on only two songs and on one it's just on the song's coda (Simple Sister.)

This is most definitely Trower's defining statement in Procol Harum, with the band in a full-on blues rock mode that fits in stylistically with bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and even Black Sabbath at that juncture in time. The music performed on Broken Barricades is on par with some of the best from the afore mentioned, excluding a Stairway To Heaven copy. Perhaps Procol never toured with Spirit like Zeppelin did. But they did tour with the recently departed Jimi Hendrix, whose tone and styled was immediately taken up by Trower after his premature death.

Simple Sister and Memorial Drive are two of the Harum's hardest hitting and riff heavy songs and the title track is an elegant exercise in the magic of overlaying arpeggios (with a bit of Moog synthesizer snuck in.) The manic high speed Power Failure is even broken up by a deft drum and percussion solo by Wilson. Again, the music is balls out hard rock that really works. What doesn't work is Keith Reid's return to obtuse and vague mumbo jumbo lyrics, which truly sinks this mighty ship, as does Brooker's reliance on his voice as an instrument and painfully dispenses with diction while singing one lyric right into the next.

It's understandable that Procol could never write lyrics fit for songs like Whole Lotta Love or Iron Man, but the dark esoteric and death themed existential lyrics, that included rotting corpses alive in coffins, that fueled Procol's last album from 1970, titled Home, would have worked just as well or better with this type of harder material. A great opportunity lost, as even in a 2002 interview, Brooker couldn't tell if the title track was about a failed love affair or a tragic war story. If he didn't know, how was the public supposed to react to this crunching vagueness? Fortunately, Reid's great lyric writing would become more literal and accessible on later Porcol albums like Grand Hotel.

Trower is again in a class of his own with a homage to Hendrix titled Song To A Dreamer and the great bluesy album closer Poor Mohammad. But Trower was bursting at the seems and would go on to great solo success a few months after Broken Barricades was released.

Four stars for the incredible music and playing, particularly by Trower and Wilson, who seemed to be dueling for honors, with two stars for Reid's duff lyrics. That makes an average of three stars. So, three stars renders this album as merely average. What a pity.

SteveG | 3/5 |

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