Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Procol Harum - The Well's On Fire CD (album) cover


Procol Harum


Crossover Prog

3.04 | 84 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Drilling down deep

In the same way as Jethro Tull would not be Jethro Tull without the voice of Ian Anderson, so the essential ingredient for any Procol Harum album is the voice of Gary Brooker. While the predominant sound on their most famous piece "A whiter shade of pale" may have been the organ recital of Matthew Fisher, it is Brooker's distinctive vocals which over the years have been the consistent factor in defining their sound.

This 2003 release, the latest Procol Harum album at time of writing, sees the pair working together once again, but this time guitarist Robin Trower is not present. Band lyricist Keith Reid fulfils his duties, the songs dealing with heavy and emotive subjects such as child poverty, 9/11, and financial greed. The lyrics straddle the lines between observation, cynicism and anger, "The question" for example asking "Maybe you should stand back and think, are you gonna be making a difference or are you gonna be making a stink". On the other hand, "The VIP room" ironically proclaims "If I'm gonna die, wanna die in the VIP room, not out in the cold with the rest of the goons".

For me, Gary Brooker has one of the most captivating voices in music; he could sing "Happy birthday to you" and turn it into an atmospheric masterpiece. When that voice coincides with a strong melody, the effect is electric. So it is with the verses of "An old English dream" which opens this album. Speaking candidly, I do not think the chorus on this song actually sits that well with the verses, but it is a strong opener.

With a total of 13 tracks running to about an hour, we find a good diversity of styles and sounds from the upbeat "Shadow boxed" (with Roger Taylor on backing vocals) to the reflective lament "The blink of an eye", Reid's touching observation on 9/11. "We thought we were living on easy street, but they pulled the rug from under our feet".

Elsewhere, while Fisher does not get too many chances to take centre stage, the organ work on "A robe of silk" is enchanting and familiar, the track having a "Homburg" feel. "This world is rich (for Stephen Maboe)" deals with another poignant subject, poverty and starvation. The song's message is delivered not as a lecture, but as a simple plea for help, the atmosphere being similar to that on Peter Gabriel's "Biko". "Fellow travellers" uses a Handel melody to great effect, the classical connection inevitably reminding us of "A whiter shade of pale". The song is yet another example of how Brooker's voice lights up a great tune.

The album closes with a rare instrumental, the Matthew Fisher composed "Weisselklenzenacht (the signature)". The first note on the organ is identical to "A whiter shade of pale", the piece unsurprisingly having the atmosphere of that classic.

In prog terms, there's no "In held 'twas in I" here, or indeed anything particularly complex. This is simply an album of decent songs delivered flawlessly by experts in their field.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this PROCOL HARUM review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives