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Procol Harum - Shine On Brightly CD (album) cover


Procol Harum


Crossover Prog

4.06 | 387 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Of the early bands that have a major historical importance, PROCOL HARUM has gained relatively little attention in ProgArchives. Although the category Proto-Prog is used very sparingly here, I'd say both The Moody Blues and Procol Harum were essential proto-prog bands in the sixties before the prog genre per se was born, despite their categorizing as Crossover Prog. One of the strangest omissions in the history of rock was that Procol's 1967 debut single and the massive hit, Bach-inspired 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' wasn't originally included in their debut album of the same year, nor was 'Homburg', another very charming, organ-centred song. Surely the album would have been not only better but much more succesful with the help of them.

For the A side, their second LP Shine On Brightly mostly continued in the bluesy style of the debut. The opening track 'Quite Rightly So' is the only one of these regular length songs that the frontman Gary Brooker (vocals, piano, mellotron) co-composed with organist Matthew Fisher. The lyrics were always written by Keith Reid. The energetic song brings nicely together the blues flavour and the proto-proggish sound with the piano & organ combination they inherited from The Band. The title track has more memorable melodies and a wider dynamics in the arrangement, from Robin Trower's sharp electric guitar riff to Baroque reminding organ decorations. 'Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)' is an edgier and heavier song one would expect from such romantic title. The instrumental section gets pretty proggy too.

'Wish Me Well' is very bluesy and gritty and features Trower on lead vocals. Also 'Rambling On' gives a big role to the bluesy, distorted electric guitar sound, but the organ and piano are there too. As a composition it's quite forgettable anyway. 'Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)' is a delight. Reid's surrealistic stream-of-consiousness lyrics form an amusing contradiction with the mellow music reminding of a funeral march.

What makes this album a milestone in the progressive rock history is the 17-minute multi-part epic 'In Held 'Twas in I'. The first movement 'Glimpses of Nirvana' features speech parts to a great effect. The delicate section with just poem-reading and piano is impressive, suddenly followed by the cheerful ''Twas Teatime at the Circus', which does have a slight irritativeness in it: fortunately that part is very brief. The rest of the epic is a marvelous, adventurous journey full of deep emotional power, especially in the sections 'In the Autumn of My Madness' and 'Look to Your Soul'. All in all the epic -- with the obligatory 'Grand Finale' -- is a real tour de force, and a notable prototype of all prog epics such as 'Supper's Ready' by Genesis. The modern prog super group Transatlantic has recorded their version of it, but actually failed to bring anything crucially new into it. The original is so powerful and well done already.

I don't care to deal with the cd bonuses that are mostly rather uninteresting. 'In Held' is absolutely worth five stars, but the less appealing bluesy songs of the first side bring my rating down to four stars.

Matti | 4/5 |


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