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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 This album shines on today. Indeed, it is a fascinating mirage of R&B-tinged pop rock and symphonic experimentation. Brooker and co's second album, it also has cultural significance for yielding the first side-long prog epic, 'In Held Twas In I'.

Kicking off with some high-quality single material, the songs that make up the first half of this album are by no means ignorable. Pop tunes and soul ballads yes... but throw-aways, no. The combination of piano, hammond organ and guitar playing different melodies was a relatively new approach in 1968, and would of course become a standard of any rock music considered "progressive". But here it is done with good taste and enjoyable results. The chord sequences are interestingly classical, but with a sense of triumphant resolution that can only be attributed to The Beatles. The only element of this concoction that doesn't work is Gary Brooker's soul-tinged vocals which, although good, seem slow and detached from the exciting music beneath them, almost as if they are overdubbed from a different record.

Minor quibbles aside, this listener particularly enjoys the proto-heavy-prog of 'Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)', whose three-part structure employs such devices as the grungey, "distorted-hendrix" middle-eight, to the descending fairground organ fade-out backed by Khachaturian's frantic Sabre Dance. In fact, the organ solos of side one are all highlights of this album. But what is the main reason we buy this record in 2011? It is to listen to the first experimentation of the format that would culminate in such classics as Supper's Ready, Close to the Edge and Echoes. I of course refer, to the soon-to-become- obligatory 20-minute song!

Opening with some eastern drones, Brooker recites some lines about the meaning of life, culminating in him quoting the Dalai Lama of the day, who apparently said "Life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?". Forrest Gump, eat your heart out.... The glimpses of Nirvana our pilgrim protagonist enjoys are smashed by some excellent chromatic rock, giving way to a sad piano sequence that underlays more philosophy, this time spoken by the usually silent lyricist Keith Reid. The bit that follows is confusing in context; a circus theme about having tea and the audience desperately clapping. No one said this song would be 'simple'.... Following that, a pair of more conventional lyrical pieces continue the suite with a return to the soulful emotion and musicianship of side one. We are told to 'look to our souls', but the amazing, symphonic quality of the music means we don't have to for now. An epic finale ensues. This side-long suite has a strange structure, strange themes, and is indeed rather strange all over, but requires some deep thought to appreciate properly. Doesn't all good art?

'Shine on Brightly' is dutifully praised by indulgers of rock history, but it takes a few uncompromising listens to appreciate its odd way of being wonderful. 'In Held Twas In I' enjoys all the attention but really, there are no weak moments here (one possible exception = 'Wish Me Well' (see: soul music)). It is the second of three rather essential Procol harum albums. More importantly, it is the first of many essential progressive rock albums.

thehallway | 4/5 |


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