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Procol Harum

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Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of the finest Procol Harum's works, and perhaps the last one that you can define as brilliant. After the artistic.commercial success that their previous 'Live' achieved, Brooker decided that it was a good idea to keep the pomp-and-circumstance momentum to a certain degree, as the opening title track shows you: Lizt-like romanticism, orchestral waltz, minuet, all comprised within the typical structure of an art rock song. More of this can be found in ellegantly articulated pieces such as the OST-oriented 'T.V. Caesar', the dramatic 'For Liquorice John' (an overwhelimg portrait of self-destruction and suicide) and the baroque-driven 'Fires (Which Burnt Brightly)'. Passion flows on without bursting out of measure in 'A Rum's Tale', a captivating bluesy ballad. But there's always room for humour and irony, as you can notice in: the fake high spirit of the broken-hearted 'Toujours l'Amour' (the single, actually); the country parody 'A Souvenir of London', which revolves around a secret V.D. that one has to hide from his wife; the playful 'Bringing Home the Bacon'; and the tropical poppish 'Robert's Box'. With Fisher out of the band some years earlier, and Trower gone since the closure of the 'Broken Barricades' tour, Brooker (with lyricist Reed's full consent) is now 100 % free to take absolute creative control over the band's repertoire: pros - an easier quest for stylistic coherence and conceptual pursuits in song writing; cons - a danger of creative exhaustion and a tendency towards self-repetition. Fortunately, in 'Grand Hotel' it is not exhaustion, but grandeur that still reigns in the kingdom of Procol Harum.

Report this review (#30775)
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars After some harder rocking studio albums and this surprise live album in Edmonton ( of all places) , Brooker was freed from Robin Trower ( great solo carreer) and there was no holding him back anymore and he was able to unleash all of his grandeur using the philarmonic orchestra as a single instrument and writing with that in mind . This is where most other pompous prog musicians failed, as they were content toying around with an orchestra where as Brooker knows exactly what to do with it. This has been thought of as a concept album but not so say Brooker although one might imagine a link in between the songs . The title track , TV Caesar , Liquorice and Fires are the better numbers but if you listen well , all of them are winners .
Report this review (#30776)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
Moogtron III
4 stars Although " Grand Hotel" may not be generally viewed as one of the very best of the Procol Harum albums, and is in a way a bit retrogressive (going back to the sound of " Procol Harum", " Shine On Brightly" and " A Salty Dog", instead of following the more adventurous path of " Home" and " Broken Barricades"), and although the band already lost some key members, the album is actually one of their very best. The orchestral grandeur of the first three albums is being perfected here, and taken to a logical end conclusion. Maybe the album misses some of the rough edges of the earlier albums, but that is fully compensated by the music itself, which just takes you away, with all it's melodies, harmonies, and richness of sound. Although they weren't cutting edge progressive anymore in the days of the making of the album, innovation is still around, there is definitely "soul on board" and the lyrics (" words" ) of Keith Reed are sharp tongued as always. I'd say that the title track is the biggest highlight on the album, both musically and textually. Symphonic grandeur at it's very best. The whipped cream on the cake is the fantastic artwork. Grand Hotel: grand band. If you wish to indulge yourself, you know what to buy.
Report this review (#30777)
Posted Monday, July 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Grand Hotel was recorded with a new line-up featuring Plastic Penny's Mick Grabham on guitar and bassist Alan Cartwright alongside vocalist/pianist Gary Brooker, stalwart drummer B.J. Wilson and Chris Copping who by now was concentrating exclusively on the organ. At the time of its creation, the band was experiencing something of a surprising renaissance thanks to the hit single Conquistador and rave reviews of the Live In Edmonton album. They responded with a classy album that extended the middle finger firmly in the direction of the band's many detractors.

There are many highlights on what is a very consistent album. The powerful title track is an opulent orchestral work-out similar in style to (although just not quite as good as) the classic track A Salty Dog. There's a lovely waltz break, and some Gothic choral vocals that give the piece real character. Toujours L'Amour is a powerful rocker with a lovely emotive guitar solo from Grabham. Bringing Home The Bacon is probably even better, with has some sizzling organ sounds and the odd piano run ... I love the solos on this one. A Rum Tale and For Licorice John are quintessial melancholic PH piano rambles, and while I've never been totally convinced by the TV Caesar chorus, it does have some very nice moments.

There's also A Souvenir Of London which is a light-hearted tale of venereal disease, with a rather un-Procol sound ... loads of mandolin and ukelele if I'm not mistaken, with a bit of a skiffle beat. While I'm not fond of the lounge, almost bossa nova feel of Robert's Box (the only track here I don't like), Fires (Which Burn Brightly) is another underated classic PH tune, that concludes with some spectacular vocal acrobactics from guest chanteuse Christiane Legrand.

Overall, Grand Hotel an indication that, unlike many other prog bands, Procol Harum had got its second wind. The new line-up would also go on to produce Exotic Birds And Fruit (an even better album in my opinion) and Procol's Ninth, which has some great songs. The band would never quite return to the sheer astounding heights of the late 60s, but this album is ample proof that PH were still well worth listening to. ... 70% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#43551)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars How come Procol Harum have so few reviews? I'm not expecting them to be in the top league among proggers, but at least I always thought they are very widely known. Shine On Brightly (68) is a milestone in prog as it has side-long 'In Held 'Twas in I'. What everyone knows are of course songs like 'Whiter Shade of Pale' and 'A Salty Dog'. They made an album each year up to 75's poor Procol's Ninth; I pick this one to be their best. Earlier albums have both great songs and some rough bluesy or rocking numbers I've never liked, whereas Grand Hotel is an elegant, well produced work easy to enjoy. Fisher's and Trower's absence may indeed have more pros than cons at this point. Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid are in good shape here, and the sound is tidy and orchestral.

My favourite tracks are the grandiose title song, romantically naiive and simple 'A Rum Tale' and 'Fires (Which Burnt Brightly)' with a soprano guest voice and classical music flavour. I'm hesitating between 3 and 4 stars: as some tracks have faded from my memory I suppose 3+ will do. But no prog fan should ignore them as one-or-two- hits-dinosaurs.

Report this review (#54343)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'Grand Hotel' Is a must for any Orchestral-rock fans. It almost prodecesed Queen's 'A Night at the Opera' and the Moody Blues 'On a Treshold of a Dream'. PH uses odd instruments such as 22 mandolins on 'Grand Hotel' which the mandolins sound like a full string ensemble! 'Tojurs L'amour' with a fuzz-like guitar and bass. 'TV Ceasar' which has very good string and chior arrangements. 'A Rum Tale' with a waltz sound and a clestial harp and church-like organ. 'A Souviner of London' with a skiffle-sound, banjos, and spoons. 'Bringing Home The Bacon' with an elctric piano, haunting recorders that sound like an organ. 'For Lichoriche John' with a drowning-sound of the piano and a good harmonica solo. 'Fires which burned so brightly' with the haunting female-background singers and a light touch of the harpsichord. And a grand finale with 'Roberts Box' with latin percussion, a bossa-nova/cha-cha sound, Beach Boy-like harmony, and a great brass finale.
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Posted Thursday, June 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Four stars!

Recorded at a time when the band's star was waning rapidly, "Grand hotel" is actually a highly credible effort, with many fine melodic tracks. Gary Brooker's highly distinctive vocals dominate proceedings as usual, accompanied by a much changed line up from their previous studio album. The most significant change is the departure of guitarist Robin Trower, replaced here by Mick Grabham. The result of these changes was that Procol Harum effectively became Gary Brooker plus any other musicians he appointed. Keith Reid was still on board as lyricist, but it was Brooker who dictated the sound of the band.

The albums kicks off with the majestic title track, which slowly paints a picture of the days when no expense was spared when building luxury hotels. The track is surprisingly progressive in structure, Brooker's orchestration (not to mention 22 mandolins!) enhancing the Ritzy feel of the piece.

As a rule, Brooker focuses on ensuring that the songs here have strong melodies. Tracks such as "A Rum tale", a sort of sequel to "A salty dog", and "TV Ceasar" are carefully crafted and highly enjoyable pieces. They are relatively straightforward compositions with little real development, but the detailed arrangements give them a warm depth. The latter sees Brooker giving one of his wonderful, full range vocal performances.

Mick Grabham takes the opportunity to show that he too is a highly accomplished guitarist on the upbeat "Toujours L'Amour", although the song itself is one of the less memorable Procol Harum songs.

The second side of the album sees the quality dip slightly. "A Souvenir of London" is the quirky sort of folk tale (of an embarrassing disease) sung by pub singers up and down the country. "Bringing home the bacon" is another example of a basic song considerably enhanced by the arrangement. "Fires (which burn brightly)" is considerably enhanced by some wonderful vocalising by Christianne Legrand (of the Swingle Singers), her delicate voice contrasting perfectly with the gruff tones of Brooker's.

In all, "Grand Hotel" is a fine album which has not enjoyed the recognition it deserves. It is a perfect example of how good arrangements can transform average compositions into high quality songs.

Report this review (#126203)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grand Hotel was once in my top 10 of all time. This album really had a place deep within my psyche for years. Since then, however, I don't listen to it as much, preferring more cutting edge music. Regardless, this album is put together with precision, and the work of Gary Brooker really shines here. Each song is well-crafted, and it just makes you feel good to listen to this album. Great stuff - probably Procol Harum's best.
Report this review (#170374)
Posted Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Grand Hotel" is often considered as the most polished album of the band: their best achievement and the one which remains into the memories of oldies like I am. Like Matti, I also regret that so few reviews with comment are available on PA for such an emblematic work.

Brooker has now the full command since Trower's departure. Most of the members featured here were already present on the grandiose Edmonton affair.

There is one masterpiece of music on this album. I am referring to the title and opening track of course. A fantastic journey into "Procol Harum"'s world. An opera on its own. A brilliant moment of music, full of classicism, wonderful orchestration (and when you know my aversion for this type of mix, it is even more to be highlighted). And Brooker's voice fits perfectly well this type of song.

Brilliant. THE highlight.

Grand Hotel is a fine album with its pieces of emotion ("A Rum Tale", "Bringing Home the Bacon", another highlight IMO), some fine melodies ("T.V. Caesar" and its good old organ sound). And some weirdoes as well ("A Souvenir Of London").

What I miss in this album is the great organ sounds of their first couple of albums and the great guitar job of Trower. Still, a song as "For Liquorice John" is fully in line with their best work. The cold darkness of this song is absolutely wonderful. Sounds as a nice and melodic little song but is all dark and death. Another highlight.

Actually, this album is extremely pleasant to listen to. Very few weak songs (only a couple), and those wonderful melodies which are the trade mark of the band ("Fires"). There is little risk that one shouldn't like this album. If 10CC is amongst your liking, you should be very receptive to "Grand Hotel". The excellent closing song Robert's Box only adds to the feeling.

Four stars.

Report this review (#172639)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is easily and honestly my favorite album by the oft underrated and undermentioned band Procol Harum. And it is one of the few albums that could possibly stand quite tall on it's lyrical content alone. Keith Reids "words' and Gary Brookers vocals have always been the crux of the power of Procol Harums each and every album and even with this unheralded new line-up I did not miss Robin Trower much atall. The title track is grand indeed and makes you feel as if you have just checked in to the Hotel grand, where "We drink fine wine and eat rare meats".

" Wheres my continental bride? My continental slip and slide? "

Oh so clever. And so finely and richly produced, you feel as if you are being served these songs on a silver platter... A veritable banquet of songs if you will. There is even a photo of Keith holding out a serving tray. The rest of the LP goes in and out of the light and from room to room in perfect time. "For liquorice John" is a sad and harrowing song about a man who falls from grace ("We saw him wave as he went under"). Fires which burnt brightly is a beautiful anti war song with some of the most fantastic lyrics ever put to song.

("This war we are waging, is already lost, the cause for the fighting, has long been a ghost... malice and habit have now won the day, the honors we fought for are lost in the fray" )

It features amazing and interesting background vocal harmonies by Londons "Swingle sisters" who had released a few albums on philips in the early 1960's if I remember correctly. There are two Procol Harum albums I would recommend to discerning and mature listeners. One is Grand hotel and the other is Salty Dog. These are thinking persons albums, not to be confused with rock and roll.

Report this review (#222224)
Posted Sunday, June 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Procol Harum had its strongest and most influential contributions to the progressive rock genre in the late sixties. A track like 'In Held Was I' formed a blueprint for the epic songwriting bands like Genesis would expand on. With 'Grand Hotel' (1973) Procol Harum would up-date its sound and record a fine (or refined) symphonic rock album with some mild progressive touches. Gary Brooker would write some of his most elegant chord progressions and melodies for song like 'Grand Hotel', 'TV Ceasar' and 'Fires'. Furthermore, the whole album is musically drenched in the theme of a 'Hotel Grande' luxurious experience, which was well amplified by the record's production. The simpler songs still have a lyrical content that keeps the listeners attention, like for instance with the soft erotic implications of 'Souvenir From London'. Gary Brooker's performances are especially lively on this record, adding to the winning vibe that is notable all around.

The overall mastering of this album deserves an up-date, for the low-end gets a bit muddy on some devices. I would than happily buy the vinyl again, for it belongs in the league of progressive (art)rock related records like Alan Parsons Project 'I Robot', Manfred Mann's 'Solar Fire' and David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust'.

Report this review (#222251)
Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Grand Hotel" is the 6th full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Procol Harum. The album was released through Chrysalis Records in March 1973. The band did not release a studio album in 1972, but instead released the live album "Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra". And it seems the band have taken a particular liking in the symphonic element, because the use of symphonic elements is continued on "Grand Hotel". The last couple of studio albums were more blues rock oriented, so "Grand Hotel" is generally a very different sounding release.

The music on the album is still unmistakably the sound of Procol Harum though. Gary Brooker´s strong voice, distinct vocal style and melodic and memorable vocal lines are as always thecenter of attention, but if you focus on the instrumental side of the band´s music there are great things to be discovered too. The music on "Grand Hotel" is probably the most progressive oriented on a Procol Harum album since "Shine On Brightly (1968)". The guest appearance by The Pahene Recorder Ensemble provides the music with the above mentioned symphonic element and fans of symphonic prog rock are recommended to check out this album. There are 9 tracks on the album which are all well written and for the most part quite adventurous. In the most challenging department we find the title track with it´s grand sound featuring classical orchestration, choir singing and a waltz section and "Fires (Which Burnt Brightly)", which in addition to classical orchestration also features the beautiful soprano voice of Christianne Legrand. The silly/jolly sounding "A Souvenir of London" which features a rythm which is played with spoons and lyrics that can almost only be interpreted as being about venereal disease, wasn´t an instant hit with me, but even that track has grown on me and has become a decent listen. If anything, it´s nice for the variation on the album.

The musicianship is excellent on the album. The dominant piano and the extensive use of organ has always been trademarks in Procol Harum´s sound and those features are as dominant as ever on "Grand Hotel". The departure of guitarist Robin Trower has meant that there are fewer bluesy licks in the music but new guitarist Mick Grabham is a good replacement who´s playing style to my ears actually suits Procol Harum´s music better. The rythm section are very well playing too. Drummer Barrie James Wilson´s energetic style is a real treat.

The production is professional and very well sounding. It´s by far the most well sounding production on the first six albums by Procol Harum and all in all "Grand Hotel" is an excellent album by Procol Harum. It shows great progression and innovation from their last studio album (which was excellent too, but featured a very different sound and style) and fully deserves a 4 star (80%) rating.

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Posted Tuesday, September 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars One might argue that Robin Trower hindered more than helped along the Procol cause. He arrived after the first smash hit and left before their second. It's doubtful the hit live album would ever have been realized while he was in the group. The best evidence that his departure took PH up a notch is in this studio follow up to the anemic "Broken Barricades".

"Grand Hotel" is elegant from its title on down. Perhaps a bit too aristocratic at times, choosing ornate over unaffected more than called for, it contains the strongest songs on a Procol album since their debut, and a refreshing stream of Gary Brooker's best career piano work. The lyrics are provocative always, but here they actually make sense. The ditties are superior to the highlights on "Barricades". The new guitarist Mick Grabham has unfortunately that same fuzz bucket style that Procol seems to demand, but thankfully he is suppressed more often than his predecessor (not counting David Ball who was only on the live album).

The title track exhibits all the positive and negative facets of the album, but, like most here, tips to the plus side of the ledger, especially thanks to the classical allusions and Russian styled passages. My favourites are "Rum Tale", which seems to encapsulate all the best aspects of the group's earlier work, the catchy and insightful "TV Caesar", the organ dominated "Bringing Home the Bacon", and the uber-elegant "Fires Which Burnt Brightly", with its near Haslam like noodling by soprano Christianne Legrand. But even the snide commentary of "Souvenir of London" and "Toujours L'Amour" work for me in their way, the latter including Grabham's best work along with "Bacon".

While the very modest success of "Grand Hotel" suggested that the smash of "Conquistador" represented a last gasp rather than a commercial resurgence, this album simply exudes class in the way of a fine wine or opera. Such is a rarity in rock. But like much art of this type, the emotional impact is somewhat wanting, so I must round down to 3 stars to make this accommodation.

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Posted Saturday, November 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars As the title and the snooty cover art imply, Procol Harum find themselves far away from the psychedelic scents of their early years on Grand Hotel. Instead, the band try their hand at symphonic flavoured prog-pop of the sort which, to be honest, Supertramp would pull off rather better in subsequent years, but it's still an interesting listen which will tickle the fancy of those prog fans who like a little pompous, stately elegance to their prog - particularly if you don't insist on prog bands striving for complexity above all else.

Although they were prog pioneers back in the 1960s who blazed a trail for subsequent acts, by 1973 Procol Harum were far from the cutting edge, with even major commercial acts like Yes and Genesis being substantially more experimental at that point in time, but wisely Procol here stick to what they know and offer a refinement of their early proto-prog style which clearly evolves their music whilst at the same time sticking to their strengths. For some listeners, this will be too little too late, and certainly whilst they are just about treading water they aren't really breaking new ground here.

Report this review (#1009747)
Posted Friday, August 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the most even Procol harum record I have heard so far(beside their live) and that brings it the high rating. The band's sixth studio album from 1973 is perhaps one of the best ways to experience Procol Harum. The men clothed as gentlemen with costumes matches the music very well. In the space between this and the last record the band had changed something in their appreance that made them more progressive, special and interesting. Every track has a mighty feeling of being orchestrated. Some of the fantastic feeling on the live disc had been captured and brought here and I like it. Well I lack the perfect tracks and I don't think this band can give me so much more than this, but this is absolutely enough! This orchestrated rock music with big inspiration in the vocals and lyrics.

Gary Brooker sings and plays piano, Alan Cartwright plays bass, Chris Copping plays organ, Mick Grabham plays guitar, Keith Reid is auther, Barrie James Wilson plays drums and mandolins. I must say it feels like the band has gone back to organ driven music.

"Grand Hotel", the title track is amongst the least intriguing ones, but I really appreciate the symphonic feeling(6/10). "Toujour L'Amour" is better. It's a fast and special song(7/10). "A Rum Tale" is perhaps the album's best track(8/10). That melody is wonderful and it's so stripped and fine. "TV Ceaser" is also very good(8/10). It's a mighty piece that use the orchestra well. "A Souvenir of London"(7/10) has taken a bit of country into the prog. "Bringing home the bacon" too has a fine symphonic spirit(8/10). "For Liquorice John" is darker and powerful and some beauty(7/10). "Fines"(7/10) features a female co-singer Christianne Legrand which helps this song to be quite powerful. "Robert's Box" the closer though isn't so interesting even if it's fine(6/10).

The over all rating would be 3,56 and I will round it up to 4 stars. It's not four strong stars as on the live album but I say it again that this is Procol Harums most even and perhaps the best of the albums I have heard until now. Soon I will come back with their next one!

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Posted Sunday, December 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion, this is PROCOL HARUM`s most solid album from start to finish, with a lot of Progressive Rock arrangements, and it is maybe their most Progressive album. Maybe it also has some "pompous" and "bombastic" arrangements, but it is very good anyway. Even the cover design is a bit "pompous", but maybe this band always has had a tendency to it in many ways, even with Keith Reid`s lyrics. With Gary Brooker being the founder (with Reid) and the only original musician which remained from the original line-up of the band, he was by then the only composer of the music of the band, and he took the music direction and the control of the band in a right way, supported by a very good line-up of musicians which by 1973 had a new guitarist (Mick Grabham) and this line-up remained unchanged until 1976. In fact, this line-up came to my country to play some concerts at the "Auditorio Nacional" in Mexico City and in Guadalajara (another city in in my country) in late August 1975, and it seems that it happened because they were asked to play here by the then President of my country because one of his sons liked this band. Even the concerts from Mexico City were recorded and some parts of them were broadcasted in the then goverment`s TV channel (Canal 13, later privatized in 1993) in two one hour programmes in two sunday evenings in late 1975. All these things were by then very rare things to happen in my country because during the seventies Rock music concerts were mostly considered as being "out of the law" by the goverment, and the gigs from Mexican bands were done mostly as "clandestine" things. Also, some parts of the audience almost always caused riots, and it seems that some of this happened at the concerts that this band played in Mexico City, but it seems that there were not very big riots. I was ten years old then, and I did not attend those concerts, but some of my brothers, cousins and their friends went to one of those concerts. I only watched to both TV programmes, and one of my brothers recorded them in cassettes (from the TV speaker) which don`t work anymore. But anyway, I remember that the band played the "Grand Hotel" song in concert here, sounding very well.

I like all the songs from this album, which also include some humour in some songs like "A Souvenir of London" and "Bringing Home The Bacon", and even some Tango music arrangements in the title track. There are some orchestral arrangements done by Brooker for several songs, and in "Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) " there is a French soprano singer called Christianne Legrand singing a very good vocals arrangement. "Toujours l'Amour", "A Rum Tale" and "T.V. Ceasar" include some "heavy" playing by the band. New guitarist Grabham sounded very well integrated to the band`s musical style and sound.

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Posted Sunday, April 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I originally wrote a review of this album in the early 1970s for The Tech, published by Massachusetts Institue Of Technology students. That review is available online in a PDF of the edition in which the review was published, through I loved the album in general back then, though I had q few quibbles with a couple of tunes. Today I am delighted to say that the album has stood up well over the decades. The following Grand Hotel tracks are on my iPhone: Grand Hotel, Toujours l'Amour, a Rum Tale, For Liquorice John, Fires, and Robert's Box. That last one is mostly a modest paen to the gentleman's approach to addiction, but at the end develops into the heaviest non-orchestrated finish every recorded by Procol with Mick Grabham on guitar, a real delight.

I want to tell you the tale of the album cover.

While I was in college, my editor and I wrangled an interview with Brooker and Reid when PH came to Boston on the Exotic Birds tour in 1974. We met in their hotel room at the Sheraton in the Prudential Center, a very nice crashpad. I still have an Ektachrome slide or two that I shot of the duo in that room.

Most of the questions came from my editor, who was like me a fan and paid attention to detail. But the final question came from me, and it provoked quite a response. I knew cut & paste when I saw it, and it was quite clear that the front cover and the foldout in the Grand Hotel vinyl album cover included the head of new guitarist Mick Grabham atop the body of former guitarist David Ball.

So I asked them why the cut & paste had happened.

Both Brooker and Reid shot out of their chairs. They were outraged that anyone had actually caught them at that particular deception. Then, after a minute or so, Brooker calmed down and spilled the beans.

Ball was still in the band during both the photo sessions for the cover, shot in Los Angeles, and the recording sessions for the album, done in the UK. Then Ball quit PH before the album was released. The band had to decide what to do about that, and the contract deadline for the album was looming. They did not have time to hire a new guitarist, re-record the album, and travel to reshoot the photos. They could do two out of three, and the parting with Ball was not pleasant so the hiring task was first on the list. After hiring Mick Grabham, they re-recorded the album with him, and then faked the photos. Back then there was no Photoshop. And big album covers made it easy to see cut & paste. It is not so obvious on the relatively tiny photos in the CD release.

In 2003 I was fortunate to see PH perform yet again, performing at the Birchmere in Alexandria VA. This time they sat afterward to sign autographs. I handed my CD of Grand Hotel to Brooker for an autograph, and I reminded Brooker about that conversation 29 years earlier. He smiled and said Dave Ball does indeed appear on the cover. He turned over the CD to point at the champaign glass on the back. Indeed there he is. The entire band appeared among the bubbles, highly distorted by the curved glass and the liquid. Apparently their cut & paste guy could not figure out how to distort Mick's head to fit in that odd context.

The unreleased tapes of the Ball version of Grand Hotel may still exist somewhere. I happen to think Grabham was a far better fit for PH. And my editor was Neal Vitale, now a major publisher with a whole lot more money than any rock musician I ever interviewed.

Report this review (#1178473)
Posted Friday, May 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I rarely hand out 5-star ratings, but this album is grand enough and majestic enough to give it the edge. Also, all songs are worthy of listening to (not skipping over) and have something to offer. The remastering of this (2009, Salvo) gives it the sonic palette that brings it to the point of fine art. The packaging is nice too, with multipage libretto book of pictures, notes, and recording/background information. Production was handled by master producer Chris Thomas.

There's a nice variety and diversity to the songs which gives the album color and depth. Here are short summaries of the songs:

Grand Hotel - Big production with orchestra. A slower song that doesn't rush, because you don't need to rush grandness.

Toujours L'Amour - An uptempo song, with some interesting chord changes.

A Rum Tale - Quieter song featuring piano and some fun lyrics by the band's primo lyricist Keith Reid

A Souvenir of London - Mostly acoustic song where the band tries for a street musician feel. A lighthearted, fun song.

Bringing Home the Bacon - Probably the most rocky song on the album. Features some tasty drumming by ace drummer BJ Wilson. There is an exciting prog-like keyboard part that occurs between major song sections.

For Licorice John - This has phased piano to give a drowning sound/effect that goes with the lyrics. Highly English.

Fires (Which Burn Brightly) - Maybe a lesser song overall, but still featuring a very European sound.

Robert's Box - A most straightforward song to end the album, but still containing some interesting ideas.

Having heard all of their albums, this one defines what Procol Harum is/was all about. They never reached higher than this. If you get one album, this should be it.

Report this review (#1558213)
Posted Monday, May 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Grand Hotel, from 1973, was as close as Procol Harum ever got to a full blown prog album, but never quite made that leap of faith. New guitarist Mick Grabham is mostly in the background on this album with keyboards, bass and drums to the fore.

First off, I want to emphasize that this album is really one of those that has to suit one's taste. It is very much a homage to the music of Eastern Europe and of wealthy aristocrats of a time nearly a century past. The title track tells about a night in one of Europe's grand hotels with a Palm Courts orchestra dishing out waltzes to those dancing and dinning in ties and tails. Featuring mulit tracked orchestra and choirs, this song's instrumental breaks are from the mind of Pocol leader Gary Brooker, who takes waltzes and minuets, that start off slowly and normally, and are suddenly sped up to break neck speed which reveals this nostalgic trip is more of a dream instead of an actual remembrance. It's also covertly avant-garde and is a treat.

Unfortunately, "Toujours L'Amore" and" A Rums Tale" are stale songs in the same musical vain as "Grand Hotel" but are cliched stories of love, loss and the eventual bottle to follow, and lack the inventiveness of the title track. Listenable as these two songs are, "TV Ceasar" is downright annoying in it's "might mouse" that rhymes with "house" lyrics (really) from the usually stellar Keith Reid.

Fortunatley," A Souvenir of London", with it's street busker take-off of guitar, mandolin, strummed banjo and an oversized bass drum kick senseless from the great BJ Wilson, is a refreshing treat. Made to be one of Procol's "funny" cast off album tunes, it's lyrics about catching the clap, in London, are beyond the pale and is quite truly enjoyable.

Procol Harum were never known for having solid albums and Grand Hotel is no exception. However, "Bringing Home the Bacon" features a soaring keyboard melody that sounds as if it was lifted straight out of the late Keith Emerson's head. Chris Copping's organ is double track with uncredited siren-like Moog synth, played by the band's producer, Ken Scott, and features a neat time changing stop/start rhythm. It's as close to a full blown prog song that band ever attempted. Only a mind numbing instrumental section is lacking. The same is true with the songs "For Liquorice John" and the Renaissance-like "Fires That Burn Brightly", which features backing "scat' vocals that are similar to the vocal hijinks that Annie Haslam and her band dubbed a "vocalise."

"Robet's Box" shifts gears back to the absurd, as it's about the same doctor of renown from the Beatles' "Doctor Robert." A fine ending to a unique, if somewhat uneven, and, IMO, somewhat overrated album form the great Porcol Harum. Still, 4 stars is a worthy rating as Grand Hotel has all the elements needed to thrill a prog fan..

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Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2016 | Review Permalink

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