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PROCOL'S NINTH

Procol Harum

Crossover Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars With this album , I close my series of reviews of the historical albums of Procol. This is a typical release of the second era of P H (post Robin Trower ) and it is just as pompous as the rest of their albums of that era ( although this is their ninth album , the reference is to Ludwig 's ninth). In general , I don't really appreciate pomposity , as it often leads to arrogance , but in the case of Brooker , this is not so: the man is really a master at what he does and it does not come down to the ego such as other pompous masters as Emerson or Wakeman (and to a lesser extent Lord of D P ) . You can see that when the orchestras come in the Harum music , this is very different than in the other groups - it is used as a complete instrument.

On with the music of this one . The best known track of this album is Pandora's Box and along with Fool's Gold (rare flute appearance) they are the highlight. I was expecting to find another flute in Piper's Tune but alas...... Also contains an amusing but pointless version of Beatles Eight Days A Week. as with the other album , I will give it 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#30791)
Posted Monday, June 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Actually Procol Harum's eight studio album (the title takes into account the live album Live In Edmonton), Procol's Ninth was recorded under unusual circumstances. Essentially Procol main men Gary Brooker and Keith Reid were big fans of veteran American rock producers/songwriter Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and record company politics made it possible for the band to hook up with their idols. Unfortunately Lieber and Stoller were under the impression that PH wanted to make an album of their material! While this misunderstanding was cleared up, the resulting album is a curiousity in that it is the only Procol Harum to feature cover material (the liberal borrowing from the classical and blues masters excepted of course!).

Despite the initial problems, Procol's Ninth has some superb songs on it. The track that opens this album is absolutely outstanding. Marimba, dancing flute, searing organ and mystic lyrics, Pandora's Box has all the sense of mystery that one expects from a great PH song. The high standards continue with the accusatory Fool's Gold and the vicious riffing of The Unquiet Zone, a sizzling piece with guitarist Mick Grabham and drummer B.J. Wilson to the fore, each of them inflicting heavy damage with every blow thrown.

There's also The Final Thrust which is part march, part reggae. It's one of those pieces that many might dismiss as lightweight, but I simply love. The Piper's Tune is another maudlin anthem, of the sort that PH dished out with frightening regularity. This is a beautiful, beautiful song, with bagpipe melodies and a heavy heart shining through. The lyrical themes of the bluesy Taking The Time, Without A Doubt (another tune with a splash of reggae!) and Typewriter Torment may reflect Keith Reid's struggle to find inspiration, but there are some real bona fide PH classics here.

As for the cover songs, well the result are rather different. The Lieber-Stoller composition I Keep Forgettin' enjoys new life in the hands of Brooker and co. After all, the man's got a voice made for quality soul, and even the lyrics are clever enough to fit Procol. It turns out to be an excellent happy accident. Sadly the cover of The Beatles' Eight Days A Week is rather less inspired. I should point out that while I really enjoy this album a lot, this is probably the least progressive album of the 9 studio releases that PH put out during its initial 11 year run, which might explain its relatively mediocre rating. ... 61% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#43553)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars An awful waste of guts and gore?

If nothing else, "Procol's Ninth" served to show that the band still had it in them to create a wonderfully crafted, supremely melodic song. The openning track "Pandora's box", which has some of Keith Reid's most imaginative lyrics, was a huge hit single for the band. When coupled with a magnificent Gary Brooker melody, we have one of the band's finest moments.

The track rather overshadows what follows, the rest of the album being a succession of well performed and produced, but ultimately undistinguished songs. The excellent production stems for the band's collaboration with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who also wrote the side two opener, "I keep forgetting". Leiber and Stoller are perhaps best knows as the writers of rock and roll classics such as "Hound dog" and "Jailhouse rock", the song covered here however is decidedly more ordinary. Unusually, this is one of two covers on the album, the other being a run through of the Beatles "Eight days a week".

The Reid/Brooker compositions are all straight forward songs, ranging from the bluesy "Taking my time" to the acidic power of "Fools gold". While the instrumentation is broad and powerful, there's nothing much of a prog nature here, each song being short and self contained. Indeed, the performances and production tend to cover up what are otherwise pretty mediocre compositions. "The unquiet zone" for example is a true nonentity, saved by a fine guitar solo by Mick Grabham. Lyrically, Reid shows that even the best can have off days as he opines

"This surely is a dreadful war, an awful waste of guts and gore".... hmm.

Tellingly, Reid covers the subject of his writers block on "Typewriter torment".

"Without a doubt" is the only song which has anything approaching an intricate structure, Brooker's fine vocal performance and the big sound production making for a fine if rather uncharacteristic number. The closing Beatles cover was apparently included simply because the band featured it in their live act. The album version is however a throwaway of little merit.

And that's about it really. "Procol's Ninth" is not a bad album, but the fine production is largely offset by some undistinguished songs and a lack of development of any of the tracks. For PH fans, the album is certainly worth a listen, but I hesitate to recommend it to anyone simply wishing to explore their music.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#125512)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This is definitely one of the weakest album of the band so far.

I f you would except the very good opener ("Pandora's Box"), there is too little to remember about this effort. Attempts to melodic and catchy songs are plenty but unsuccessful. A gentle album from a declining band.

Creativity has been put into brackets here. The bluesy influence ("Taking the Time") is back again and it is really not my cup of tea, fine melodies are too scarce to be mentioned.

So, what's left here? Not too much I'm afraid. Another funky/bluesy one ("The Unquiet Zone") is totally dispensable. Here and there some good songs which remind us the good old days like the fine "The Final Thrust" and its pleasant piano harmony and sweet vocals. But that's a bit thin to be honest.

The brass is also too much present to my taste ("I Keep Forgetting") and dilute the true "Procol Harum" sound. But soul music has never been a fave of mine.

"Without A Doubt" is far much better of course. Brooker's vocals are as good as they can be, emotion is there and at the end of the day, this is another good one from this album. But again, the brass section is almost ruining it.

To be honest, emotion is again on the rendezvous with "The Piper's Tune". All the genius of the band is again in place: a catchy melody, some good piano, fine and pleasant vocals. I'm not asking for more. If only more songs of this type would have been featured. It could have led to another good album.

I have liked this band quite a lot up to this point (with the noticeable "Broken Barricades" which I could not really praise), but this album doesn't shine at all. Too many average songs can only lead to an average album, right? Two stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#173952)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars After the whitewashing debacle of "Exotic Birds and Fruit", one might expect the band to fold, but recording contracts or creative blinders being what they are, Brooker and co persisted for a couple more releases. With "Procol's Ninth", they underwent a bit of a commercial resurgence, with a localized hit single and a peak at 51 on the American charts. It turned out to be a blip more than a buzz, but it does mark a slight improvement over "Exotic", chiefly in the organic production of Lieber and Stoller, who teased out the R&B roots of the group respectfully and more effectively than had been achieved on "Broken Barricades". But this isn't a blues web site, so caveat emptor.

The opening cut "Pandora's Box" has a familiarity that will appeal to long time fans without being rehash, chiefly in the mystical narrative style as well as some of the keyboard runs, in particular one that is reminiscent of "In the Wee Small Hours of Sixpence". Add in flutes and marimba to embellish the happy picture. While somewhat poppy, "The Final Thrust" is a fine tune, and one of several with a reggae-ish beat, although this one is less rhythm section oriented and more delivered by piano, as one would hope for from Procol. In the break, Brooker delivers a too-brief but playful solo. Chris Copping is on organ here and he fills out the sound amply. The other old-styled song is "The Piper's Tune", where Copping shines, yet you can also hear the L&S influence. All in all, the choice of producers was inspired, and even the cover of "I Keep Forgetting" is a worthwhile diversion and wholly convincing.

Unfortunately plenty of weaker tracks are strewn about and hastily assembled, like the pointless cover of "Eight Days a Week", the anonymous hard rock of "The Unquiet Zone", the faceless horn-fest R&B of "Without a Doubt" and "Taking the Time", and the the hackneyed later Procol sound of "Typewriter Torment".

Procol's Ninth is mostly a mix of the good and mediocre to poor, with only "Pandora's Box" being slightly better. If you enjoy the non progressive styles found herein, or are a Procol historian, I say go for it, but for the rest I must round down a few ninths.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#248870)
Posted Sunday, November 08, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars If "Exotic Birds and Fruits" almost got 3,5 by me, this one almost get 2,5 but in rating they'll get the same. Well, I don't think it's totally fair but that's the way it is. "Procol's Ninth" is Procol Harum's eighth studio record and it was released the year after the last one 1975. Unlike its precursor the cover picture isn't fantastic at all. The album is grey and the musicians look uninspired. But don't be worried, most of the songs are inspired and good rock songs, don't doubt that.

1975 Procol Harum made up by Gary Brooker, Alan Cartwright, Chris Copping, Mick Grabham, Keith Reid and Barrie James Wilson. The band is quite stable and the continuity is of course great. One thing I think could have been better with this band was if the other members had got more place and perhaps had sung a bit. It would have lifted the music. "Procol's Ninth" contains six great songs of with I really recommend two, and four less interesting, of which I recommend you to avoid two.

Firstly I must praise the opener: "Pandora's Box", absolutely one of the band's best songs ever(9/10). It's lovely in every ways, mystical, a jungle feeling and fantastic guitar and flute work. The other song I would praise is "The Unquiet Zone"(7/10). That track is really different. i like the start and the original percussion that cooperates with the song in a fine way. I also love the guitar. "Fools Gold"(6/10) is a well performed strong rock song and "I keep forgetting"(6/10) takes us the the fifties with good brass. "The Piper's Tune" (6/10) has something of Procol Harum's old sacral style in the organ and also "Typewriter Torment" is enjoyable(6/10).

Two tracks you must avoid is "Taking the time"(4/10), a very boring track, but especially the Beatles cover "Eight days a week"(3/10). It could be one of the worst covers I have ever heard. It feels totally uninspired and I wonder how they could allow each other to record it. I don't think the Beatles became proud if they heard it.

Over all, though, is this album absolutely enjoyable. It has its ups and downs just as other records and the ups are more important than the downs. The direction from last record downwards of course is a disappointment. I will give it three stars and look forward to listen to the next Procol Harum record!

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Send comments to DrömmarenAdrian (BETA) | Report this review (#1091525)
Posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | Review Permalink

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