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Procol Harum - Procol's Ninth CD (album) cover


Procol Harum

Crossover Prog

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Sean Trane
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.

Report this review (#30791)
Posted Monday, June 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#43553)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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.

Report this review (#125512)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#173952)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#248870)
Posted Sunday, November 8, 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!

Report this review (#1091525)
Posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars A natural follow up to Exotic Birds and Fruit, Procol's Ninth does have it's flaws. Having dispensed with producer Chris Thomas, whose productions were getting denser by the record until the reverberant "wall of sound" found on Exotic Birds and Fruit was the resulting cut off point for the band. Seeking out uber American R&R producers Leiber and Stoller, Procol recorded their cleanest and most uncluttered record since A Salty Dog. And what does work on Procol's Ninth, works wonderfully, while what doesn't is hardly bearable. Namely the album's closing track, a cover of The Beatles' Eight Days A Week.

It truly is bad enough to make one twinge. However, eight of the album's ten tracks are good, with the two worst placed at the end, so ending this listening trip early seems unencumbering.

The leadoff tack Pandora's Box, with it's exotic mix of marimba, guest flute and more of Keith Reid's esoteric lyrics, let PH have one more UK hit, getting as high as number 16 on the British charts. Fools Gold seems like more of Reid's and Gary Brooker's laments about chasing riches and the eventual fall back to earth that worked so well for the group on Exotic Birds and Fruit. Brooker's vocals are as convincing as ever, but it seems like we've heard this all before. Indeed. With Exotic Birds And Fruit, we have.

Taking My Time is a bluesy number, naturally suited to Brooker's voice, and has the unusual accompaniment of brass. Many have said, including guitarist Mick Grabham, that the band sound like Chicago on Procol's Ninth, but in fact, the brass is more New Orleans style jazz and fits even better with the later bluesy track I Keep Forgetting. Yes, as many have said, Chris Copping's organ is relegated to the background, but if Procol Harum fans have not heard enough organ played on the previous hundred PH songs, then they truly deserve a cigar.

R&B and blues is also central to the excellent The Unquiet Zone which features Reid's take on the ravages of war, and some of Grabham's best guitar playing on the album. And this is saying a lot as he's stellar throughout the whole album and has an ear for melody and tone quite similar to Tull's Martin Barre if Ian Anderson would have let him cut loose a bit more.

The Final Thrust and The Piper's Tune are quintessential Procol Harum. The former featuring stately piano from Brooker and the later featuring Lowery Organ in place of bagpipes. Both work well with more of Reid's pessimistic lyrics to give the songs that special Procol Harum gravitas.

The less said about the last two tracks, Typewriter Torment, and the afore mentioned cover of Eight Days A Week, the better. The only thing I find off putting about Procol's Ninth is that I can only play it as a follow up to Exotic Birds and Fruit, as it has the same vibe but lacking the bombast I love so much about Exotic Birds and Fruit. I would never play it at any other time.

With that in mind, 3 stars seems right for this good but non essential album from the once mighty Procol Harum.

PH would go on to make one more album in the seventies, the dismal Something Magic before the band broke up. An album not even worth reviewing simply because the lack of objectivity that drove band to record a cover of Eight Days A Week only became worse by the time the band recorded Something Magic. Truly sad.

Report this review (#1583594)
Posted Monday, June 27, 2016 | Review Permalink

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