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Procol Harum - Prodigal Stranger CD (album) cover

PRODIGAL STRANGER

Procol Harum

Crossover Prog


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Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This was the "reunion album" for Procol Harum in 1991, but recorded without B.J. Wilson, who died in late 1990, and this album was dedicated to him in the C.D. booklet notes. For this reunion, the members were Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Robin Trower and Keith Reid, plus session musicians or musicians who previously recorded and toured with Gary Brooker as a soloist. It seems that Robin Trower didn`t play in all the songs, but one of the best songs is "All Our Dreams Are Sold ", co-written by Brooker, Trower and Reid. Several songs were co-written by Brooker, Fisher and Reid. "The Pursuit of Happiness" is a very good song. The sound of the album is an "updated" Procol Harum for the 90s, with female backing vocals in some songs, and some synthesizers (not listed in the credits). Some songs are still similar to the old Procol Harum style, but some sound more oriented to Radio Playing, maybe commercial. But it is a good album. The drummers who played in this album are good, but B.J. Wilson is missed, in my opinion. After this album, Procol Harum did a tour, but without Trower, who didn`t want to tour.
Report this review (#30795)
Posted Thursday, September 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars An excellent album that was very underrated. It includes some of the best Brooker/Reid songwriting and the quality of the songs remain consistently good throughout the whole album. Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher did not contact Robin Trower until late in the project, so his towering guitar is only noticed on some of the songs. Trower really comes through on All Our Dreams Are Sold, a song he co-wrote. I prefer this album to the inconsistent albums of the sixties and seventies.
Report this review (#30796)
Posted Thursday, October 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Great to see you again..eh, written any songs?"

Released in 1991, "The prodigal stranger" is presumably a reference to the return of Robin Trower on guitar. He joins Procol Harum stalwarts Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher for what promised to be a triumphant return to the exciting, early days of the band.

Unfortunately, they all forgot to bring along any songs worthy of this classic line up. The album therefore consist entirely of what amounts to pretty good AOR. Trower's guitar may be there, but I defy you to spot it on more than a handful of occasions.

I'm perhaps being a little too harsh in order to get the point across, there are some decent songs here. It all starts off promisingly enough with "The truth won't fade away". A dramatic intro plus the uplifting distinctive voice of Brooker is enough to start the knees trembling in anticipation. That however, is as good as it gets. Tracks like "Man with a mission" and "One more time" are little more that average compositions.

The ballads tend to work better, even if they do smack at times of attempts to write "A whiter shade of pale, part 2". "(You can't) Turn back the page" could actually be a massive hit for a current boy band, is that scary or what?!

Many of the tracks have similarities with contemporary, and not so new artists. "One more time" is straight from the Phil Collins songbook, "A dream in ev'ry home" could easily be by Steve Winwood, and "The hand that rocks the cradle" is Stephen Stills "Love the one you're with" slowed down a bit. "The king of hearts" comes closest to "Whiter shade of pale", complete with "She wandered through.." lyric.

The wonderful voice of Brooker and his great piano work, together with the emotive sound of Fisher's Hammond organ make it clear that this is indeed Procol Harum. The album is competent and worthy of the name, but nonetheless it must go down as a missed opportunity.

Report this review (#30797)
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Any Procol Harum fan will get a cheap thrill upon hearing Gary Brooker sing "I wandered through my playing cards" during The King Of Hearts, but in the end this reunion album is just a nod to the past. When Brooker, lyricist Keith Reid, guitarist Robin Trower and organist Matthew Fisher got together to cut this 1991, they brought together some of the crucial ingredients that made the Procol Harum stew magical. There was Gary's voice, the double keyboard attack, Reid's cycnical little stories and Robin's guitar. But for all the sentimentality, the hunger and the magic wasn't there.

Maybe it was the fact that drummer B.J. Wilson wasn't around (sadly he passed away before this project was realised). Maybe it was the big 90s production, given a special sheen by the session musicians employed here. Maybe it was the lack of ambition. Maybe it was just the passage of time. What we have here is just a walk down memory lane ... it's not as painful as some other reunion albums, but there is scarcely anything progressive about this collection of decent, but often half-baked songs.

Almost every song is hummable, but even the best cuts here, the maudlin ones (You Can't) Turn Back The Page, Perpetual Motion and The King Of Hearts, and the upbeat All Our Dreams Are Sold and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (which sounds suspiciously like something Steve Winwood did in the 80s), don't come remotely close towards adding to the canon of great Procol Harum songs. Trower in particular seems to be just going through the motions, and he, Brooker and Fisher between them fail to produce a solo that makes me sigh. Now how can you call that Procol Harum?

This album, like the second comeback album, 2003 The Well's On Fire, is only of value to the hard-core Procol Harum fan brigade, and most us will admit that it's just for nostalgic purposes. ... 35% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#43556)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
1 stars Hard to guess why after so many years, Brooker re-formed Procol, but I had maximum expectations when I heard the both Mathew Fisher and Keith Reid were both part of it , but more unexpectedly so was Robin Trower. When I brought this disc home, I was a little disappointed with the track listing (and timings), the other members playing (this was not a real group) and even much more once the disc hit my deck and the laser touched it. I first ejected the disc to see if it was the right one, but sadly the record shop had done no mix-up. Note that having four oŕriginal members was quite a feat, Bronze on bass being quite a veteran also, this left thgedrum spot: Barry J Williams having deceased a year before, they had to replace this inimitable drummer (he was an integral part of the grezat Procol sound as was Fisher's Organ, Brooker's Piano and Trower wailing guitar lines) and they had to find somebody to FILL these shoes. And they chose the worst possible candidate: some good-drumming-renegade from the early 80's (the period where drumming was considered passé) and chose this ex-new waver from some rather bad group : Big Country.

What is particularly appalling on this record is its sound. Oh yes, you can recognize the usual Procol ingredients (namely Brooker's inimitable voice and his piano), but f#§k, was there something quite wrong (this was why I was wary of the line-up) and it was that typical hateful drumming sound. And might I add that it is mixed so bloody loud, that it actually spoils every single tracks and even the fun of hearing Trower's wails against Brooker's voice is simply not at the rendez-vous. The songwriting is not that much worse or better than previous Procol albums of the mid-70's (apart from one or two stinker such as King Of Hearts which could sound from the most syrupy Phil Collins albums), but that ugly drum sound ruins it all (what can one expect from a new waver anyway?). Fisher's Hammond organ is also buried in and Trower's guitars are also too discreet. Both get only three and two co-writing credits respectively, which gives you more than a hint of their actual involvement on the construction of the album. On a positive note Keith reid's lyrics are rather good.

Best avoided if you ask me unless an unconditional fan (the next albums are much better because they have lost that ugly 80's sound), but maybe one day if Gary Brooker decides to do a remixing of and re-recording of this album, then it could become an average album. Trower refused to tour with the group (probably because the drummer was appaling) prompting the band to hire Geoff Whitehorn and he has been with the band since.

Only my respect for Procol Harum's overall oeuvre stops me from being more severe in my rating.

Report this review (#68739)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars The Procol legends are back together. Well, on paper...

Because when you listen to this album, there is only one feeling: HUGE disappointment. Brooker's voice is still efficient but boy! Only poor melodies are available here. Dreadful AOR sounds ("The Truth Won't Fade Away", "Man with a Mission", "Learn To Fly"), disgusting and syrupy ballads ("Holding On", "A Dream in Ev'ry Home"). That's the picture.

I really wonder why the hell the band was brought back together some fourteen years after their last studio effort. To suffer an almost gospel "Turn Back The Page" is a rather painful exercise. To say the least.

Keyboards are the highlight but in this ocean of mediocrity, there is no way that they can save this record. The band would have been very much inspired NOT to record this "work". Even if their last two albums were not very good, they were waaaaay better than this crappy stuff.

I'm desperately looking for a great number, but can't find it (actually, it will come a little later). I did appreciate the band quite a lot up to "Exotic Birds.", but this is an insult to their past grandeur. And it is not a boring trial to rock ("The Hand that Rocks the Cradle") that is going to save the whole.

This very long break was nothing beneficial to the creativity of the band. Maybe the desire to cash in was the main reason for this. But I just can tell you to pass your way. This album is totally useless; with the exception of an inspired "The King of Hearts" which at least reminds us that Procol Harum can still produce some good moments (just over four minutes). But this is frankly the only good song here.

"All Our Dreams Are Sold" is just another awkward and flat piece of rock. Good dual keys and an average guitar break is all you'll get here. Just average. But average here sounds almost as good.

To be honest, I have to say that "Perpetual Motion" doesn't sound as bad : almost a good old Procol song. Same applies to The Pursuit of Happiness which features a convincing Brooker on vocals. But the whole of this album sounds so weak that I can hardly rate it with two stars.

One little star for a very weak record, indeed. Nothing prodigal, unfortunately.

Report this review (#178832)
Posted Monday, August 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Prodigal Stranger" is the 10th full-length studio album by UK rock act Procol Harum. It´s the first album by the band since "Something Magic (1977)".

I haven´t yet listened to the last couple of albums from the seventies by Procol Harum, so I can´t compare "Prodigal Stranger" to how they sounded. What I can say about "Prodigal Stranger" is that the music on this 51:56 minute long album is very safe maintream adult oriented pop/ rock. I always know, that if it´s music my parents might enjoy, there´s something terribly wrong with it ( I mean my father´s idea of good music is something in the vein of Richard Clayderman, so it doesn´t get much worse than that right?). Well this is just that kind of album. From looking on the lineup it looked really great though as both Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Keith Reid and Robin Trower are a part of that lineup. Getting through the album was not a very pleasant experience though. Seldom have I heard anything this tame. There are no adventurous ideas or interesting playing on the album. Just some professionally composed and played mainstream pop/ rock songs. Very well suited for an adult audience with no idea or interest in what progressive music is all about. Man I´m sure my parents would love this.

The production is very time typical. Especially the hidious snare drum sound which has got so much chorus effect applied to it that it sounds like it was recorded in an empty concert venue. There are some really awful female backing choirs on the album too which I do not enjoy one bit.

"Prodigal Stranger" is a a below standard release by Procol Harum. Thankfully I didn´t expect much from this release. A 1.5 - 2 star rating is all I can give. This album suddenly made me feel very young. So I guess it did do something good for me.

Report this review (#260601)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Reunion album from Procol Harum after many years of silence. Nearly classic line-up with the sound updated for the early 90s. Still strong voice of Gary Brooker, Hammond organ, guitar by Robin Trower... Well, sound of drums could seem a little monotonous (in the 80s style). The result? It depends on what are you waiting for . It's naive to wait that on the album from 1991 you would hear the song which could impress you as much as "A Whiter Shade of Pale" or "Homburg" many years ago. But... From my point of view musicians honestly tried to re-create the spirit of Procol Harum music and you would get it while listening to the album. There's one killer song - "All Our Dreams Are Sold", and many impressive ones. "The King of Hearts" as example. Comparing with "Something Maigic" or "The Well's on Fire" it is superior album - that's why I'm giving it 4 stars. Anyway, the mood, the spirit - what's more we could ask from music? Welcome to journey to Procol Harum's world.
Report this review (#443592)
Posted Friday, May 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars After fourteen years, Procol Harum made their next record after "Something Magic", the record "Prodigal Stranger" which wasn't something magic perhaps but quite a good rock record. The cover is sure a CD cover, boring and uninspired with kind of computer designed text. Gary Brooker sang and Matthew Fisher played Hammond organ, Keith Reid wrote and Robin Trower played guitar and Dave Bronze bass and Mark Brzezicki drums. That was the line up and the elapsing time is around ten minutes longer than a lp.

The Prodigal Stranger is not bad at all. It's an ordinary rock record with some good songs and well performing musicians. Brooker sings well and I liked the listening times. The first track "The Truth Won't Fade Away" is amongst the albums best with a pleasent main melody and the closer "The Pursuit of Happiness" is even better with great guitar and melody. "The King of Heart" is a powerful track that is alos worth mentioning. I also like "Man with a mission", "The Hand that rocks the cradle", "All our dreams are sold". "Perpetual Motion" and "Learn to Fly". The others aren't interesting enough.

The sound of Procol Harum that year 1991 didn't get the same good results that the best of the old records but absolutely in parity with some of them as "Home", "Broken Barricades" and "Procol's Ninth". It's absolutely well performed music but it doesn't lead us to any fantastic shores or new experiences of musical glory. It's absolutely not a prog record, actually there's not much in this band's history that is prog. But as good as three stars is certainly fair!

Report this review (#1093171)
Posted Friday, December 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sailing through rough waters with the old salty dogs.

This 1991 reunion album of original Procol members Gary Brooker, Mathew Fisher, Robin Tower along with lyricist Keith Reid is quite baffling to me. The bulk of songs are written by Brooker, Fisher and Reid with Trower joining in just prior to this album's recording. There's nothing like A Whiter Shade Of Pale on this album, but I seriously never expected one at the time this album was first released.

Brooker, Fisher and Reid stick almost entirely to anthemic and nostalgic AOR type material that's really quite good on it's own terms. Reid has only grown as a lyricist since abandoning his early oblique avant-garde lyrical style that went out of fashion with the nineteen sixties psychedelic era. Album opener The Truth Won't Fade Away is as good as any Procol Harum opening track, save the magnificent title track from 1971's classic A Salty Dog. and melodically, almost every track is a hook filled wonder.

What sinks this mighty ship is one of the loudest faux "electric" drum mixes that I've ever heard on any record, and I'm a rock music recording engineer with over 40 years of experience. If that doesn't say something, nothing will. In fact, all of the instruments and vocals, while clearly recorded, are just mixed too damn loudly on the Prodigal Stranger. I'm aware that organist Mathew Fisher got the songwriting bug after playing around with drum machines and sequencers, which were in vogue in the eighties, and the band wanted, I assume, to sound contemporary with bands like Ultravox. However, this is taking eighties electronics, gated reverb, and production techniques to an extreme that would have even bewildered electronic pop bands like Erasure.

Now, I wouldn't find this so strange if Brooker, Fisher and Reid were not listed as co-producers and the album's mixing supervisors. Did they all go deaf? Perhaps they did after the first loud mixing session. A real pity because Procol Harum we're never going to return to their early glory with the Prodigal Stranger, but at least they could have walked away with their reputations intact if this album was not so recklessly over produced.

Report this review (#1594629)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2016 | Review Permalink

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