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Procol Harum

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars The old Procol spirit is still very much present in this album: from the first note on , you know that Brooker is still up to his old tricks. Along with Matthew Fischer, the only remainig original member, and Keith Reid still writing the lyrics , you are unmistakably, definitely holding a worthy Procol album recoded some twenty seven years after the demise of the band with magic not being their best . I have not heard yet their 91 & 95 releases but they should be in the mould of this one. The last number is a great instrumental full of early Procol organ and hits the point directly. The rest of those numbers are of typical Brooker mould but full of that classic duo - piano & organ.
Report this review (#30798)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Is this yet another feeble attempt for a rock dinosaur to make a comeback? I answer that commonly asked question with a reverberating no! PROCOL HARUM is back with a new album called "The Well's On Fire", and it sounds like they have not missed a step after all these years. Lead singer Gary Brooker sounds like he always has and the rest of the band is right in stride with him.

After a few listens it became clear they did not spread their abilities it too thin on this release. There is quite a range of music offered on this CD. I heard a lot of first-rate rock, blues, and progressive art rock on this steady album. What was nice was that they were able to mix it up and separate it so the genres are evident to the ear familiarized with listening to such an amalgamation.

"Shadow Boxed" is a straight shot with no chaser; it rocks, plain and simple just as many of the tunes do. I really liked the pragmatic "The Emperor's New Clothes," with ancient fairy tale lyrics reinvented to fit today's twisted world along with a hefty helping of cynicism set to a modern beat. We are not talking about satire; this is cold and calculating realism, very different from songs like "Whiter Shade of Pale" of yesteryear. The most impressive track was the one without vocals. The guitar and organ lead the way with Matthew Fisher (organ) and Geoff Whitehorn (guitar) stealing the show on "Weisselklenzenacht (The Signature)." It packs a powerful punch and it is a stick of rock dynamite with many explosive twists and turns provided by this disciplined and experienced unit. Red-hot blues-rock inflected chops populate the vivid closer with swirling up-tempo organ accompaniments. They certainly close the curtain with sense of drama and flair.

This is an album well done by one of rock's legendary bands. Although this is certainly not their best work, their longtime followers will be very pleased and a newly found audience will surely endeavor to seek out their back catalog after hearing this album. Yes, there is still a fire burning in this wellspring of rock music.

Rating: 3.5/5

Report this review (#30799)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Not content with making one ill-advised reunion album (1991's The Prodigal Stranger), Brooker, Reid and Fisher decided to take a second walk down this path. This time Robin Trower stayed away, but I'm not sure it would have made a jot of difference. The band is rounded out by guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, latter-day Jethro Tull/Fairport Convention bassist Matthew Pegg and returning drummer Mark Brzezicki, whose staid playing on The Prodigal Stranger was one of the reaons I didn't quite like that album.

I'll have to say, that while this is far from classic Procol Harum, our boys have been more adventurous on this album than they were on its predecessor. On their best moments on this album, like An Old English Dream, A Robe Of Silk, the Handel-inspired organ-driven Baroque-pop (sound familiar?) of Fellow Travellers, not to mention the much-appreciated venom of This World Is Rich (For Stephen Maboe) and the light-hearted Every Dog Will Have His Day, they can even roll back the years.

But despite the great lyrics, fantastic voice and the sultry, sensitive organ, the overall feeling I get when I listen to this album is that it's all too little, too late. As with The Prodigal Stranger, the value of the album is more sentimental than innate. There's certainly precious little progressive rock to get excited about, although my favourite piece, Matthew Fisher's Weisselklenzenacht (The Signature) is a very nice way to conclude what is probably Procol Harum's last album. ... 41% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#43557)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm not an expert on the music of Procol Harum. Of course, I'll never forget 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', which was on the radio long after I was born... Before having heard 'The Well's On Fire', I've only listened to two other PH albums: 'The Best Of' - of which I think it actually misrepresents the band - and 'Grand Hotel': still one of my favourites!

But back to 'The Well's On Fire'... The signature sound of Procol Harum - a well balanced mix of rock, blues and rock, with hints of musical themes of the classical genre - got a good polish. Even 20 years later their distinctive style still sounds fresh. I'm still not sure if that's due to the sound engineers or to the fact that they're such a great band. Probably a bit of both I guess... Anyway, this is how Procol Harum should sound in the new millennium: exactly like they did during their finest moments in the old millennium... Just listen to these tracks: 'An Old English Dream' and 'Weisselklenzenacht (The Signature)' and you'll know what I'm talking about. Isn't that's why it's called classic rock?

As I'm concluding this review, I'm listening to a Styx version of the classic Procol Harum song 'A Salty Dog'... Only one thought crosses my mind: there's only one Procol Harum!

Report this review (#46024)
Posted Thursday, September 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was prompted to listen to this album again and to write this by the sad news that Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher find themselves in court fighting over royalties from "A Whiter Shade of Pale", the band's momentous song, which is credited to Brooker & Reid and for which Fisher now claims part credit, some 39 years after its release. Eh? Yer wat? How sad is that as another demonstration of us humans' inability to communicate and get along, even with our own friends. I think it is tragic.

And here, on "The Well's On Fire", from as recently as 2003, we find Gary and Matthew playing and writing alongside each other, contributing to a very fine album that has moments of excellence reminiscent of the early Procol Harum! Hey ho...

Whilst this is not a brilliant album, I still think that to be able to produce something this good 36 years after the release of their first, "Procol Harum" in 1967, is quite an achievement. In doing so the band have gone back and tried to emulate some of that early sound texture: clear piano, Hammond organ textures and jagged guitar - all hallmarks of the best Procol Harum period. I suppose this opens them up to the accusation that after so long in the business they ought to have progressed from where they were nearly forty years ago but, on the other hand, this work is released under the band's brand-name and fans of the band will enjoy listening to this music.

Having said that, "The Well's On Fire" is not as good as those early works that fans hold in the highest esteem: "Procol Harum", "Shine on Brightly" and the later "Grand Hotel" - what it misses in comparison with those albums is the consistent brilliance and a real "showstopper" of a number.

There is some excellent music here that is worthy of those early albums. The opener, "An Old English Dream", has that wonderful quintessential early Procol Harum sound, done at that slowish tempo that suits the piano, the organ and Gary's voice so well, but still lets you know that you're listening to a rock band - it's a superb song! It's followed by an out-and-out rocker, "Shadow Boxed", that is infectious and brilliantly crafted - a simple song but excellently delivered. The contrast between slower and rockier numbers, interspersed with the occasional bluesy song, is applied throughout and works well for the album's overall feel.

Other excellent songs include "So Far Behind", an up-tempo number with occasional echoes of "Conquistador"; "Weisselklenzenacht", an instrumental with occasional echoes of "A Whiter Shade of Pale", the bluesy "The Question" and "The Emperor's New Clothes", a slow waltz.

Unfortunately, the excellence of these songs is not matched by others. For instance, "The World is Rich", a "conscience" song, and "Fellow Travellers", which muses on life, both fail to inspire the listener to their respective causes. The effect of these and a couple of other workmanlike songs is to take the shine of what could have been an excellent album. As it is, it remains a very good, and worthy addition to the Procol Harum legacy, without blowing your socks off.

Sadly, given the court fight between two of the key members of the band, "The Well's on Fire" is also likely to be the last album for Procol Harum. The album certainly provides a far more fitting finale to such a fine English band than the shenanigans in court.

Report this review (#103460)
Posted Monday, December 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album by Procol Harum represents a good comeback to the music industry as die hard fans still can enjoy the style of the band's original sounds through Gary Brooker's good voice and Mathew Fisher's organ work. Of course you should not expect something like "A Whiter Shades of Pale" or "Repent Walpurgis" or "Conquistador" would repeat down here with this album. That songs were really masterpiece and it's "probably" impossible that the band is able to recreate similar things.

This album is really enjoyable especially on the stream of music from songs featured here from the cool "An English Dream" right through the song with beautiful and motivating lyrics like "The Question" until the concluding track "Weisselklenzenacht" (The Signature) (5:24). Generally speaking, the music is entertaining especially with the nice melody and good rhythm section featuring one of excellent voices of legendary band by Gary Brooker. The band brings us the memories of early seventies but with modern sound. The songwriting, performance and sonic quality of the CD is good. Normal music buffs would enjoy this album. This album is very enjoyable during my "bike to work" activities from home to the office and back to home with bicycle and Sennheizer earphone at my ears. What a relaxing thing ..

After the release of this album the band recorded the live DVD which is also worth to collect as well.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#120965)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Drilling down deep

In the same way as Jethro Tull would not be Jethro Tull without the voice of Ian Anderson, so the essential ingredient for any Procol Harum album is the voice of Gary Brooker. While the predominant sound on their most famous piece "A whiter shade of pale" may have been the organ recital of Matthew Fisher, it is Brooker's distinctive vocals which over the years have been the consistent factor in defining their sound.

This 2003 release, the latest Procol Harum album at time of writing, sees the pair working together once again, but this time guitarist Robin Trower is not present. Band lyricist Keith Reid fulfils his duties, the songs dealing with heavy and emotive subjects such as child poverty, 9/11, and financial greed. The lyrics straddle the lines between observation, cynicism and anger, "The question" for example asking "Maybe you should stand back and think, are you gonna be making a difference or are you gonna be making a stink". On the other hand, "The VIP room" ironically proclaims "If I'm gonna die, wanna die in the VIP room, not out in the cold with the rest of the goons".

For me, Gary Brooker has one of the most captivating voices in music; he could sing "Happy birthday to you" and turn it into an atmospheric masterpiece. When that voice coincides with a strong melody, the effect is electric. So it is with the verses of "An old English dream" which opens this album. Speaking candidly, I do not think the chorus on this song actually sits that well with the verses, but it is a strong opener.

With a total of 13 tracks running to about an hour, we find a good diversity of styles and sounds from the upbeat "Shadow boxed" (with Roger Taylor on backing vocals) to the reflective lament "The blink of an eye", Reid's touching observation on 9/11. "We thought we were living on easy street, but they pulled the rug from under our feet".

Elsewhere, while Fisher does not get too many chances to take centre stage, the organ work on "A robe of silk" is enchanting and familiar, the track having a "Homburg" feel. "This world is rich (for Stephen Maboe)" deals with another poignant subject, poverty and starvation. The song's message is delivered not as a lecture, but as a simple plea for help, the atmosphere being similar to that on Peter Gabriel's "Biko". "Fellow travellers" uses a Handel melody to great effect, the classical connection inevitably reminding us of "A whiter shade of pale". The song is yet another example of how Brooker's voice lights up a great tune.

The album closes with a rare instrumental, the Matthew Fisher composed "Weisselklenzenacht (the signature)". The first note on the organ is identical to "A whiter shade of pale", the piece unsurprisingly having the atmosphere of that classic.

In prog terms, there's no "In held 'twas in I" here, or indeed anything particularly complex. This is simply an album of decent songs delivered flawlessly by experts in their field.

Report this review (#175833)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Their previous « Prodigal Stranger » released some .twelve years before this one sufficiently proofed that the reunion of several core members of the band was not a guarantee of high quality compositions. So, I was not really expecting great things with this "Well's On Fire".

Of course, Gary always sounds as pleasant as he ever did and still provides this little extra emotion. A song as "Old English Dream" does convey this feeling. And even if "Shadow Boxed" is not one of their greatest songs, it rocks alright and features some good rhythm just like during "VIP Room " (although the band has always pleased me more when playing great ballads).

The great organ work works fine again here, especially during "Robe Of Silk". The band is also digging into its very old roots with a song like "Question" and its deep bluesy influence. Still, not unpleasant.

My fave on this album is by no surprise "Fellow Traveler". A superb and romantic ballad, fully in line with their best songs written ages ago.You can probably call this nostalgia and you would definitely be right. But that's the way it is. I grew with "A Writer.", and when a song gets as close as this one, I just succumb.

But there are other ones in the same vein. "Emperor's New Clothes" for instance. Again, Brooker is so emotional and expressive. The piano play so simple and convincing. Another excellent song, really.

On the contrary of bands like "BJH" or "The Moody Blues", while "Procol Harum" writes rock songs, they are credible. "So Far Behind" is a good example. And the closing instrumental features some great organ and guitar work. An excellent way to close this work.

This album is a good trip back in time. IMHHO, it is their best effort since "Exotic Birds and Fruit" released almost thirty years prior to this one and much, much better than the poor "Prodigal Stranger".

A nice surprise actually and a good album. Three stars.

Report this review (#179218)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The Well's on Fire is the 12th full-length studio album by UK rock act Procol Harum. That´s if you count The Long Goodbye (1996) as a Procol Harum album and not a Gary Brooker solo album. If you don´t The Well's on Fire is the 11th full-length studio album by Procol Harum. Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher and Keith Reid are the ususal suspects in the lineup while bassist Matthew Pegg ( Son of Dave Pegg from Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull) is the new boy in town.

The music style on the album is adult oriented pop/ rock. There´s a warmer sound on this album compared to the Prodigal Stranger (1991), but the music is still simple commercially accessible pop/ rock without many challenges or twists. Gary Brooker´s strong and distinct vocals are still the greatest asset in Procol Harum´s music. The instrumentation include lots of piano and organ in addition to guitar, bass and drums.

The Well's on Fire is another rather mediocre release by Procol Harum if you ask me. You´ll find well written compositions, professional musicianship and a professional production too, but you won´t find anything of a progressive nature here. The album is somewhat acceptable though and a 2.5 star rating is warranted. Procol Harum were never the most progressive rock act in the world, but they used to show great adventurism and be full of innovative ideas. Those days are unfortunately long gone.

Report this review (#260602)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Now I have come to the end of my Procol Harum journey. Their eleventh record "The Well's on fire" was released 2003, now ten years ago, twelve years since their last one and now they were up to a one more well produced rock record that surprised me in the end. The cover shows six flaming Tellus globes.

The record is an hour long, too much I think; without some of the least interesting songs the result would have been better. The band made up by Gary Brooker(vocals, piano), Mark Brzezicki(drums), Matthew Fisher(hammond organ), Matt Pegg(badd), Keith Reid(words) and Geoff Whitehorn(guitars). This album probes an improvement since "Prodigal Stranger". This one is more progressive(in the end) and has some of the flavours of the earliest sixties Procol Harum. Unfortunately these interesting tracks come quite late on the album. Many listeners perhaps become tired with what's before.

"Weisselklenzenacht" is the best track on the album, absolutely(8/10). It's instrumental, brave and progressive and gives us the organ we heard on "A whiter shade of pale". "The Emperor's New Clothes"(8/10) is also one of the very best Procol Harum tracks. The melody is mystical and Brooker sings very good, "So far behind"(7/10) also intrigues us with a superb melody and "Fellow Travellers"(7/10) also reminds us of "A whiter shade of pale". It is an adaption of Händel's "Lascia ch'io pianga" melody which Procol Harum does very well.

Many of the other songs are pleasant and worth hearing such as "An old English dream"(6/10) and the rocky "Wall Street Blues"(6/10) or edge "Every dog will have his day"(6/10). I am not very found of the tracks: 3, 4 and 6 but the rest is worth their place.

Procol Harum was never and will probarly not ever be one of my favourite bands. Their pretentions were to small for me. Still they always did nice music and a pair of songs from every record should be picked out for their splendor and sometimes progressive ingredients. The Well's on Fire has "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "Weisselklenzenacht" to be proud of. Three stars!

Report this review (#1094224)
Posted Saturday, December 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Burn baby burn.

This studio album from 2003 will probably be Procol Harum's last and it's fine way to say goodbye. The over production of Procol's last studio incarnation from 1991 titled the Prodigal Stranger is thankfully absent. Gary Brooker is still in fine voice and his latter day song collaborations with lyricist Keith Reid trod some old and new themes.

As with almost all Procol albums, the opening track is great and the music starts to go down hill after that, but this album is full of well rounded songs, but still starts off great with the vocally hook leaden An Old English Dream. Prior to Procol Harum disbanding in the late seventies, Brooker and Reid's compositions became more topical and literal as with songs such as Strong As Sampson from Exotic Birds and Fruit. Brooker and Reid almost outdo themselves with the emotional ballad This World Is Rich (For Stephen Moboe) , written for the South African activist and sung, remarkably, by Booker from Moboe's point of view of his "poor countrymen starving." Brooker is just as emotionally convincing as he was singing A Salty Dog some thirty plus years earlier. This has always been Brooker's real strength as a singer, aside from his great sounding voice.

Shadow Boxed is a fun straight up rocker with very cheeky and cleaver lyrical rhyming by Reid, while The VIP Room hearkens back to Procol's rich Grand Hotel alter ego living the high life, especially in his time of dying! Another great rocker.

Robe Of Silk and Fellow Travelers show off from fellow original remaining member, the great Mathew Fisher on his superb Hammond organ, as he's never lost his touch. In fact, Fisher does another fantastic instrumental closer tilted Weisselklenzenacht (The Signature) which almost rivals Repent Walpurgis form Procol's incredible debut album from 1968. New guitarist Geoff Whitehorn smokes his guitar into a frenzy at the songs conclusion. The result? Classic Procol Harum.

Ex Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki returns with a more Procol like sound and percussion accents then was exhibited on the Prodigal Stranger, while sometime Tull bassist Matt Pegg (Dave's son) makes for a potent rhythm section.

As with all sixties groups, Procol felt that they had to literally fill up the running time of the modern CD, so a few duff songs are on offer, namely the throwaways titled Far Behind and Every Dog Will Have It's Day. But aside from those two songs, this album will be a treat for long time Procol Harum fans. Simply put, The Well's On Fire has everything a fan would want to savor in a later day Procol album.

Report this review (#1592907)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2016 | Review Permalink

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