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Procol Harum

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Procol Harum A Salty Dog album cover
3.59 | 284 ratings | 29 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Salty Dog (4:41)
2. The Milk of Human Kindness (3:47)
3. Too Much Between Us (3:45)
4. The Devil Came from Kansas (4:38)
5. Boredom (4:34)
6. Juicy John Pink [Mono Version] (2:08)
7. Wreck of the Hesperus (3:49)
8. All This and More (3:52)
9. Crucifiction Lane (5:03)
10. Pilgrim's Progress (4:32)

Total Time: 40:18

Bonus track on 1997 & 1998 reissues:
11. Long Gone Geek (1969 Single - Mono) (3:10)

Extra bonus tracks on 1998 remaster:
12. All This And More (take 1) (4:12)
13. The Milk Of Human Kindness (take 1) (3:57)
14. Pilgrim's Progress (take 1) (3:15)
15. McGreggor (2:47)
16. Still There'll Be More (take 8) (5:03)

Line-up / Musicians

- Gary Brooker / lead vocals, piano, celeste, 3-string guitar, bells, harmonica, recorder, woodwind, orchestral arrangements (1,8)
- Robin Trower / lead & acoustic guitars, sleigh tambourine, backing vocals
- Matthew Fisher / organ, piano, marimba, acoustic & rhythm guitars, recorder, backing vocals, orchestral arrangements (7), producer
- Dave Knights / bass
- Barrie James Wilson / drums, tabla, congas

- John Kalinowski "Kellogs" / "Bosun's" whistle

Releases information

Artwork: Dickinson (a parody of the famous Player's Tobacco advert)

LP Regal Zonophone ‎- SLRZ 1009 (1969, UK)

CD A&M Records ‎- CD 3123 (1988, US)
CD Castle Classics ‎- CLACD 289 (1992, Europe)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 4668 (1997, UK) With a bonus track
CD Westside - WESM 534 (1999, UK) Remastered by Nick Watson with 6 bonus tracks; Retitled "Salty Dog...Plus"

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PROCOL HARUM A Salty Dog ratings distribution

(284 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (31%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

PROCOL HARUM A Salty Dog reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

A stunning artwork using a cigarette logo, slightly changed by Keith Reid's wife (also responsible for the debut's artwork and the following Home album) to resemble her husband, this album also came with different track listing depending on which side of the Atlantic you were on. The title track you will find starting the album was previously released as a single and in some country was left off the album to which it gave its name. You will easily understand that the ideal version of the album includes that great track (and most likely with the much weaker B-side Long Gone Geek). One of the few differences is that Matthew Fisher's organ is much absent throughout the album, as he is busy producing the album, writing tracks and playing more instruments than just his Hammond.

This album is however quite deceiving in many ways as it is very unfocused and completely uneven, although it has some brilliant tracks on it also. After the title track (we will assume that it is an integral part of the album and the track is a sailor's expression for a sexual delicacy) is followed by a bunch of rather strange and non-Procol tracks such as the Trower-blues-penned Juicy John Pink or the Fisher-penned (and sung) Boredom and the weird Devil Came From Kansas, all of which have most members playing instruments that they are not used to. A rather weak first side, if you ask me. One has to wait for the second side of the album with Wreck Of Hesperus, Crucifiction Lane, All This And More, to get to the central moment of the album. Once you are in that stretch, then this album is almost the equal of its two predecessor. Unfortunately, this is much too short to even come higher than the waist level of the previous SOB.

After this album, with the never-ending tours of US and Europe, Fisher will leave the group and Dave Knights (never really inventive, but a solid executor of written bass lines) will also find himself out the door, but A Salty Dog is maybe best linked with Home even if there is a big line-up change. Ideally, Procol's third album should be acquired with the fourth album Home, for both albums have ups and downs but in a single package, both albums will become essential listening for the proghead.

Review by loserboy
5 stars "A Salty Dog" was PROCOL HARUM's 3rd release and continued their highly classical progressive exploration in music. Title track "A Salty Dog" remains to this day one of my all- time favorite songs which was very influential to young bands like GENESIS and YES. This is truly a mighty album and in many rivals "Shine On Brightly" and their debut release for both beauty and character in song and performance. For those not all that familiar with PROCOL HARUM's music it is really their first 3 albums which are essential in my opinion with "A Salty Dog" being perhaps the most complete and versatile album hitting heavy Blues and progressive elements throughout. This is an essential album and remains one of my most treasured albums of all time.
Review by Guillermo
4 stars Maybe this is the most "famous" or "known" of all Procol Harum`s albums. It was the last album released with Matthew Fisher and David Knights in the line-up. This album has songs not only composed by Brooker/Reid or only sung by Brooker. "Boredom", "Wreck of the Hesperus" and "Pilgrim`s Progress" have songwriting contributions and lead vocals by Matthew Fisher. "Wreck of the Hesperus" (one of the best of this album) has a very good orchestral arrangement and piano by Fisher. Robin Trower sings and co-writes "Crucifiction lane". "Juicy John Pink" is a blues duet sung by Brooker (who also plays harmonica) with Trower on guitar."A Salty dog" and "All this and more" also have orchestral arrangements (by Brooker). B.J. Wilson plays drums as good as always.All the musicians also played instruments in some songs which were not their "usual" instruments, as the sleeve credits say.One of the best songs is "The Devil Came from Kansas", with lead guitar by Trower. The song "A Salty Dog" is one of the most known songs of the band, with "A Whiter shade of Pale" and "Homburg". A very good album. Produced by Matthew Fisher, who in the 70s also recorded some solo albums, and also produced albums for other musicians.
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I got a bit contradictory impressions from this album, which has both beautiful symphonic ballads and more conventional bluesy numbers. Maybe I'm just so keen on the moody tracks, that the songs with different feelings feel here a bit alien to me. On the other hand, this union of two contrasting musical characteristics makes the band's sound quite personal, and the mixture seems unique. My own favorites of this album are the royal title track "A Salty Dog", quiet and fragile "Too Much Between Us", prophetic "Wreck of the Hesperus" and the ruminative and elegiac "Pilgrims Progress". The covers are also so distasteful that they are actually quite cool. Kellogs!
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Despite the many highs and relatively few lows (I'm talking musically) of Procol Harum's initial decade-long run of 1967-1977, I think the group never made an album of such consistent brilliance as this one. If forced to choose, I'd concede that my three favourite Procol Harum songs (A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Quite Rightly So and As Strong As Samson) aren't on this album, but by God, it seems as if the rest of my top 10 is!

The fun starts with the title track which is about a crew on a sinking ship (The theme of maritime disaster is a real PH constant and is never far away on this album). Eschewing the traditional PH sound in which organ and guitar are pre-eminent, this song ranks among the greatest bits of pop/classical fusion I've ever heard. The tragic lyrics are brought to life by Brooker's enormous aching voice, glorious orchestral string work and top-notch drumming from B.J. Wilson, who by this third album had become a real force to be reckoned with.

The rest of the album sees all the Procol elements at their peak on a wide range of material. There's old school blues (Juicy John Pink) and a few Brooker-led stompers like the rasping The Milk Of Human Kindness, the ballsy The Devil Came To Kansas and the rather more subtle All This And More, all of which feature Trower's stinging guitar, usually in tandem with Fisher's organ. A really moody Too Much Between Us slips in and out, stopping only to slip a dagger between one's ribs, courtesy of a Brooker solo on celeste.

There are also three pieces with lead vocals from Fisher. First off there's the totally infectious "rich and fruity" marimba-driven calypso of Boredom. The Wreck Of The Hesperus is a glorious piece of sheer genius, driven by a constant rippling piano arpeggio and sweeping strings. It has a totally chilling fade-out as the sound of waves wash over our protagonists. The monumental organ-drenched Pilgrim's Progress is perhaps the closest PH ever get to the A Whiter Shade Of Pale feel on this album, but Fisher's vocals give the song a totally different flavour.

Then there's Robin Trower's stunning turn on Crucifiction Lane, probably my favourite track on a stupendous album. Reid's lyrics are magnificent (You'd better listen anybody/Cos I'm gonna make it clear/That my life is unimportant/What I've done I did through fear) and this awesome semi-Biblical bluesy rant chills me to the core. It's a work of real power, on which Trower wields his guitar like a sword.

Indeed Trower was making his presence felt more than ever before, but the balance between Procol's blues and classical tendencies are virtually perfect on this album. The bonus cuts include the raucous, hilarious B-side to A Salty Dog, Long Gone Geek the tale of a big bad tabby cat who carried a gun and wore a Stetson hat. 'Tis a potent tune to be sure. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the previously unreleased ditty McGregor. An ironic ballad about an executed soldier, this is the sort of the song that probably should have remained in the vaults. The other bonus cuts are just alternate takes of tracks on this album and an additional one of Still There'll Be More, which was eventually cut on the next album Home.

If you want to know why Procol Harum was a great creative rock band, I can think of no better starting point than this majestic album. ... 92% on the MPV scale

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This third album by Procol Harum is not as strong as its predecessors but I personally still like this album, overall. Of course there is one track that truly stands out and represents the band's unique style of Hammond-drenched music: "Pilgrims Progress". Who in planet Earth does not like this floating and melancholy song? I doubt any human being would deny the beauty of this composition. It flows wonderfully from start to to end with Hammond organ accompanying the tagline rhythm section.

Procol Harum were at the time a major headline band in the USA in the late sisties - topping acts like Santana, The Byrds, Pink Floyd. The group decided to record their third album at the A&M Studio in LA. "A Salty Dog" was released in the summer of 1969 - the period by which King Crimson "In The Court of The Crimson King" which took music industry by surprise with its mellotron-drenched sounds. From track to track of "A Salty Dog", song quality varies but one thing for sure all of them are deep rooted in blues-rock kind of music with compositions made by Gary Brooker. You still can hear the unique Hammond organ work by Mathew Fisher everywhere in any segment of the music presented here. If you want to trace back what happened in the early inception of prog rock, this album is worth collecting. Keep on proggin'..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Also known as "Stoke Poges"!

After the early prog classic "In held 'twas in I" on "Shine on brightly", Procol Harum revert to a more orthodox structure for "A salty dog". There are no suites here, no long convoluted tracks, no overriding concept, just ten autonomous songs.

After a false start in Los Angeles recording their third album (the sessions for an album entitled "Stoke Poges" were scrapped and lost), the band returned to the Abbey Road studios in London. Matthew Fisher took on production duties for the first time here, and the song-writing was opened up for other band members to contribute. This makes for a rather uneven offering, ranging from the sublime excellence of the title track to the trite lyrics and melody of Matthew Fisher's cod-calypso "Boredom".

In between, we have the beauty of "Too much between us", a rather out of character piece which could have been recorded by Simon and Garfunkel. "Wreck of the Hesperus" and "All this and more" both have similarities with the title track, the former having some wonderfully bombastic orchestration. Such songs as these are the essence of Procol Harum, a fact which was to become even clearer on their "Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra" album, which featured "A salty dog" and "All this and more" sequentially.

Robin Trower takes on vocal duties on his "Crucifixion lane". With Gary Brooker being such a gifted and unique vocalist, this is a case of democracy triumphing over good sense. "Juicy John Punk" is a very average Hendrix like blues, and the aforementioned "Crucifixion Lane", while benefiting significantly from Trower's fine guitar work, could have sounded so much better with a decent vocal.

The closing "Pilgrim's progress" is a wonderful "Whiter shade of pale" like ballad, which features the classic Hammond sound of Matthew Fisher. Once again though, the democratic process meant that Brooker did not get to sing lead vocals on the track (or indeed on Fisher's "Wreck of the Hesperus").

In all a rather uneven album, with some of Procol Harum's strongest songs, but a few too many sub-par additions.

In retrospect, the three solo albums in one nature of "A salty dog" indicated that all was not well in the Procol Harum Camp, and Fisher would be gone before their next album was recorded.

Review by Heptade
5 stars There is an interesting divide in the reviews here...some think masterpiece, some fairly unenthused. I think this is Procol Harum's best album. Every song is a winner, although the presence of three vocalists does provide a scattered feeling. However, there isn't a weak track on the record, which makes up for the fact that Matthew Fisher and Robin Trower are workmanlike vocalists at best. Gary Brooker's soaring, soulful vocals power the classic title track, floating on clouds of strings as he tells a tragic tale of the sea. There's also some traditional blues (Juicy John Pink), driving blues rock (Devil Came from Kansas, the Trower-sung Crucifixion Lane), symphonic rock (Fisher's Wreck of the Hesperus), folk balladeering (Too Much Between Us) and an odd little island-style ditty (Boredom). All is executed with a sense of style and fun, and the closing Pilgim's Progress provides a feeling of epic fulfilment at the end. Trower's phenomenal, raw lead playing is also worthy of note. It seems to me that Procol Harum was just a little too smart for mass popular consumption, which is why they never really capitalized on the giant success of Whiter Shade of Pale. This album is ample evidence that the group was one of the most creative bands of the early 70s. Just a shade short of a masterpiece, but mathematical rules tell us to round up, so instead of 4.5 stars, 5 it is! The best album by one of the best.
Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars This was never a particularly interesting album in my opinion, neither when it was released nor later on when there was a bit of revival for the band due to the reemergence of "Conquistador" on their album with the London Symphony. That song, both on the symphony album and the original version, combined with “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, pretty much sums up this band’s career as far as I’m concerned. There were a few other mildly bright moments, like the title track of this album for example, but not many.

These guys suffered the fate of having a monstrously successful song right off their first album in “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, and frankly never were able to achieve that level of perfection again, particularly not on this album.

The cover is clever and pretty well-known, but I wonder how many people besides the hard-core Harum faithful have ever really listened to this record. This band was always a confusing mix of blues guitar and classical keyboards, combined with Gary Brooker’s corner-tavern vocals that alternate from white blues to Randy Newman. Decent enough urban blue-collar music I suppose, but this is not the album that helped to build progressive music. That was done with the debut, and each subsequent studio work from the band after 1967 seemed to struggle to recreate that magic.

High points include of course the title track – in those days as often today the most well- constructed tune was served up as the opener in an attempt to put the best face on the record. In this case that’s done without much reliance on Trower’s guitars though, this being mostly a keyboards and vocals composition. The other standout tracks are “Wreck of the Hesperus” with that persistent piano drone and some early heavy-guitar rock; the calypso (or maybe just upbeat raga) of “Boredom”; and the often-covered “Devil Came from Kansas” that sounds an awful lot like a Roy Wood-era ELO (or maybe even the Move) song.

Otherwise this is a recognizable piece of music history that probably has special meaning to guys in their late fifties for whom this brings back memories; otherwise, I think it is a decent record at best, certainly note essential. Three stars.


Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars A very light, boring proto-progressive album with tasteless Beatles-y accents. Among this naive collection of hippie songs we can notice the really sixties pop ballad "Pilgrims progress", the almost honest bluesy melodic "Crucifiction lane" with its heavy guitars, crying, difficult vocals and pleasant Hammond organ passages, also the ridiculously mediocre mainstream folk ballad "Boredom". The Band have released a couple of classic songs with clear progressive intentions (before time), I'm thinking about "the dead man's dream"...For my part, I believe that Procol Harum have a real musical potential but most part of time it is muted, surely in order to answer and to satisfy commercial obligations. Consequently "A Salty Dog" is a really poor, soft album that can only ravish little conformist listeners / consumers. Fans of complex music, just ignore this one.
Review by jammun
4 stars All hands on deck...

I'm a sucker for these types of lyrics, which are not only relevant to the song but imply a nod and a wink to the listener: please join us on this musical voyage.

Procol's third album, A Salty Dog, is perhaps their finest. It is a concept album of sorts, its songs generally including vaguely nautical imagery, with intermixed themes of loss, betrayal, and ennui, not surprising given what the band was going through at the time.

The pacing of the original LP is virtually perfect. We start off with the title track, with its orchestral foundation. The song is majestic, but not without whimsy (check out Reid's deliberate moon/June rhyme). This gives way to The Milk of Human Kindness, generally more up-tempo and with biting contributions by Trower. The relatively weak Too Much Between Us then sets up another of the better tracks, The Devil Came From Kansas, which rocks as hard as any pre-Home Procol song. The final song on what was Side One of the LP, Boredom, has a Caribbean feel to it, but the lyrics are surprisingly poor.

Juicy John Pink leads off what was Side Two. This strikes me as one of those songs that exist on early Procol albums simply to give Trower an opportunity to indulge in some blues. We are then presented with two more heavily orchestrated songs Wreck of the Hesperus and All This and More.

The album wraps up with Crucifiction Lane and Pilgrim's Progress. The former, sung I think by Trower, is pure, hard, blues-rock, with a classic Trower guitar solo, all tension and no release. The latter, sung by Fisher, musically recalls A Whiter Shade of Pale, with its descending bass line and baroque organ. It is the finest song on the album and a fitting closer, as well as being Fisher's greatest song.

So where does this album fit in Procol's legacy? There was a time I held it in very high esteem, up there with the very best. However, having listened to it now for forty years, I'm of the opinion that it lacks the fire-in-the-belly of the first album's best songs, and lacks the sense of exploration and musical adventure of Shine on Brightly. Additionally, there's a bit too much Fisher and too little Brooker. Still, it's a solid effort from this pioneering band and should not be missed.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars This third album from Procol Harum holds little comparison with its very good predecessor.

Little inventiveness nor a lot of progressive attributes are featured here. One could have believed that they would have pursued in the direction of their epic "In Held 'T Was in I" but it was absolutely not the case.

There are still some fine songs featured of course. Pleasant melodies like the opening and title song which is by far my favourite one and the only one to play in the same division than their best compositions. A lot of feelings through this excellent song.

As one can also experience during "Wreck of the Hesperus". Actually, the ballads featured on this album are quite decent but there are lots of fillers which are rather annoying ("Juicy From Pink") or below average like "Boredom", the well named or "The Milk of Human Kindness" which is rather insipid.

Fortunately, this album is saved by a couple of solid closing numbers. "Crucification Lane" which is a strong bluesy track which could have been featured on their debut album, and my second fave from all of this work "Pilgrims Progress". A very much Beatles-esque ballad, full of harmony, tact and beauty.

All in all this is a decent album which is saved by several fine ballads. But some more was hoped from the band.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A Salty Dog is the third studio album from british pop/ rock act Procol Harum. Their previous album called Shine on Brightly is a very beautiful and melancholic album that I enjoy greatly. It´s also a pretty progressive album with the side long epic track In Held Twas in I. A Salty Dog doesn´t really follow up on the progressive side of Procol Harum that was so evident on Shine on Brightly but puts more emphasis on the simple songs and strong melodies that is also a trademark in Procol Harum´s discography.

The music is still piano/ organ driven pop/ rock with slight progressive tendencies and strong and memorable vocal lines. This time the bluesy guitar from Robin Trower gets a bit more room in the soundscape and therefore A Salty Dog seems more simple and bluesy at times.

I´ll mention four songs that I think stand out on the album. A Salty Dog and Wreck of the Hesperus features string arrangements which is new in Procol Harum´s sound. Both songs are melancholic and reminds me a bit of the mood on Shine on Brightly. Beautiful songs. Too Much Between Us is a beautiful ballad like song and the last song on the album called Pilgrims Progress is also a standout track with it´s beautiful floating organ. The rest is not really songs that I get very excited about. They are not bad songs, but a bit too simple in mood and way too bluesy. I much prefer Procol Harum when they are influenced by classical music.

The musicianship is strong as usual. Gary Brooker has to be mentioned for his strong and emotional vocal delivery, but compared to the first two releases from the band Robin Trower´s guitar is much more in focus here on A Salty Dog and it makes a big difference in style.

The production is pretty much the same as on Shine on Brightly. Not much has happened there. It´s not really good but still enjoyable.

I´m a bit disappointed about A Salty Dog because I expected a more progressive direction after the excellent Shine on Brightly. Procol Harum moved away from their progressive leanings on A Salty Dog and that´s a shame IMO, as they really had something special to offer to progressive music. A Salty Dog is still a good album though and deserves 3 stars. Progressive music lovers should start with Shine on Brightly though.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars While Brooker's grandiose vision dominated "Shine on Brightly", "A Salty Dog" was a more down to earth affair, and the most democratic of all Procol Harum albums. Not only do Matthew Fisher and Robin Trower write a lot more of the music, but they even get to sing. The result is generally positive, and effectively squelches the sophomore jinx in its tracks.

Musically, "A Salty Dog" seems to achieve in 4 minutes what "In Held Twas In I" tried in vain to realize in 17. Sure, the orchestra helps matters along, but this is also a grand song with a beginning, middle and end. The only other transcendent number is the album closer, "Pilgrim's Progress", in which Fisher sings assuredly atop his plaintive organ. The merry outro initially seems out of place but is just the kick that the cut and album need as they dance over the maritime horizon. Fisher's other tunes are both winners, one being another sea epic, the powerful "Wreck of the Hesperus", in which Brooker's piano and the orchestra shine. "Boredom" is a departure for the group, like their own take on Sailor's Hornpipe or some such, albeit slowed down to Procol speed, and it is eminently pleasant.

Even though I am not a fan of Robin Trower and what he did to the Procol sound, I did enjoy his early solo work and find that he does better with his own material than when providing clumsy input to that of Brooker, hence both "Juicy John Pink" and "Crucifiction Lane" provide adequate settings for his blues inspired forays. Not my cup of tea, but certainly adequate. The same can be said for most of the rest, with "The Devil Came from Kansas" perhaps the best of these.

"A Salty Dog", with few exceptions, lacks the cohesion of the group's debut and the high minded targets of the follow up, and cannot be pronounced an exciting album by any stretch, but it proclaims a band that is getting older and still learning new tricks.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I didn't really start to appreciate Procol Harum until I heard their sophomore release Shine On Brightly which in my opinion is a great piece of symphonic rock. A Salty Dog seemed like the next logical purchase for me since it featured the magnificent title-track implying that the rest of the album was bound to follow that same direction... right? This assumption proved to be completely incorrect and just like Blue Öyster Cult's Agents Of Fortune turned out to be somewhat of a misstep of an album. More so here since I actually bought this particular release!

A brief summery of A Salty Dog would suggest that the band tried a new approach which in this case meant that they went in many completely different directions. Everything from symphonic rock, straight rock, pop to blues can be traced on this release. It seems to me that the band has got a case of the Barclay James Harvest-disease (or maybe it's the other way around?), since just like that band Procol Harum had two great first releases followed by an album where they tried to go into a new direction.

Although most fans seem to consider it a good idea I personally disagree since I mostly enjoy the symphonic part of Procol Harum's sound and the title-track is the only brief reminder of that glorious past. A few other nice moments can be traced here and there but overall I'd say that this album is solely recommended for the already established fan-base.

Eventually, just like Barclay James Harvest, the band would regroup for another round of great releases in the early '70s. Still it's sad that the magnificent music year of 1969 had such a polar opposite effect on the early prog bands like Procol Harum and The Moody Blues.

***** star songs: A Salty Dog (4:41)

**** star songs: The Milk Of Human Kindness (3:47) Wreck Of The Hesperus (3:49) All This And More (3:52) Pilgrims Progress (4:32)

*** star songs: Too Much Between Us (3:45) The Devil Came From Kansas (4:38) Crucifiction Lane (5:03)

** star songs: Boredom (4:34) Juicy John Pink (2:08)

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars A little overrated by PH fans, I think (then again, I'm probably overrating To Our Children's Children's Children, not that I'll ever admit to it or lower its grade), but that's perfectly understandable - almost undoubtedly, this is the pinnacle of the "classic" Procol Harum sound, and seeing as fans of any band tend to gravitate most towards the album that holds that band's sound most consistently, I can definitely see where they're coming from. The big mistake of Shine on Brightly, the significant reduction in Trower's impact on the sound, has been completely eliminated, and this album shows an almost perfect balance between the two keyboardist functions and Trower's powerful (and yet enjoyably versatile) guitar. In addition, a few of the tracks feature orchestral arrangements in addition to the parts of the main players, and they manage to fit in perfectly, adding a further blast of rich sonic *ooomph*.

Conveniently enough, it's the two tracks with all-out orchestrations attached that grab my attention the most (and are almost certainly a primary reason for this album's popularity amongst fans of the group). The title track is an absolute, stone-cold PH classic, with absolutely jaw-dropping imagery in Reid's lyrics (and graced with a very nice Brooker vocal, both in tone and in the amazing vocal melody) set to completely orchestral backing that only seems appropriate given the utter majesty of the whole piece. I'm not going to be quoting Reid lyrics much in these reviews, but I just have to say - there is just something absolutely devestating that happens within me when I hear this final stanza.

"We fired the gun, and burnt the mast, and rowed from ship to shore The captain cried, we sailors wept: our tears were tears of joy Now many moons and many Junes have passed since we made land A salty dog, this seaman's log: your witness my own hand"

Anyway, I'm also very very fond of the Fisher-sung "Wreck of the Hesperus," this time with the orchestra accompanying the rest of the band. Fisher once more proves himself as every bit Brooker's equal as a songwriter (at least, in the smaller quantities that he was allowed to contribute), as he combines a simple (but very effective) rolling Fisher piano line with a vocal melody filled to the brim with climaxes, and (best of all) allows Trower's guitar to interact with the orchestra in one of the greatest sonic moments I've ever heard. Seriously, I have no idea how to adequately describe those parts in the instrumental breaks where Trower's guitar soars upward through the midst of the orchestra, like, I dunno, like the great god Poseidon rising up from the sea, with giant waves walling up and announcing his arrival. It's almost a shame this track has the misfortune to share space with the title track - on almost any other PH album (barring the debut), this would be the highlight.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album falters somewhat in comparison. Don't misunderstand me, there's not a single track on here I really dislike - it's just that, when it's all said and done, I have to exert a bit more effort than I'd like to keep my head from drooping over and my will from faltering. The biggest problems are (a) no "light" tracks to lessen the load a bit (in other words I miss "Mabel" and "Good Captain Clack" *sniff*) and (b) almost no tracks with any "bounce" in their step. Well, sort of - there's actually one bonus track that's mislabeled as an album original, an old B-side called "Long Gone Geek" that's a terrific guitar-heavy up-tempo "old-timey" (though only sort of - it's actually quite hard) rocker that also has bits of the expected great piano work we've come to expect from the band. Truth be told, I GREATLY wish they'd have ended the original album with this one - it may not provide the same hymn-like, conclusion of an epic feel given by the Fisher-sung "Pilgrim's Progress" (quite pretty in its own right), but as an unexpected blast of energy, one to rouse up the faculties of the mind and cause it to better process all the lushness it just sat through previously (because, after all, contrast between two groups of objects is the best way to bring out the strengths of each), it's just great.

Ok, ok, there's also one other really good up-tempo piece on here, the wonderful "The Milk of Human Kindness," with the piano playing off Robin's brilliant riffage with great aplomb. Plus, it has one of the best melodies of the album, and one that, I swear, Genesis "adapted" for the song "That's All" on Genesis (listen to the melody of "She left me for a wasp without a sting," here and the melody of "I can't feel a thing from my head down to my toes" there, and then tell me if I'm really crazy). Other than that, though, basically everything is somewhere between slow and vaguely-above-mid-tempo, and that hurts things a bit. "Too Much Between Us" is a lovely ballad, yes, and "Boredom" is a novel effort that does a good job of conveying boredom without actually being boring, but while the band is nice enough to place a "rockier" piece between them ("The Devil Came from Kansas," with all sorts of GREAT guitar soloing), that piece in itself is totally mid-tempo, so there's not enough distinction to help the brain crisply remember all the good characteristics of each. As for "All This and More," the melody is once more quite good, but it fails to do much (except for Trower's guitar, that is) that could make it stand out from the other pieces on the album with good melodies.

On the plus side, Trower gets to throw in two of his own compositions, which give a heavier blues rock feel to the album ... but on the minus side, these are ALSO mid-tempo, so even when they break the monotony, they really don't. They're still enjoyable, though - after all, you could hardly expect Trower to restrain himself in his own pieces, and he definitely busts out well in both.

When it's all said and done, then, I'm less sold on the album than a lot of fans are. The songs are all good, yet as an album, it manages to simultaneously succeed marvelously (due to the incredible richness) and, well, not succeed so marvelously (as they fail to, if I may bring in terminology from my chosen field, hedge against "tempo risk"). Still, I don't want to give the wrong impression - I don't dislike this album, and after all, I rate it pretty highly. So please don't kill me.

As for the bonus tracks, they're ok, but once more not that much special (except, of course, for "Long Gone Geek"). Only one of the tracks is of a previously unreleased piece, but even that (an early version of a song called "McGreggor") is nowhere near finished. Otherwise, it's initial takes of "All This and More," "The Milk of Human Kindness" and "Pilgrim's Progress," as well as an 8th take of a piece on the next album ("Still There'll Be More"), Home.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Three great songs, but pretty uneven

Two years after their beloved debut album, Procol Harum were looking for a wider audience with the stoic "A Salty Dog." Despite the fantastic cover art and the fact that the title track may be the best song they ever recorded, the album as a whole leaves plenty to be desired. There are three great tracks on Salty Dog while the other seven range from two star blues-rock throwaways to 3 star template rock songs. First the good stuff. The title track is an absolute masterpiece that ranks with Whiter Shade, Grand Hotel, and others as a seminal Procol Harum track. Gorgeous, timeless melody and melancholy fused with orchestral splendor, piano, and pomp. It starts the album on a high note that has only one direction to go from there. Another beauty is "Too Much Between Us" which features Brooker in almost Nick Drake mode, a vocal that is fragile and haunting, in a song that could easily have been written by Neil Young in "Pardon My Heart" mood. The third classic is "Wreck of the Hesperus" which features Matthew Fisher on vocal, a track which again captures so well a dated feel, emotions that come from some old black and white film. Together these three tracks lobby hard for a masterpiece but unfortunately the rest of the album gets in the way.

Most of the other seven tracks are average rock songs, sounding a bit like second rate The Band songs, less soulful and less grooving. There are two blues-rock tracks that really fail to impress. Trower is a fine player but the songs are so plain-Jane, I'm not sure how blues rock fans could get excited by this with Cream and the first Zeppelin around to play. I still think of Procol as sort of an English version of The Band. Both are better live, both have songs with a sort of rustic longing for the past, one is a bit more elegant while the other has a bit more groove. I'd recommend this album to any fan of either band, with the caveat that it is not as solid as many people seem to think. The 2009 cd reissue has four live bonus tracks from 1969 which make the investment considerably more worthwhile. My rating is based on the original album tracks only.

Review by Matti
3 stars Given that they released the quite progressive classic album Shine On Brightly, it's rather surprising to hear so many bluesy, rough-ish songs reminiscent of their debut, on this third album. Like some reviewers before me, I think the songs are very clearly divided in two camps: 1) totally uninteresting and 2) very good ones. I have nothing special to say about songs such as 'The Devil Came from Kansas', 'Crucifiction Lane 'or 'Juicy John Pink' - except that I don't like them a bit.

But the good ones justify this being a true classic album of 1969. 'A Salty Dog' is a slow and majestic (and very story-like) song with classical flavour, on the same level (if not even more elegant) as 'Whiter Shade of Pale'. I'm also fond of 'Too Much Between Us', an intimate little song with very dreamy chorus. 'Boredom' is sung by Matthew Fisher, another very symphatizing song, with peculiar shaker-loaded arrangement. Fisher's beautiful, organ-led closer 'Pilgrim's Progress' is great too. And some songs are OK if not any highlights. A must album for the fans of the group, at least. Despite all its faults and unevenness it has a nicely aged aura.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The nautical thematic content on this third Procol Harum album is prevalent beginning with seagulls on the beach and a captain's musings on his sexual exploits in A Salty Dog; or is it double innuendo about a mutiny on a sailing vessel? The title track has become a quintessential part of the band's catalogue as have many on this rather uneven album. The Milk of Human Kindness is an interesting throwaway for the band. It works okay rhythmically but not an outstanding track. Too Much Between Us has a melancholy tranquillity with Brooker's more gentler falsetto on vocals. This leads to a more upbeat sound on The Devil Came from Kansas, with Trower exceptional on guitar. This one grew on me over time especially the crashing two notes in the verses building to an infectious chorus. Boredom, a flute and glockenspiel driven whimsical song, and the ultra bluesy Juicy John Pink, are weaker tracks suffering from poor production quality, but they lead to the wonderful Wreck of the Hesperus, one of the great Procol Harum tracks sung by Fisher. The piano is a dominant instrument and the song is strengthened by a back beat of percussion shapes and a melodic guitar. The brass permeates the instrumental break giving a majestic feel. It ends with the shipwreck sounds lending an effective atmosphere.

All This and More is Brooker on vocals and more driving piano and Trower's everpresent guitar licks. Crucifiction Lane is very slow and bluesy with a melancholic melody line. The album ends with Pilgrims Progress finalising the nautical themes of alienation or loneliness on an open sea and searching for answers. The organ sound on this last track is more familiar to those who know the Whiter Shade of Pale sound, especially the tempo and overall feel.

The album is inconsistent in terms of quality but this is still a good album showing the development of prog rock in its early phase.

Review by HolyMoly
4 stars Nearly a Masterpiece

Procol Harum's third album, 1969's A Salty Dog, proved that the brilliance of the prior year's Shine on Brightly (which I gave five stars) was no fluke. If anything, this album is even more focused and powerful, and certainly more broad in what it attempts to achieve. Only two slightly mediocre songs drag this one down; otherwise, it's pretty close to perfect.

The title track opens the album - a somewhat risky move, as it's clearly a ballad, and a pretty lengthy one at that. With watery sound effects,seagulls chirping, a melodramatic string arrangement (keyboard players Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher composed all their own orchestral arrangements, by the way), and a simple yet vivid lyrical portrait (Keith Reid, the band's lyricist, is one of the finest lyric writers in rock history, in my opinion) of a sea captain, Procol Harum produce a stunning masterpiece with this song. Even better is the less obvious "Milk of Human Kindness" which follows it -- on the surface a pretty basic blues song, but arranged brilliantly with piano and lead guitar bouncing off each other, and BJ Wilson providing a novel, dramatic start/stop drum part. "Too Much Between Us" is a bit low-key and one of the album's weaker tracks, but "The Devil Came From Kansas" turns a folky melody into a full-blown loud doom number, with Robin Trower's lead guitar pushing it even further over the edge. "Boredom" ends side one, a Matthew Fisher piece with acoustic guitar, gentle hand percussion, and a nagging recorder melody -- about as far from "Kansas" as you can get. Keith Reid's lyrics about ennui and boredom almost feel cheerful in this context.

A big shocker opens side two -- the stark country blues of "Juicy John Pink" (by Trower, with lyrics by Reid), with little other than Trower's Hendrix-inspired guitar and Gary Brooker's vocal to carry it along. And to go from that into the symphonic drama of Fisher's "Wreck of the Hesperus" is even more shocking. Probably the most elaborately produced piece here, "Hesperus" seems to be of a piece with "A Salty Dog" in its maritime theme. "All This and More" is a pretty uneventful ballad, a disappointment in the midst of an impressive streak. Next is "Crucifixion Lane", a tough, soulful blues number sung by Robin Trower (unfortunately) in a raspy croak of a voice. It's a bit jarring after hearing Brooker and Fisher's superior voices for the rest of the album, but overall it's still a good track, further adding to the album's stunning diversity. Last but not least, we have a third Fisher composition, the excellent "Pilgrim's Progress" - an organ-based ballad seemingly similar to "Whiter Shade of Pale", but about halfway through, the song shifts into an elongated coda led by an upbeat piano riff that ends the album on a happy note.

Though this is often considered Procol Harum's masterpiece, I still prefer Shine on Brightly, but this album is still essential for those wishing to get into the band, and the title track, "The Devil Came From Kansas", and "Wreck of the Hesperus" are all key songs in the development of progressive rock. The album is confident and focused, even as it tackles an impressively diverse array of musical styles.

Review by Warthur
3 stars On their third album, Procol Harum continue to plough the same early progressive rock furrow which they'd sketched out on their debut and polished on Shine On Brightly. At points the lack of really substantive musical development over the preceding albums threatens to make this one feel a little redundant, though there's still a lot of enjoyment to be had - the outro to Pilgrim's Progress, in particular, has a delicacy and beauty hitherto unseen in the Procol Harum repertoire. There's more straight-ahead blues this time around too, which makes this one a little more diverse than Shine On Brightly. Not their best, but not all that bad either.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I know the album is not the best progressive one. But it is so meaningful to me. A Salty Dog is the first progressive album I've really tried to listen to and I had to play song by song without stopping since hearing the first song A Salty Dog. I've loved progressive music since then. The story ... (read more)

Report this review (#1608647) | Posted by komorebi | Friday, September 9, 2016 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Strangely, this is the only album review in which I'm in complete agreement with all of PA's reviewers and collaborators, so I'll keep it short. The title track is easily Porcol Harum's, and composer Garry Brooker's, finest achievement. "All hand's on deck, we've run afloat.." from lyricist Keit ... (read more)

Report this review (#1585814) | Posted by SteveG | Thursday, July 7, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Captain heavy-hearted and his men welcome you to a doleful journey among weeping seamen and crying Valkyries, in this album on life at sea. Before the release of "A salty dog", Procol Harum already had accomplished enough to earn their place in the history books. With a worldwide hit single and ... (read more)

Report this review (#1556648) | Posted by ses | Wednesday, April 27, 2016 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Procol Harum continued through the late sixties and produced their third album with the lovely sailor look. Unfortunately this record was less progressive than the last one even if the highlights are great. 1969 was the band the same line up than before with Gary Brooker on song and piano and ... (read more)

Report this review (#1089103) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Thursday, December 12, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The low rating on PA for "Salty Dog" absolutely baffles me. Another gem from the somehow-forgotten Procol Harum. Whilst the album lacks a strength heard on "Shine On Brightly", the songwriting and musical/lyrical climaxes are perhaps the zenith of Procol for me. Considering this is still the 60s, it ... (read more)

Report this review (#984632) | Posted by Xonty | Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Given the disagreement between Brooker and Fisher on the authorship of "Whiter Shade of Pale" (Fisher won, paving the way for more equitable sharing of the wealth with the musicians who play on hit records), I'd say that Fisher proves the more elegant musician on "Salty Dog." I have always thou ... (read more)

Report this review (#246902) | Posted by superscars | Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I've been a fan of progressive music for the better part of 5 years now, embracing a wide range of genres. So to see this album getting such poor reviews astounds me! It may not be technical prog, but the emotion which is emitted throughout is superb to say the least. Also I won't go into it, ... (read more)

Report this review (#192247) | Posted by harrold the barrel | Sunday, December 7, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Well after being involved with the band for years as a number 1 fan I can tell you with truth this was not the greatest effort. Coming just after the great Whiter Shade Of Pale this album has the follow up feeling. Again being slightly dark were material is concered and never really very sure ... (read more)

Report this review (#30764) | Posted by | Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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