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Procol Harum

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Procol Harum Exotic Birds And Fruit album cover
3.42 | 141 ratings | 11 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Nothing But the Truth (3:13)
2. Beyond the Pale (3:03)
3. As Strong as Samson (5:05)
4. The Idol (6:38)
5. The Thin End of the Wedge (3:44)
6. Monsieur R. Monde (3:40)
7. Fresh Fruit (3:05)
8. Butterfly Boys (4:25)
9. New Lamps for Old (4:07)

Total Time: 37:00

Bonus tracks on 1995, 2000 & 2009 reissues:
10. Drunk Again (B-side) (4:31)

Extra bonus track on 2000 & 2009 reissues:
11. As Strong As Samson (Single Version) (3:47)

Line-up / Musicians

- Gary Brooker / lead vocals, piano
- Mick Grabham / guitar
- Chris Copping / organ
- Alan Cartwright / bass
- Barrie James Wilson / drums, percussion

- B.J. Cole / pedal steel guitar (3)
- Chris Thomas / string arrangements (1), producer

Releases information

Artwork: Jakob Bogdani (6 May 1658 - 11 November 1724)

LP Chrysalis ‎- CHR 1058 (1974, UK)

CD Essential ‎- ESM CD 291 (1995, UK) With a bonus track
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 4917 (2000, Germany) With 2 bonus tracks
CD Salvo ‎- SALVOCD027 (2009, UK) Remastered by Nick Robbins with 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PROCOL HARUM Exotic Birds And Fruit ratings distribution

(141 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (36%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PROCOL HARUM Exotic Birds And Fruit reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really. This Is the logical follow-up to Grand Hotel and does it ever sound like it. As a matter of fact , this album epitomizes the second carreer of Procol (the first being the Robin Trower years) and fits in nicely between Ninth and Hotel. Better known number is Beyond the Pale , but this album does not hold any real direct pleasers as Hotel did. My fave is Idol. Somehow this album and its follow-up have this business-as-usual feel that makes this rather unremarkable , but if you indulge into those exotic fruits , you shall find your reward.
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There are a lot of people who'll champion the Grand Hotel album, but as far as I'm concerned, it is Exotic Birds And Fruit that is the most complete album in the latter half of Procol Harum's career. In fact, I'd say this album is the best one outside of the classic first trio of albums.

One of the reasons for my unqualified seal of approval is the absolutely gorgeous As Strong As Samson, which is a heart-breaking, nihilistic song of beauty. "Psychiatrists and lawyers/destroying mankind/driving them crazy and robbing them blind" sings Gary Brooker as Chris Copping turns in his best ever organ solo ... another tearing, searing, yet emphatically melancholic piece. B.J. Wilson's drumming is top-notch on this one, rolling us all the way to heaven and back again. Every little nuance of this perfect, perfect song melts me. When Gary sings "there ain't no use" as the tune fades out, you know he's right.

Aside from that brilliant track, Exotic Birds is an engaging, occassionally challenging hotch- potch of quality tunes. The band rocks out on Nothing But The Truth, Monsieur R. Monde (a reworked blues tinged-treatement of a track was first pencilled-in for the Shine On Brightly album) and Butterfly Boys (which starts off quite weak but is redeemed by some scorching work from Mic Grabham). It does a bit of a polka on the Balkan-influenced Beyond The Pale, it broods its way through the slow-burning epic The Idol, it pulls its hair out on the truly avant-garde The Thin End Of The Wedge (featuring all kinds of grim, spoken-word antics from Brooker), it winks and laughs through the playful Fresh Fruit. As for the stately New Lamps For Old (yes, stately in a Homburg/A Whiter Shade Of Pale kind of way) it is vintage PH. My version of album has the muscular B-side Drunk Again thrown in as bonus track and this "party" song doesn't detract from the quality of this fine album.

Even if I do feel that the one majestic song dwarfs the rest of the album, and I wouldn't say that this album catches Procol at its proggiest, this is still a very, very strong effort. ... 74% on the MPV scale

Review by daveconn
3 stars The Naga rattled her tail and squinted at the speakers. "Uriah Heep?," she said. "You're wrong," said I. "Barclay James Harvest?" "Nope," I answered. "Jim Capaldi?" "Sheesh, now you're just guessing," I said, removing the blindfold from her eyes. "Procol Harum," I revealed. Sometimes the Naga comes by to help me with these blindfolded taste tests, since she's got a much better nose for sniffing out prog rock than I do. Right or wrong, she's got a point about this music scratching at the door, but is it genuine prog? I don't generally like to define things, but since I asked the question, I'll answer it with a general prog maxim: If you have to ask, it ain't. That bit of unpleasantness out of the way ("Yes, we're done for now, you can go put Lamb Lies Down back on"), what to make of Exotic Birds And Fruit. It's generally regarded as one of Procol Harum's better efforts. Since I live in a tiny crystal shell, I haven't heard any Procol Harum before this, so my opinion is -- well, I don't even have an opinion really. I like this album (LIKE, I re-emphasized, shrinking from the moony glow in your eyes) as much as I like Heep, though for different reasons. These songs are smarter than Heep, thanks in part to a dedicated lyricist in Keith Reid (no "Easy Livin'" on here), and more ambitious in scope. At its best, as on "The Idol" and "New Lamps For Old," Chris Copping's organ can take your mind on a magic carpet ride. Yet it's hard escaping the fact that Procol Harum, like BJH, has trouble establishing an identity of their own on this album. Bits of Bob Dylan ("Lay Lady Lay"), Buffalo Springfield ("Mr. Soul"), King Crimson and Elton John are still identifiable even after being run through the blender. Also, great music always seems to come easy to great bands, and Procol Harum simply works too hard for small triumphs to be considered a great band. If I sound disappointed with my first foray into the world of Procol Harum, I guess I am a little. They're not doing anything here than other bands haven't done better. You have to admire the effort on songs like "Nothing But The Truth" (which nearly recalls Gentle Giant), "As Strong As Samson" and "The Thin End of the Wedge," but cherishing this in a universe chocked full of great prog music? Well, that's just Naga happen.
Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars After such a good album as Grand Hotel, a follow-up is not an easy task. And the band partially succeeded in this exercise.

Especially during the first part of the album which features fine pieces of music. The Procol ingredients are well present: nice melodies, performing and so recognizable vocals. The whole peaking during the very good "The Idol".

But from the rocking "Monsieur R. Monde", it collapses quite a bit. This aspect has never been my favourite of the band; and there are no changes with "Exotic Birds & Fruit" ("Butterfly Boys" just confirms this feeling). This one ending a poor trilogy of songs of which "Fresh Fruit" is probably the worst of all.

The good news is that the last and very much beatles-esque "New Lamps for Old" is a superb and very melancholic song. My favourite on this album. Great organ, and a very convincing Brooker on the vocals. Somewhat, it reminds me of the great, great "Writer".

During six songs, this album could almost rival with their best efforts. Still, it is quite decent work which should please the lovers of a sweet and melodic rock. Few highlights but a strong album overall.

Three stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Exotic Birds and Fruit" is the seventh full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Procol Harum. The album was released through Chrysalis Records in April 1974. After two releases "Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1972)" and "Grand Hotel (1973)" where the group had added orchestral instrumentation and progressive ideas to their music, they intentionally set out to write and record an album that was more of a group effort without outside interference or guest musicians. A more stripped down rock album so to speak and not a symphonic/progressive rock album.

As it turns out the symphonic/progressive elements are still there on "Exotic Birds and Fruit" albeit in much smaller doses and on this album it´s the organ arrangements that makes the music symphonic in parts and not an orchestra (there is a string arrangement in "Nothing But the Truth" but that´s the only place). The music style on "Exotic Birds and Fruit" is unmistakbaly the sound of Procol Harum and tracks like "Nothing But the Truth", "As Strong as Samson", "The Idol", the eerie sounding "The Thin End of the Wedge" and the beautiful closer "New Lamps for Old" are all strong Procol Harum compositions. On the other hand there are tracks like "Fresh Fruit" and "Butterfly Boys" which are less remarkable. Even though the band would have you believe that this is a stripped down back to basics effort (that´s basically what it says in the liner notes) Procol Harum´s music on "Exotic Birds and Fruit" is anything but stripped down. With Gary Brooker´s omnipresent piano playing and Chris Copping´s organ high in the mix this is another detailed and layered album by the band. Gary Brooker´s distinct sounding and strong voice and his melodic vocal lines are as always the center of the group´s music.

"Exotic Birds and Fruit" is a well produced album, featuring high level musicianship, a warm and pleasant sound production and for the most part intriguing songwriting, and fans of the band should of course own this album. For more casual listeners I would recommend listening to either "Shine on Brightly (1968)" or "Grand Hotel (1973)" before this one, but it is still a good quality release deserving a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars After the grand indulgence of "Grand Hotel", Procol Harum decided to go gritty with "Exotic Birds and Fruit". The sound is pared down yet ironically more cluttered. My copy is the original vinyl so I'm not sure if recent remasters remedied the problem, but it does seem like a production hatchet job that does nothing to accentuate the group's strengths. Granted the material was substantially weaker than on the prior release and might not have been saved anyway.

The only two bona fide highlights occur back to back, first the re-application of Gypsy influences on the captivating "Beyond the Pale", and then the powerful "As Strong as Samson", which would have fit well on the first and best Procol effort. Copping's organ and BJ Cole's pedal steel guitar accentuate the sumptuous melody. Elsewhere, a series of inferior rehashes of earlier work in the form of "The Idol", "Monsieur R Monde", and "Butterfly Boys" disgrace the grooves. Even "Thin Edge of the Wedge", arguably the most progressive song here, degenerates into a lifeless recitation in the chorus. "Fresh Fruit" reminds us of earlier novelty work like "Good Captain Clack", a style in which Procol Harum excels better than most, but it is not destined for a lot of revolutions.

This album is stone cold for most of its duration, beyond burned out, and was their first US release not to chart; even if the successor stirred up fleeting interest, the Procol Harum saga was over by now. Exotic maybe, but hardly fresh.

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars It's odd, but for all of Procol Harum's renown as masters of "symphonic majesty" or whatever, the albums out of their "classic" period that I enjoy the most are the ones with a high number of relatively "normal" rock and pop songs. As Gary explains in the liner notes of my copy, "If we had any particular concept on this album it was: 'Hey, we've done enough orchestral crap. Let's get back to playing more like a band!'" Some fans may lament the simpler, more down-to-earth nature of most of the tracks on here (in other words, it's nothing like Grand Hotel), but let's not forget that while Brooker was best known as a genius in weaving rock and classical ideas together, he was also a master "conventional" songwriter in his own right. As usual, there are some tracks I'm not wild about, but the number and quality of hooks throughout most of the album is just unbelievable, and combined with the high energy level and increased relevance of Grabham's guitar, this can't help but lead to a wonderful listening experience.

This experience kicks off with the opening "Nothing but the Truth," which is built around a MARVELOUS set of piano riffs and has, thanks to healthy amounts of both strings and guitar, quite a nice texture, one that definitely reminds you you're listening to Procol Harum and yet doesn't sound at all like a retread of previous ideas. It also helps that there are a few VERY unpredictable melody twists in the middle, and the end result is a three-minute pop song with more ideas than most bands could hope to come with for thirty. Similarly, the following "Beyond the Pale" has its own fascinating keyboard theme, with another great melody acting as counterpoint and vaguely adding to the tension near the end, until it too crashes down at about the three-minute mark and leaves me feeling much more satiated than the mere running time might suggest it could.

After the "lightweight" opening duo, the album takes a slight turn for the more serious, but that's definitely not a complaint. "As Strong as Samson" ultimately turns out as the big highlight of the album, as it manages to take a perfectly lovely, somewhat anthemic verse melody and then outdo itself by throwing in one of the best melody twists I've EVER heard. No, really, I'm serious here - the melody in the "ain't no use in preachers preaching when they don't know what they're teaching" part is one of the most perfect, shattering, totally cathartic hooks I've heard in my life, and that it gets repeated in different variations during the coda only makes me that much happier. As for its followup, "The Idol," it might not be able to quite live up to Samson, but it's still an absolutely wonderful, gorgeous anthem about false Gods being exposed for the frauds they are (at least, that's what I'm guessing its about), not to mention that the guitar solo in the extended ending is absolutely superb.

None of the other compositions are quite as unbeliveably brilliant as the opening quartet, but most of them have their good sides nonetheless. I could live without "The Thin End of the Wedge," which tries to hard to be "menacing" without remembering to be "entertaining," but everything else is quite satisfactory. My favorites are the two straightup rock songs, both of which amply show that much of Procol's greatness in fusing rock and classical stems from the fact that they really knew how to do "normal" rock. "Monsieur R. Monde" actually comes from the debut album sessions (it was a bonus track on Whiter Shade), and while I wasn't particularly wowed there, this version gives Grabham plenty of opportunities to get his ya-ya's out, while Brooker reminds us that piano can rock just as much as guitar if it really wants to. Better still, though, is the ending "Drunk Again" (not on the original album, but a B-side tacked onto the CD reissue), with a simple-but-GREAT crunchy riff that provides an ample foundation on which, just as on "Monde," both keyboards and guitars are given the opportunity to rock and roll and boogie along like nobody's business.

The other three tracks aren't particularly noteworthy, but definitely not bad either. "Fresh Fruit" is the sort of piece you'll like if you liked "Mabel" on the debut, "Butterfly Boys" is another piano-driven pop-rocker along the lines of "Nothing but the Truth" (not as hook- filled, but with a nice enough chorus), and "New Lamps for Old" is a bit anthemic along the lines of "Samson" and "Idol" but not quite as stunning (yet with its own charms, such as the way Brooker sings the chorus, or the little rising line he sings at the ending of some verses). Regardless, though, despite the fact that the album ends weaker than it began, I don't want to hold it against the album so much as to reduce it below 4 stars. It may not sound like the unique Procol Harum we've grown to know and love, what with all these pop and r&r pieces, but it does show that Brooker, even as he might have slightly begun to slip as a creative genius, still had enough gas left in him to produce a great album that stands up to most anything in their catalogue. And hey, I'd like to give kudos to the AMG on this one - I may not agree with giving this album the highest ranking of any PH album, as they did, but I can definitely see where they're coming from, and it's not very often that I find myself in any sort of philosophical agreement with the All-Music Guide.

Latest members reviews

4 stars "Ain't no use in preacher's preaching when they don't know what their teaching. The weakest man, be strong as Sampson, when you're being held to ransom." Strong as Sampson should have been the Procol Harum song that knocked A Whiter Shade of Pale out of the British public's mind. At least f ... (read more)

Report this review (#1579668) | Posted by SteveG | Friday, June 17, 2016 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Procol Harum is one of my favorite bands and their first three albums should be part of every serious prog-rock collection. However, by the 1970s their albums became a rather or hit miss affair. Most of them are good, some of them great such as 'Broken Barricades', 'Grand Hotel' and of cours ... (read more)

Report this review (#1154416) | Posted by Prog 74 | Thursday, March 27, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "Exotic Birds and Fruit" is another strong Procol Harum record which I like. It isn't exactly as good as "Grand Hotel" but sure in the same level with "A Salty Dog". 1974 came this seventh real album by Procol Harum and I think it is a well done work which I recommend people to hear some songs ... (read more)

Report this review (#1090922) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Monday, December 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I believe this could be Procol Harum's most underrated album. And this coming from a big fan of Robin Trower. Granted, it being the first complete album I heard by them may have something to do with it, but I love this album. "As Strong As Samson" is brilliant, lyrically, musically, and espec ... (read more)

Report this review (#35344) | Posted by | Sunday, June 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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