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PROCOL HARUM

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Procol Harum biography
PROCOL HARUM came out of the ashes from a band called the PARAMOUNTS that had its roots back in 59 (!!) and had split in early 66. Gary Brooker meet lyricist Keith Reid and began writing songs and by 1967, it became clear that they would need the help from their old colleagues from PARAMOUNTS days to form their new band to be called PROCOL HARUM. They developed a really new sound with two KB (piano for Brooker and Hammond organ for Fisher) and a guitarist extraordinaire called Robin Trower who was greatly influenced by JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE. They quickly became one of the precursor of progressive rock (along the MOODY BLUES and The NICE) and mixed in some classical influences (BACH in "Whiter Shade of Pale") and sold millions of singles but also albums.

They became the first band to build a multi-movement suite that lasted a whole side and this was in early 68 in their second album called "Shine on Brightly" and became a real influence for all progressive groups to come. By their fourth album "Home", the sound had evolved to an almost hard-rock but by the following one, the guitarist Robin Trower left for a long and successful solo career, leaving Brooker alone at the driving wheel. From their "Grand Hotel" album, the sound will be tamer but still explosive but all of the succeeding album would follow suit, the band still enjoyed many hit singles. Until they folded in 77, victim of the punk wave. They sporadically reform around the Brooker-Reid duo and Fisher to record a new album and small tour, the most recent being in 2003.

PROCOL HARUM is highly recommended for all the progheads who are interested in the birth of prog and its roots as well as its inventive use of an symphonic orchestra often used a real instrument in their music.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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Procol HarumProcol Harum
Esoteric Antenna 2015
Audio CD$12.18
$16.14 (used)
Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra - Procol HarumLive In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra - Procol Harum
Import · Remastered
Salvo 2015
Audio CD$5.18
$5.99 (used)
Procol Harum - Greatest HitsProcol Harum - Greatest Hits
Remastered
A&M 1996
Audio CD$8.77
$5.36 (used)
A Salty DogA Salty Dog
EP · Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Esoteric Antenna 2015
Audio CD$12.24
$12.99 (used)
NovumNovum
Eagle Rock Entertainment 2017
Audio CD$13.98
Shine on BrightlyShine on Brightly
Import
Esoteric Antenna 2015
Audio CD$18.16
$28.45 (used)
Broken Barricades - Procol HarumBroken Barricades - Procol Harum
Import
Salvo 2015
Audio CD$4.59
$4.58 (used)
HomeHome
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Esoteric Antenna 2015
Audio CD$12.23
$13.28 (used)
Best of Procol HarumBest of Procol Harum
A&M 2002
Audio CD$32.98
$6.97 (used)
Procol's NinthProcol's Ninth
Import · Remastered
Salvo 2015
Audio CD$4.61
$6.99 (used)
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PROCOL HARUM GRAND HOTEL LP 316 USD $11.99 Buy It Now 2h 45m
Procol Harum - The Best Of 1972 USA Gatefold Orig. VG+/E USD $3.99 [0 bids]
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Procol Harum - Quite Rarely So (1996) USD $1.87 [0 bids]
15h 52m
The Return Of Procol Harum - The Interview (1991) USD $1.87 [0 bids]
15h 56m
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Procol's Ninth Procol Harum vinyl LP album record Polish SX1378 USD $39.80 Buy It Now 16h 38m
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19h 59m
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Procol's Ninth [Bonus Tracks] by Procol Harum (CD, Mar-2005, Salvo) USD $9.31 Buy It Now 22h 22m
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PROCOL HARUM discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PROCOL HARUM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.91 | 282 ratings
Procol Harum
1967
4.06 | 270 ratings
Shine On Brightly
1968
3.57 | 215 ratings
A Salty Dog
1969
3.54 | 145 ratings
Home
1970
3.30 | 124 ratings
Broken Barricades
1971
3.88 | 200 ratings
Grand Hotel
1973
3.37 | 117 ratings
Exotic Birds And Fruit
1974
2.80 | 92 ratings
Procol's Ninth
1975
2.98 | 102 ratings
Something Magic
1977
2.41 | 68 ratings
Prodigal Stranger
1991
4.10 | 42 ratings
The Long Goodbye
1995
2.98 | 74 ratings
The Well's on Fire
2003

PROCOL HARUM Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 109 ratings
Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
1972
4.04 | 18 ratings
BBC Live in Concert
2000
3.89 | 9 ratings
One More Time
2003
4.03 | 24 ratings
In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra And Choir
2009

PROCOL HARUM Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.19 | 15 ratings
Live (DVD)
2002
4.15 | 20 ratings
Live at The Union Chapel
2004
4.78 | 18 ratings
In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra And Choir
2009

PROCOL HARUM Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
The Best of Procol Harum [Fly]
1971
3.04 | 9 ratings
The Best of Procol Harum [A&M]
1972
4.33 | 6 ratings
Rock Roots
1976
4.77 | 4 ratings
Procol Harum's greatest Hits Vol.1 (Pickwick)
1982
2.67 | 3 ratings
Portfolio
1988
3.02 | 9 ratings
Chrysalis Years 1973-1977
1989
3.07 | 5 ratings
The Definitive Collection
1992
3.44 | 6 ratings
Homburg & Other Hats: Procol Harum's Best
1995
3.09 | 4 ratings
Greatest Hits
1996
4.18 | 9 ratings
30th Anniversary Anthology
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
Halcyon Daze: The Best of Procol Harum
1997
3.00 | 1 ratings
Three Classic Albums
1998
4.67 | 6 ratings
Pandora's Box
1999
3.00 | 1 ratings
Procol Harum, The Best Of (Golden Times)
2001
4.00 | 4 ratings
Whiter Shade Of Pale
2001
3.75 | 4 ratings
Singles, A's and B's
2002
4.17 | 9 ratings
Classic Tracks and Rarities: An Anthology
2002
4.50 | 2 ratings
Procol Harum/Shine On Brightly
2002
4.08 | 6 ratings
First Four
2003
4.00 | 3 ratings
A Salty Dog / Home
2003
4.04 | 6 ratings
Secrets Of The Hive - The Best Of Procul Harum
2007
3.38 | 7 ratings
All This And More... - A 4-Disc Compendium
2009

PROCOL HARUM Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.79 | 9 ratings
A Whiter Shade Of Pale
1967
3.67 | 3 ratings
Quite Rightly So
1968
4.00 | 4 ratings
Homburg
1968
3.96 | 5 ratings
A Salty Dog
1969
3.96 | 6 ratings
Conquistador (live)
1972
3.00 | 2 ratings
Robert's Box
1973
3.50 | 2 ratings
Souvenir Of London
1973
3.00 | 2 ratings
Nothing But The Truth
1974
3.75 | 4 ratings
Pandora's Box
1975
2.00 | 1 ratings
A Whiter Shade Of Pale - 40th Anniversary Edition
2007

PROCOL HARUM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Procol Harum by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.91 | 282 ratings

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Procol Harum
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

5 stars Where history and music collide, you will often find sparks. And the explosion that is Procol Harum's eponymous debut album is as brilliant as sunlight.

But let's start at the beginning. This review is of the 2 CD Esoteric 2015 Special Edition which features 24 bit digital mastering, the entire UK mono debut album and, of course, the bonus smash single release of A Whiter Shade Of Pale and follow up hit Hamburg, along with various album track stereo mixes, alternate takes and bonus B sides. A Whiter Shade Of Pale is recorded in much the same vein as is the follow up album. The bass being muddier and less defined than the album tracks, with Hamburg sounding more detailed than both, but not showing them up to any degree. Which works well for continuity and long, long listening.

What's sets AWSoP apart from the album, aside from it's being involved in one of the costliest legal battles over the music authorship (with organist Mathew Fisher awarded a 40% songwriting credit for his musical contribution in the 2005 (!) court case against cowriter pianist Gary Brooker) is the fact that the song was recorded with session drummer and Georgie Fame band member Bill Eyden, who also sued Procol for a sales royalty percentage in 1868!

But Eyden's contribution to prog is more than monetary. His metronomic percussion work would become the standard barer for prog drumming styles in a few short years. Full time drummer BJ Wison, who was recorded on the entire eponymous debut album and replaced the drum parts on the hit Hamburg, would go on to forge his own idiosyncratic style which was both precise and flamboyant. The result? A melding of both styles would become a prog style in itself. Now that's a lot to say about just one song on this double CD, but it is one of the greatest selling hit records of all time and remains a standard after many others have fallen out of consciousness.

AWSoP can be said to be the blueprint for the album proper with it's Bach inspired polyphony, descending bass line and surrealistic lyrics. Lyrics from a person who only wrote lyrics for a rock band. A first at the time. And, despite it's timeframe, these lyrics do not drip of lysergic excess, like the meanderings of the Beatles' I Am The Walrus. Keith Reid's lyrics were Salvador Dali-like expressions in words mixed with the stark introspection of Bob Dylan, and are quite beyond their time. Throw in a stellar blues guitarist like Robin Trower, and a solid as a rock bassist like David Knights, and you've got quite a potent proto prog stew bubbling up with all kinds of wonderful flavors.

The album's leadoff track Conquistador, a reworked hit with orchestra accompaniment in 1972, is notable for it's absence of the familiar orchestral backing, but the original version is given a healthy boast with a memorable organ solo from Fisher. Gary Brooker's vocals are not quite as strongly developed at this stage, but his emotional delivery is paramount to the success of every song that warrants it, and he delivers admirably.

She Wondered Trough The Garden Fence is still as joyous and ridiculous as ever, with the band quickly getting into a groove that would wind it's way though the entire album. Something Following Me is Reid's first lyrical ponderings on the eventuality of death and is in stark contrast to the mostly upbeat, albeit regal, musings of the rest of the album's songs. Especially when contrasted against the two silly music hall throwaways Mabel and Good Captain Clack. But the Bach inspired frenzy continues with the songs Cedes (Outside The Gates Of), Kaleidoscope, the only song have dated lyrics, Salad Days (Are Here Again), and the album's magnificent instrumental closer Repent Walpurgis. Repent Walpurgis is a Mathew Fisher penned tour de force that features the angry lead guitar of Robin Trower trying to claw it's way out of a cage of swirling organ and piano runs and never quite succeeds. But it's the spirit of that fight which sends the song over the edge and into it's grand crescendo, and finally a release from the intense musical drama.

The Esoteric Special Edition also features an earlier extended run through of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, with a drummer that is probably the quickly departed Bobby Harrison, as he lacks the precision and drama of both Eyden and Wilson, along with the previously mentioned alternate and stereo mixes. An early instrumental version of the 1975 UK hit Pandora'a Box is also featured and works well on it's own terms, as it's an eerie gothic piece that is pure ear candy.

So there you have it. One of the cornerstones of prog rock that, despite it's modest recording techniques and mono sound, remains remarkably undated when compared to other proto prog albums of it's era. And did I mention that it's a damn good listen? 5 stars. Absolutely essential.

 A Salty Dog by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.57 | 215 ratings

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A Salty Dog
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by komorebi

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 of the first song is quite sad, I'd vaguely imagined the isolated beach with some scattered birds in the blue sky, it really obsessed me. But after that, there are some songs which are softer like The Milk of Human Kindness, or Too Much Between Us.

I think the album will be likely to satisfy any progressive music newbies who want to enjoy that peculiar genre of music but are lack of patience to start with more complex songs.

 Shine On Brightly by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.06 | 270 ratings

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Shine On Brightly
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

4 stars It amazes me how such an influential album can be so overlooked in the prog world, but there are many valid reasons. The foremost that Procol Harum would be forever seen as a top ten hit song band instead of the musical trendsetters that they actually were. At least with their second album from 1968 titled Shine On Brightly. This is still the same lineup that recorded their eponymous first album, with organist Mathew Fisher oozing wonderful musical notes and cues that surround almost every song on this album without smothering any of them. His calliope like swirls engulf the album's brilliant title track as guitarist Robin Trower seems to send out siren like notes on his guitar by Morse code. My Moonbeams is magnificent prototypical heavy prog with Wish Me Well reflecting the ever present British Blues scene a well as referencing, musically, the late Jimi Hendrix. Naturally, Trower is superb with this material.

Incidentally, Jimi would be lyrically name checked in and the album's most celebrated track, which is the side 2 song suite In Held T'was In I, with it's magnificent lyrics from pen of Keith Reid and the powerfully commanding, questioning, searching and almost finding vocals from pianist Gary Brooker. Broken down into sections of philosophically questioning spoken word from both Brooker and Reid that are soon supplanted by the majestic music and powerful c=vocals of both Brooker an, surprisingly organist Fisher, Indeed, the section subtitled In The Autumn Of My Madness is Fisher's high point in both playing, composing and singing for the Harum. The song's instrumental coda, also written by Fisher and subtitled The Grand Finale, is Fisher and Trower at their absolute best. What makes the song so successful is that Reid's lyrics, as pompous as they may sound initially, as Reid, unlike many odf his contemporeries, does not claim to the path to Nirvana, either spiritual or physical. How merely ponders what life's all about.

If anyone likes Tommy by The Who, or the Beatles' Abby Road side 2 song suite, you can thank Porcol Harum for showing them the way. Procol's magnum opus may not hold up as well, but it's had to hold up far longer. Uber drummer BJ Wilson and bassist David Knights round out this album's classic lineup of the Harum. 4 proto prog stars.

 Prodigal Stranger by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.41 | 68 ratings

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Prodigal Stranger
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

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.

 The Well's on Fire by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 2003
2.98 | 74 ratings

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The Well's on Fire
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

3 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.

 Homburg by PROCOL HARUM album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1968
4.00 | 4 ratings

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Homburg
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars To be exact, this was released in October 1967, as the second single of PROCOL HARUM, pretty soon after the huge success of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'. The orientation towards the album format was yet to come in the pop business, and it wasn't unusual to release non-album singles. The British release of the "Procol Harum" LP excluded 'Whiter Shade' but -- not surprisingly -- the hit was included in the American version to boost the sales overseas. However, 'Homburg' wasn't in either of them. Nowadays it is among the best known PH songs and often indluded on 'The Best Of' compilations.

It's also among my favourite Procol songs, pleasantly melodic and slightly melancholic, with a rather slow tempo. The elegant arrangement gives the main role to Gary Brooker's piano and his vocals are in top form. Whereas 'Whiter Shade' has been covered by dozens of artists (for example the recordings of Annie Lennox or Sarah Brightman are quite beautiful in my opinion), I haven't heard many versions of 'Homburg': if I remember right, only an Italian-language cover and my countryman Pate Mustajärvi's powerful, Finnish-language cover called 'Tuhkaa', dating from 1984. (In comparison, 'Whiter Shade' has at least four different Finnish versions!)

The single's B side contains 'Good Captain Clack', a cheerful up-tempo song with both bluesy and cabaret-like flavours. It's only 1 and ½ minutes long but musically hardly worth more than that. Not up to my taste at all. The British pressing of "Procol Harum" had it but not the American pressing.

[It's a bit tricky to rate a single. Definitely 'Homburg' is at least a four-star song, but without a good B-sider or cover art I give my four stars with hesitation.]

 Broken Barricades by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.30 | 124 ratings

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Broken Barricades
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

3 stars Broken Barricades is the fifth studio album released by Pocol Harum and is one of rock music's greatest "should have beens." As far from the twin keyboard sound of piano and Bach influenced organ that propelled the group to stardom four years earlier, Broken Barricades relies primarily on Gary Brooker's piano, BJ Wilson's drums, Robin Trower's blues based guitar riffs and Chris Copping's Jack Bruce inspired bass playing. Copping plays organ on only two songs and on one it's just on the song's coda (Simple Sister.)

This is most definitely Trower's defining statement in Procol Harum, with the band in a full-on blues rock mode that fits in stylistically with bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and even Black Sabbath at that juncture in time. The music performed on Broken Barricades is on par with some of the best from the afore mentioned, excluding a Stairway To Heaven copy. Perhaps Procol never toured with Spirit like Zeppelin did. But they did tour with the recently departed Jimi Hendrix, whose tone and styled was immediately taken up by Trower after his premature death.

Simple Sister and Memorial Drive are two of the Harum's hardest hitting and riff heavy songs and the title track is an elegant exercise in the magic of overlaying arpeggios (with a bit of Moog synthesizer snuck in.) The manic high speed Power Failure is even broken up by a deft drum and percussion solo by Wilson. Again, the music is balls out hard rock that really works. What doesn't work is Keith Reid's return to obtuse and vague mumbo jumbo lyrics, which truly sinks this mighty ship, as does Brooker's reliance on his voice as an instrument and painfully dispenses with diction while singing one lyric right into the next.

It's understandable that Procol could never write lyrics fit for songs like Whole Lotta Love or Iron Man, but the dark esoteric and death themed existential lyrics, that included rotting corpses alive in coffins, that fueled Procol's last album from 1970, titled Home, would have worked just as well or better with this type of harder material. A great opportunity lost, as even in a 2002 interview, Brooker couldn't tell if the title track was about a failed love affair or a tragic war story. If he didn't know, how was the public supposed to react to this crunching vagueness? Fortunately, Reid's great lyric writing would become more literal and accessible on later Porcol albums like Grand Hotel.

Trower is again in a class of his own with a homage to Hendrix titled Song To A Dreamer and the great bluesy album closer Poor Mohammad. But Trower was bursting at the seems and would go on to great solo success a few months after Broken Barricades was released.

Four stars for the incredible music and playing, particularly by Trower and Wilson, who seemed to be dueling for honors, with two stars for Reid's duff lyrics. That makes an average of three stars. So, three stars renders this album as merely average. What a pity.

 A Salty Dog by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.57 | 215 ratings

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A Salty Dog
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

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 Keith Reid and we're off to see "how far can sailors fly." The beautiful orchestral arrangement, composed completely by Brooker, who has no classical training, is heart rendering, with it's emotive crescendos and swirling strings.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album drags in comparison. Two bluesy songs co-writted by Robin Trower are good, "Juicy John Pink" and "Crucifixion Lane", as is the Brooker penned "The Milk of Human Kindness." Mathew Fisher's attempts to equal Brooker in songwriting are worthy, but are torpedoed by being sung by Fisher himself. This worked well for Trower, who sang "Crucifixion Lane" as a John Lee Hooker-like blues singer, but Fisher just lacks the emotion, power and range of Brooker and the album would have been better served if Brooker sang Fisher's compositions. "The Wreck of the Hesperus' and "Pilgrim's Progress", himself.

Sometimes groups can be too democratic. 3 stars.

 Grand Hotel by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.88 | 200 ratings

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Grand Hotel
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

4 stars Grand Hotel, from 1973, was as close as Procol Harum ever got to a full blown prog album, but never quite made that leap of faith. New guitarist Mick Grabham is mostly in the background on this album with keyboards, bass and drums to the fore.

First off, I want to emphasize that this album is really one of those that has to suit one's taste. It is very much a homage to the music of Eastern Europe and of wealthy aristocrats of a time nearly a century past. The title track tells about a night in one of Europe's grand hotels with a Palm Courts orchestra dishing out waltzes to those dancing and dinning in ties and tails. Featuring mulit tracked orchestra and choirs, this song's instrumental breaks are from the mind of Pocol leader Gary Brooker, who takes waltzes and minuets, that start off slowly and normally, and are suddenly sped up to break neck speed which reveals this nostalgic trip is more of a dream instead of an actual remembrance. It's also covertly avant-garde and is a treat.

Unfortunately, "Toujours L'Amore" and" A Rums Tale" are stale songs in the same musical vain as "Grand Hotel" but are cliched stories of love, loss and the eventual bottle to follow, and lack the inventiveness of the title track. Listenable as these two songs are, "TV Ceasar" is downright annoying in it's "might mouse" that rhymes with "house" lyrics (really) from the usually stellar Keith Reid.

Fortunatley," A Souvenir of London", with it's street busker take-off of guitar, mandolin, strummed banjo and an oversized bass drum kick senseless from the great BJ Wilson, is a refreshing treat. Made to be one of Procol's "funny" cast off album tunes, it's lyrics about catching the clap, in London, are beyond the pale and is quite truly enjoyable.

Procol Harum were never known for having solid albums and Grand Hotel is no exception. However, "Bringing Home the Bacon" features a soaring keyboard melody that sounds as if it was lifted straight out of the late Keith Emerson's head. Chris Copping's organ is double track with uncredited siren-like Moog synth, played by the band's producer, Ken Scott, and features a neat time changing stop/start rhythm. It's as close to a full blown prog song that band ever attempted. Only a mind numbing instrumental section is lacking. The same is true with the songs "For Liquorice John" and the Renaissance-like "Fires That Burn Brightly", which features backing "scat' vocals that are similar to the vocal hijinks that Annie Haslam and her band dubbed a "vocalise."

"Robet's Box" shifts gears back to the absurd, as it's about the same doctor of renown from the Beatles' "Doctor Robert." A fine ending to a unique, if somewhat uneven, and, IMO, somewhat overrated album form the great Porcol Harum. Still, 4 stars is a worthy rating.

 Procol's Ninth by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.80 | 92 ratings

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Procol's Ninth
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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