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Procol Harum - Something Magic CD (album) cover

SOMETHING MAGIC

Procol Harum

 

Crossover Prog

2.99 | 115 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Although from a great tree a small worm may grow, that eats it with poison and tortures its soul, the worm can be killed yet the tree not be dead, for from the roots of the elder a new life will spread"

Released in 1977, Procol Harum's ninth studio album is a brave attempt to keep the band's, and indeed prog's, flame burning. The writing team of Gary Brooker and non-performing band member Keith Reid come up with four decent if undistinguished typical Procol Harum songs and a side long suite. The addition of keyboard player Pete Solley to the line up offers the band the opportunity to add further colours to their sound, something they exploit to a limited extent.

The first side of the album contains the four orthodox songs. The title track is a bravely pompous affair with a grandly lavish arrangement. "Skating on thin ice" is a lighter but still highly melodic song which once again has sympathetic orchestration. "Wizard man", which for some unexplained reason is excluded from the track listing on both the sleeve and the lyrics sheet, sounds distinctly like a John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival) song. Nothing wrong there, but the song lacks originality. "Mark of the claw", the only composition Booker is not involved in (guitarist Mick Grabham provides the music for Reid's lyrics) is a largely anonymous standard rock song. "Strangers in space" has the feel of a one of Wooly Wolstenholme's wonderful contributions to Barclay James Harvest's albums, the distant vocals and spacey effects giving this superb song a distinctly un-Procol like feel.

The second side of the album is the more controversial. In fairness to the band, this was recorded at a time when prog was something of a no go area for many bands. All credit to Procol Harum that they dared to record a side long epic in three impressions, each part being further sub-divided into two or three sections. "The worm and the tree" tells a parable like tale of how a small worm grows inside a large tree, gradually poisoning the latter. The tree is eventually cut down and burned killing the worm, with new shoots of the tree growing thereafter. The tale is told in spoken word form, each of the seven verses acting as the link between the instrumental sections. Those instrumental sections consist mainly of orchestrated piano and organ passages.

In retrospect, the decision to use spoken narration rather than singing was perhaps misguided. That said, the track as a whole is dynamic, well arranged and highly enjoyable, the orchestral arrangements being particularly pleasing. While this is no "In held twas in I", the similarities are there.

Ultimately, "Something magic" may not entirely fulfil the lofty ambitions of its title. It is though a highly credible effort from Procol Harum which was simply released several years too late.

Unfortunately, the critical backlash and the generally anarchistic mood of the times (among other things) would lead to the dissolution of Procol Harum after this album, the band not releasing another studio album until some 14 years later.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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