Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Procol Harum - Shine On Brightly CD (album) cover


Procol Harum


Crossover Prog

4.06 | 387 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "For you whose eyes are open wide/whilst mine refuse to see/I'm so in need of saving grace/be kind and humour me". Those are the Keith Reid lyrics with which Gary Brooker kicks off this criminally under-acknowledged album. Although best known in retrospect for the multi-part 17-minute epic In Held 'TWas In I (and dammit, I guess it certainly should be on a prog site), I personally find the opening song Quite Rightly So to be the clearest statement of Procol Harum's brilliance since ... well the previous year's A Whiter Shade Of Pale! The concoction of "classical organ and piano meet bluesy electric guitar topped of with surreal lyrics and soulful vocals and backed by vibrant drums and interlocking bass" is frequently amazing.

Quite Rightly So just rocks so much. The lyrics make me burn and Matthew Fisher has an organ solo two minutes into the song that tears at my mind and brings tears to my eyes. Astonishingly the title track Shine On Brightly doesn't let up, although when Matthew Fisher bursts in with a great organ solo around about the two minute mark, it does get a bit surreal! Seriously though the songs are quite different, even though the theme of despair becomes even more intense (I can see no end in sight/and search in vain by candlelight/for some long road that goes nowhere/for some signpost that is not there/and even my befuddled brain/is shining brightly, quite insane). Brooker's wonderful vocal performances are among his best ever.

After this killer one-two punch, the album flirts with mediocrity before eventually emerging all-conquering. Skip Softly (my Moonbeams) starts off a little lame, becomes okay by the first minute, gets quite good halfway through and spends the last minute or so soaring on the back of some Robin Trower inspired brilliance, before concluding in a polka-influenced frenzy. Wish Me Well is a bluesy stomper that calls to mind Cerdes (Outside The Gates) with the massed vocals a particular highlight. Rambling On is yet another dreary (which is PH's case does not mean bad!) story song, a quest for truth from an alienated man, one of several Reid themes that will recur throughout the group's career. With Brooker and Reid leading the way over a simple ragged piano and bass accompaniment, this song is one of the sleeper PH gems. Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) is another atmospheric melancholy piece with an unforgettable melody.

In Held 'Twas In I is quite obviously a make or break song, and I'll admit that the song still doesn't come up to the high initial expectations I had held for it. Perhaps its status as the first "prog-epic" (remember that this album came out in 1968) just gives it too much to live up to. It's not a bad piece, although the spoken word references to the Dalai Lama and the meaning of life that kick the song off might have you sighing and writing it off as dated hippie drivel. After a minute or so, a mean guitar riff will wake you up from stoned slumber, before a sitar and piano duet sends you back. More poetry follows before the zany music hall of the "'Twas Teatime At The Circus" segment steps in. A little bit of thunder and rain lead into the Fisher lead vocal for "In The Autumn Of My Madness", which is followed by a pleading organ and acoustic guitar led section. It breaks down with a melancholic disjointed organ gradually establishing itself. Sirens, weeping children and screaming men all build up the feeling of insanity, before a hellish Robin Trower riff steps in, stomping beat and all. Brooker comes back in with Look To Your Soul, a harpsichord-driven segment. Despite the awesome ambition and the historical context (this song is a clear influence on a range of bands from Genesis to Queen to Gentle Giant), I only start loving the piece towards the end, the oh-so classical Grand Finale which is topped off by some Trower fireworks and great choral vocals. Truth be told, In Held 'Twas In I is not among my top 20 Procol Harum songs and that still hurts.

Three blues-heavy bonus tracks offer a glimpse of what this album would have been if In Held T'Was In I hadn't materialised at the last moment ... a lot more ordinary. I'm not saying that Seem To Have The Blues, Monsieur Armand and Alpha are bad songs, as there are some very nice solos from Fisher and Trower, but really Procol do the blues very well elsewhere. Of much greater interest is In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence. God only knows why it was originally just a B-side, because it's a bona fide PH classic tune (the quicker alternate version is actually the one I heard first on a compilation, and I think it's far superior to the original cut, anyway both are included here). Another curiousity is an Italian version of Shine On Brightly, although sadly this one does not belong alongside either PH's best works or indeed that of the Italian greats!

Ultimately, Shine On Brightly has some awesome songs, and is often viewed by prog fans as Procol Harum's finest albums. It's still a must-listen, but the flawed epic track is not all everyone cracks it out to be. ... 82% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this PROCOL HARUM review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.