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Procol Harum - Grand Hotel CD (album) cover

GRAND HOTEL

Procol Harum

 

Crossover Prog

3.89 | 236 ratings

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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 as Grand Hotel has all the elements needed to thrill a prog fan..

SteveG | 4/5 |

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