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Procol Harum

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Procol Harum Procol Harum [Aka: A Whiter Shade of Pale] album cover
3.89 | 383 ratings | 30 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1967

Songs / Tracks Listing

- UK release -
1. Conquistador (2:38)
2. She Wandered Through the Garden Fence (3:24)
3. Something Following Me (3:37)
4. Mabel (1:53)
5. Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of) (5:03)
6. A Christmas Camel (4:49)
7. Kaleidoscope (2:53)
8. Salad Days (Are Here Again) (3:38)
9. Good Captain Clack (1:30)
10. Repent Walpurgis (5:02)

Total Time 34:27

- North America release -
1. A Whiter Shade of Pale (4:04)
2. She Wandered Through the Garden Fence (3:18)
3. Something Following Me (3:37)
4. Mabel (1:50)
5. Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of) (5:04)
6. A Christmas Camel (4:48)
7. Conquistador (2:38)
8. Kaleidoscope (2:53)
9. Salad Days (Are Here Again) (3:38)
10. Repent Walpurgis (5:04)

Total Time 36:54

Bonus tracks on 1998 remaster:
11. A Whiter Shade of Pale (original single version)
12. Lime Street Blues (single)
13. Homburg (original single version)
14. Salad Days Are Here Again (earlier alternate version) *
15. Mabel (earlier undubbed version) *
16. Cerdes (earlier alternate version)
17. Something Following Me (earlier alternate version)
18. Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) (original version)
19. Quite Rightly So ('67 undubbed version) *
20. Shine On Brightly ('67 alternate version)

All tracks Mono except * Stereo

Line-up / Musicians

- Gary Brooker / lead vocals, piano
- Robin Trower / guitars
- Matthew Fisher / Hammond organ
- David Knights / bass
- Barrie James Wilson / drums & percussion

- Bill Eyden / drums (11,12)
- Ray Royer / guitar (13-16,18)
- Bobby Harrison / drums (13-16,18)

Releases information

Artwork: Dickinson

LP Regal Zonophone - LRZ 1001 (1967, UK) Mono audio
LP Deram - ‎DES 18008 (1967, USA) Stereo, different track list

CD Cube Records - 25CP-11 (1988, Japan) Entitled "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", Mono audio
CD Cube Records - F-80.1667 (1989, Spain) Entitled "A Whiter Shade Of Pale"
CD Westside - ‎WESM 527 (1998, UK) Entitled "1st Album... Plus", remastered, for the 1st time from the original production mastertape, includes 10 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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PROCOL HARUM Procol Harum [Aka: A Whiter Shade of Pale] ratings distribution

(383 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PROCOL HARUM Procol Harum [Aka: A Whiter Shade of Pale] reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
5 stars This is another one of those seminal proto-prog albums that is so instrumental to prog and music in general. One of those obligatory passages from sixties pop to seventies rock, along with Caravan's debut, Soft Machine's first two albums and the Nice's debut. The original UK vinyl did not have the heavily Bach-influenced Whiter Shade Of Pale on it but the US release (four months previously) does and quite rightly so. One of Procol Harum's most ionnovative trend is a lyricist (Keith Reid), some two years before Crimson's Pete Sinfield, and even before Pete Brown (Jack Bruce's lyricist in Cream), and his incredibly poetic text will be over-analysed for years to come, but they were one of the most important strength of Procol's better tracks.

Procol Harum is one of those groups that should really be considered pioneers of prog as they were the first one to have this double KB attack as Brooker sang and played piano and Fisher played the Hammond organ in such a fabulous manner that it is the principal reason for the success of Whither Shade Of Pale with this awesome intro. However the real gift of Procol lays in the guitar and the drumming. No histrionic solos here, but listen to the incredible psychedelic underlining guitar lines form the awesome ROBIN TROWER. This is a man who was pinned down as a Hendrix clone/student but here again the popular wisdom is wrong as this came out before the first Hendrix album, and one can see here , that he was into experimentation before that. Trower's blues guitar mixed with the classical influences of both keyboards being blended successfully is one of Procol's most enduring achievements. BJ Wilson's excellent drumming is one of the most under-rated prog drummers ever. Some of the tracks are silmply incredibly advanced for the times and still sound so solemnly beautiful nowadays: listen to Oustside The Gates OF Cerdes, Repent Walpurgis, and future hit Conquistador, to get a load on how great these guys were working as a unit and breaking ground with almost every track. To call this album full-blown prog is maybe a little quick, though: Kaleidoscope, Mabel and Captain Clac are tracks full of great psychedelic invention that even Floyd or the Beatles would've proudly called their own. One of the secret of Procol's success is the descending bass lines (a descendo? ;-) on many of their better tracks and most notably on their Whiter Shadfe Of Pale

The ideal thing would be to find this album with both Whiter Shade Of Palec and the second single Homburg (which was a bit too much of a carbon copy of Pale, but still excellent) and their two B-sides. Simply one of those historic album and one of the first prog album. This album has received many a release over the years, some with rather poor sound, and to make sure you get a proper copy, try out the Westside label.

Review by loserboy
5 stars For those who do not know PROCOL's music may I suggest this is a great place to begin. PROCOL's first album is what I would consider a masterpiece containing some of their best tracks. As you would expect this album is full of grand keyboard work, wicked guitar, excellent song writing and those famous quirky little lyrics. PROCOL HARUM's music always has managed to bring out a high degree of nostalgia in my heart and they have managed to write some of the most memorable songs of all time. This is an essential recording and I would recommend it to all those out who need some classic prog music. For the PROCOL completists out there, you can find this CD re-mastered with loads of bonus tracks.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Historical but..

Recorded away back in 1967 but not released until a year later, Procol Harum's first album completely failed to capitalise on, or indeed include their massively successful single "A whiter shade of pale".

The sound of Procol Harum is instantly recognisable. Gary Brooker has one of the most distinctive (and for that matter best) voices in rock. Mathew Fisher's Hammond organ, which featured so classically on "AWSOP", is present throughout the album, and guitarist Robin Trower adds some fine lead guitar work.

The music now understandably sounds dated, but not nearly as much as you might expect. "Conquistador" which leads off the album is a great song, but with the later "Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra" version having provided the hit single, the original here sounds a bit tame and laid back.

There are a couple of throw away tracks, "Mabel", is mildly amusing but forgettable, and "Good Captain Clack", is a Beatles influenced drunken sailor song.

Others though, such as "Cerdes" and "A Christmas Camel" are more structured, early prog pieces. "Salad days" sounds like a demo version of a theme which would be developed better on "Shine on Brightly", nice organ though. "Repent Walpurgis", the only Fisher composition, is a beautiful instrumental, classically influenced, and another fine example of early prog. The track serves as a good vehicle for demonstrating both Fisher's talents and those of Trower.

It is important to hear this album in the context of when it was made. There must be many prog bands which followed who knowingly or unknowingly were influenced to make the music they did by the early works of Procol Harum. A fine historical document.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Two tracks that really BLEW me as far as this album concerned: "Repent Walpurgis" and "Conquistador". "Repent Walpurgis" is a very very nice track, ambient and atmospheric, keyboard / piano / organ based with great lead guitar. The tagline melody is touchy and memorable. It's opened with a simple drum-beat followed by soft organ sound that serves as initial melody. The music flows nicely and followed by an electric lead guitar in the same tagline melody, continued with a piano play. What a nice harmony this track is producing! I don't think any human being dislike this song whether s/he is a prog lover or not.

"Conquistador" is an opening track for this album. It has a great mixture of ballad, pop and rock components. The vocal line is crispy and beautiful accompanied by tight bass line and simple yet nice piano at its background. It's relatively energetic song. The organ solo at the end of this track is stunning! Emotionally, this track is in the same vein as the Beatles' "Your Mother Should Know" kind of track. Don't get me wrong, these two tracks are different in melody but it creates similar feeling to listener (my view).

The second track "She wandered through the garden fence" is another interesting track with strange organ sound accompanying the vocal line. It's a continuously nice music with dynamic organ sound. It flows smoothly to the next track "Something following me" which rather mellow and bluesy than the other tracks.

Well, I don't wanna go track by track as this is a classic and legendary album. Overall, I consider this album is a masterpiece debut album. It has a strong songwriting, tight structure and composition, great melody and excellent musicianship. The "not so good" audio quality of this album has even made this record legendary and it should sound this way. It's nostalgic! Rating 5/5. - Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I believe this great classic album truly shaped the progression of art rock. Their summer of love hit "Whiter Shade of Pale" was originally released as a single, and it is included only in the US version and the later reissues. But there are several other great numbers on this album too, so the sadly often heard claims that Procol Harum was a single hit band seems very unjust in my opinion. "Conquistador" is a great song as for an example, showing that the tune which fusions classical and pop elements can also be dynamic, and not just a ballad. "She Wandered Through The Garden Fence" is also fine pop track with characteristic J. S. Bach sounding organ passages. Two true highlights for me here are "A Christmas Camel", which has a very powerful feeling and great instrumentations, plus the instrumental ending song "Repent Walpurgis", which is closer to the classical music than pop music. From the reissues, the BGO version has lots of interesting outtakes for the collectors, and it would be a good purchase for those who have this album as an old vinyl. I also like the album's simple black and white cover drawing very much, having funny association that the girl must be the Lucy in the sky with diamonds.
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars First off, I have to say that on no other record have the bonus tracks been as important as this one. Back in 1967 Procol Harum pulled the perverse stunt of scoring a massive #1 single with A Whiter Shade Of Pale, followed it up with the excellent Top 10 hit Homburg and then left both songs off their debut album, which then endured a delayed release despite being recorded in a rush! Hence the fact that I even contemplated giving (a harsh) 3 stars to the unadulterated first album, but have accorded (a generous) 5 stars to my version First album plus, which has the two singles, the B-side Lime Street Blues and a few other goodies besides.

By the time the first album was cut, two members of the line-up that had gone into record A Whiter Shade Of Pale (Royer and Harrison) had already been dumped, and Procol's creative fulcrum of Gary Brooker (vocals/piano) and Keith Reid (lyrics) were already joined by brilliant organist Matthew Fisher, guitarist Robin Trower, and drummer B.J. Wilson. What they crafted was an album of solid classically-tinged rock songs with a number of exceptional highlights

My personal highlights (of the 10 songs that came out on the original album) are a mythological/literary quartet. Firstly there's the urgent brassy Conquistador (although this song would eventually be given a superior treatment on the live album In Edmonton in 1971). Then comes Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of) which rides along on a superb ominious Dave Knights' bass hook while Fisher and Trower start tearing at you with searing bluesy lines. The third one is A Christmas Camel ... which actually could be described in much the same way, except that Brooker's piano is probably the key rhythm instrument! Completing the quartet is the Matthew Fisher instrumental Repent Walpurgis, which is a mournful stew with a number of fiery Trower solos and some understated tragedy from Brooker's piano thrown in the mix.

The rest of the material is closer to being solid rather than truly spectacular, with Brooker's warm, soulful voice taking us through Beatles-style music hall (which seemed to be de rigeur for psych bands in 1967!) in Mabel, Good Captain Clack and She Wandered Through the Garden Fance (which has a nice classical solo from Fisher), while the gospel-blues of Something Following Me probably reflects a direction that the band would be tempted to veer in at various times in the future. Kaleidoscope and Salad Days are also great 60s rock songs without standing out in the vast catalogue of Procol gems.

Now as good as the original 10-track album was, it didn't contain my favourite song of all time. That has been rectified by the CD era, and here as the bonus track is A Whiter Shade Of Pale. I don't know where to begin on this song. Brooker's aching vocals, Reid's mesmerizing lyrics (only half of which were used for the recorded version), the great drum rolls and probably most of all Matthew Fisher's unforgettable organ melody. As a keyboardist who grew up in the 80s, even the excitement of hearing piano and organ being played at the same time is something I still associate with this outstanding song. It is a song that defines an era! It is a song that broke down barriers between classical and pop ... it made progressive rock happen! Oh and did I mention Matthew Fisher's unforgettable organ melody?

As I mentioned before, Homburg is another stunning work (Your trouser cuffs are dirty, Keith!), and although a critic could easily dismiss as being a little too similar to A Whiter Shade Of Pale in structure, I think it's got a different vibe. Another over-looked gem is the Whiter Shade B-Side Lime Street Blues, a storming, cheeky song in which all three of the band's soloists get their rocks off. The other bonus tracks are mainly alternate versions of tracks that were released on the first two albums and I'm not usually too interested in that sort of thing.

I must say, my deep enduring love for A Whiter Shade Of Pale is almost certainly responsible for my stretching this one to the maximum rating, but there's a lot of exciting blues and classically tinged proto-progressive rock on offer here. Beyond that one absolute masterpiece of a song, of course. I'm not sure if I've mentioned Matthew Fisher's unforgettable organ melody. ... 90% on the MPV scale

Review by The Whistler
5 stars So, you think that progressive rock was created in 1969 by King Fripp and his pals? HA! It was created in 1968 on This Was. Okay, actually it was created in 1967 by Procol Harum, on the oddly titled Procol Harum, which can never be spelled correctly. And, here’s the best part. This album is nearly flawless.

Now, I bet you think I’m setting that up, “this album is nearly flawless...EXCEPT blah blah blah.” And you’re wrong. I mean that literally. It’s hard enough to create a really good album, truly flawless ones come around...well, never, to be honest. This sucker here is ALMOST that, and head over heels better than the best most bands are capable of producing.

(Now, you’ll have to bear with me for the first half of the review here, since there are only about a hundred versions of this album floating around. If mine isn’t set up exactly like yours, or the bonus tracks seem different, FORGIVE ME!!!)

“Conquistador” is just a fantastic track, maybe the best thing on the album. It’s a downbeat, organ based rocker, and an amazing opener for the album. Great start and stop verses, and an equally great, headbangin’ chorus. And they only improved it on stage! Go figure.

“She Wandered Through the Garden Gate” is the other side of Procol Harum; next to the dark organ rockers, they have English music hall nonsense. Okay, so the jolly good chorus sounds fun, but listen to those lyrics. Scary and hilarious. Nice organ solo too. “Something Following Me” is a great example of progressive blues for you. More focus on piano for this one, but pay attention to Trower too. Pretty heavy for the time I think. These guys were dark, heavy AND bloozy. Maybe they invented metal as well as prog...

“Mabel” is another music hall bit. Cute piano and sound effects (kazoo?), and pay careful attention to the lyrics. They’re VERY important. Heh. “Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of)” predates Pete Sinfields’ psycho fantasy lyrics by a bit, but there’s more to the song than that: fuzzy guitar, psychedelic organ, fantastic, bloozy bassline.

“A Christmas Camel” is actually a really, really good song. Maybe not the best on the record, but REAL close. An organ rocker with an awesome piano riff, cool lyrics, great guitar solo, absolutely cold atmosphere. Pretty much sums up what’s good the band in a single song.

“Kaleidoscope” is a jumping number, if not the most memorable. Nice soloing though, especially the organ. “Salad Days (Are Here Again)” is a gentle piano piece, but it’s actually pretty funny. Once again, sparkling organ tricks, nice solo. Goes on maybe a little too long, but you probably won’t mind.

“Good Captain Clack” is our last shot at musical hall fun, particularly the chorus (and dig the tuba); but the ending is just CREEPY. But the HEAVIEST song of the album, perhaps of the year, is the classical instrumental “Repent Walpurgis.” Listen to Trower’s guitar, as he smokes up the room with killer guitar lines backed by blazing organ, sturdy bass and great drums, traded off with gentle (and evil) piano arpeggios. Endless? Sure, but that’s no problem. Hell of a finisher to the album; possibly the best thing on it. So hard to tell.

Now, the weaknesses of the album can be summed up in an instant. It’s all kinda samey. As a result, some of the weaker tracks (“Kaleidoscope,” “Good Captain Clack”) come off as throwaway. Of course, almost every one has some kind of novelty value. But that’s all that’s against the album.

In favor? Too much. For one thing, all these guys are killer musicians. Oh, sure, you’ve got your Trower, and those keyboard dudes, but there’s nothing wrong with bass player David Knights, and B. J. Wilson is a really, truly underrated drummer. I won’t even bother giving key tracks for him, just pay attention to his drum rolls, that range from subtle blues to hard rock heroics.

And the progressiveness value? Unbeatable. Who was doing this at the time ("Repent Walpurgis," anyone)? The Beatles? Nah, they were too busy being art pop geniuses to create anything this mature. The Moody Blues? They were too busy competing with said art pop geniuses. The Who? Well...I will always have a soft spot for Pete, but The Who Sell Out is still a joke.

Nope, folks might have been trying to create intelligent music, or use keyboards for a symphonic sound, or combine genres, or create rock poetry, but all at the same time AND craft it under such a musically mature skin? No one. At all. And all this before In the Court. Who inspired these guys?

And, not only is this album pre-Court, but I’d even go out as far to say that it’s BETTER than In the Court. I know that it sounds a bit samey, and the Procolers were never quite able to live up to it again, but that doesn’t matter. This is an essential bit o’ prog rockin’ from a historical point of view, and, at the same time, a fantastic listen. How lucky is that?

(Okay, here we go. There are only about a hundred remasters of this thing floating around, and mine has A LOT of bonuses, so gird your loins. We are, of course, treated to “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” the quintessential Procoler track. I know I said that “Living in the Past” was the greatest prog single, but I had forgotten about this thing. It’s startlingly good for a band that was just playing basic blues progressions a few years ago. I shouldn’t even have to describe the deep, ambiguously mystical lyrics or the gorgeous, Bach inspired organ passages, so I won’t. “Lime Street Blues” is a decent blues shuffle, but I prefer the stuff on the album. “Homburg” is a just fantastic, thoroughly depressing, but very pretty piano/organ ballad. Nice refrain. A longer “Salad Days,” a quieter “Mabel,” a thinner “Cerdes” and, uh, “Something Following Me” are all outtakes from the album itself. I actually prefer this “Salad Days” to the final one; it’s much livelier, and there’s more guitar (although its placement here makes me realize it’s a bit of a rewrite of “Homburg”). The final three are all unpolished versions of later songs: “Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)” is a beautiful piano ballad, although maybe the chorus behind Brooker is a bit much. “Quite Rightly So” is, however, totally fantastic; a stately and lively, hopeful but downbeat organ rocker. “Shine On Brightly” lacks the buzzy guitar undertone, but it’s still good, and you can’t beat those insane lyrics. All in all, what can I say? I’d have preferred more b-sides than alternative versions to songs from the original (or the second) record, and it does stretch out forever, but I love this album so damn much! Ugh. I don’t know...oh, what the hell. Does yours have the original album AND “Whiter Shade of Pale?” Essential.)

Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars Halfway The Sixties Gary Brooker and Keith Reid decided to write songs for other artists. Unfortunately for these young musicians this didn't work out and in 1967 they founded a band to perform these songs by themselves. Gary recruited Robin Trower on guitar, Dave Knights on bass and B.J. Wilson on drums. But he also wanted an organ player to sound more sophisticated, inspired by the gospel and rhythm & blues music from the USA. Through an advertisement in the known British music magazine Melody Maker they found Hammond organ player Matthew Fisher. He liked the songs very much and immediately joined the brandnew band named Procol Harum, derived from the name of a cat!

On this reissue CD (my version is Repertoire Records) you can listen to the amazing progressive sound Procol Harum delivered since their eponymous debut LP was released in 1967. This reissue also contains the single A Whiter Shade Of Pale (released before the album was recorded), because of idealistic reasons it was not on the original LP release (the band didn't want the public to pay two times for this timeless composition!). And it also contains four bonustracks Lime Street Blues (this turns out to be pure rock and roll with powerful guitar and floods of Hammond), the single Homburg (slow rhythm with majestic Grand piano, melancholical vocals and a churchy organ sound), Monsieur Armand (catchy rhythm, lush organ and fiery guitar) and Seems To Have The Blues All The Time (bluesy vocals, a powerful Hammond solo and again a fiery guitar solo). About the original LP, after the wonderful Hammond drenched single A Whiter Shade Of Pale (based on Bach's Air On The G String) the band presented mature, adventurous and varied compositions: warm vocals, strong duo-keyboards (piano/organ) and a short but swirling Hammond solo in the quite melancholical Conquistador, a bluesy climate in Something Following Me (powerful guitar solo) and Cerdes (swelling Hammond sound), a swinging rhythm in Kaleidoscope (excellent Hammond sounds) and Lime Street Blues (boogie woogie piano) and funny atmospheres in the short Mabel and Good Captain Clack. But the magnum opus on the debut album is the instrumental piece Repent Walpurgis, written by Matthew Fisher: first a slow rhythm with soaring Hammond and tender piano, then a sensitive guitar solo and warm piano arpeggio's and finally wonderful interplay between a sparkling piano, lush organ waves and howling electric guitar, goose bumps!

If you want to discover some great Proto-Prog from the late Sixties, this is a CD to check out, a big hand for Procol Harum! My rating 4,5 stars.

Review by jammun
4 stars Procol Harum's first LP certainly deserves credit as one of the progenitor's of progressive rock, being in many way out of the gate ahead of the Moody Blues or King Crimson. From that stark black and white album cover -- no Disraeli Gears day-glo here! -- to the absorption of the Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde influence, this is a groundbreaker. I'll review the American version of the LP, as that is the one I've known and loved for 40 years.

Because this is such a seminal album, I find it difficult to parse song-by-song -- it's best absorbed as a whole -- but let's take a look at each track briefly.

So we start with...

A Whiter Shade of Pale: I don't have a lot to add to what everyone else has said. That descending bass line, that organ figure, Reid's lyrics, Booker's voice. It's all good. Certainly this song is a reflection of its time, but it still resonates today. The obvious reference to Chaucer's Miller's Tale gets it bonus points in my book. Too bad ownership of this song is still being argued in the courts, 40 years later.

She Wandered Through the Garden Fence: The first of the 'psychedelic' tracks with a another somewhat Baroque organ solo -- though full of trills and ornamentation -- from Fisher.

Something Following Me: Bluesy number, creepy, just like the title suggests. Always reminds me, emotionally, of Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Trail.

Mabel: Yep, this is a music-hall sounding track, and if it had been recorded by The Kinks, critics would be falling all over themselves praising it. In the context of this album, somewhat of a throwaway.

Cerdes (outside the gates of): More progressive blues. In a sense, the first song embodying the dichotomy that would plague Procol Harum for their first several albums: are we a Trower-driven blues/prog band, or are we a Booker/Fisher-driven classical/prog band?

A Christmas Camel: Another classic progressive track, infused with Hammond organ and inscrutable lyrics (My Amazon six-triggered bride/Now searching for a place to hide), and punctuated mid-stream by an excellent Trower solo.

Conquistador: Remarkably sophisticated rocker for its time, which later became a hit when performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the early '70's.

Kaleidoscope: Nice but essentially non-descript psychedelic rock. Average solos from Fisher and Trower.

Salad Days (are here again): see Kaleidoscope, but at a slower tempo and lacking a Trower solo. Pronounced Blonde on Blonde influence.

Repent Walpurgis: Simply one of the finest songs ever recorded, by any band, at any time. The most emotionally intense offering on the album, this sucker starts off with B.J. Wilson thumping out a mid- tempo, driving rhythm, over which Fisher overlays a haunting, evocative minor-key melody -- at times brooding, at times wistful -- while Brooker anchors the song with bass-clef chords. The song slowly builds in intensity, until Trower's wicked, high-tension solo -- his best on the album -- ups the ante further. The intensity doesn't fall off until Trower fades and Brooker's solo, which is note-for-note the first twelve bars of Prelude No. 1 from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, brings a calming effect to the proceedings, following which the song repeats some of its themes with Trower's soloing overhead, and finally comes to a somewhat bombastic albeit rock-arena-friendly end. I say progressive rock started right here.

I'd love to give this album five stars, but the psychedelic numbers drag it down a bit. Still, anyone interested in early progressive rock will need, at minimum, Repent Walpurgis in their collection. So it's really a 4.5, rounded down.

Oh, and as the liner notes say, To be listened to in the spirit in which it was made

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars Over forty years ago, this album was quite innovative.

The unique sound of these keyboards was unknown and it does have a definite prog orientation. Are Procol Harum one of the godfathers of progressive rock?

One thing is for sure, those guys know how to write wonderful melodies, nice ballad, and perform them in an emotional way. In line with The Beatles or The Moodies (while at their best for the latter ones). Each old freak of my generation has been deeply in love of a song which is not featured on the original European release of this album.

I received the single in 1971 from one of my aunties (merci tantine) and although I already knew it, it was the first time that I could listen to it endlessly. "Whiter" is definitely a classic of rock music. It will be featured on many versions afterwards. I can only recommend you to grab one of these of course.

But this album holds some other very good tracks. A mix between their great melody lines ("Conquistador"), their superb organ oriented music "She Wandered.", some heavy soul ("Cerdes", "A Christmas Camel") which both feature a very good guitar play on top of these powerful keys.

This album surely deserves your attention if you are interested in the origin of the music we all love. Keyboards lovers should find what there are looking for here. Just listen to their sounds during "Salad Days" and the wonderful instrumental "Repent Walpurgis". Beautiful.

This album is not a masterpiece in the strict sense, but has an immense merit: to have paved the way for a different type of music. Intelligent, catchy, popular. For all of this, I upgrade it from a seven out of ten to the four star rating. A document.

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Pale by Name...

Procol Harum were part of a flourishing progressive scene - and no more important to the development of Progressive Rock than any of the other big acts of the time, like The Moody Blues, The Nice, The Syn, The Yardbirds, The Pink Floyd, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Traffic, David Bowie, Art and, of course, The Beatles. Then there are all the other unsungs, like 1-2-3, Wynder K Frogg et al.

The point here is that 1967 was this massive melting pot of all the various styles of popular music, and creativity had reached a new peak, which seems to have been fuelled mainly by inspiration from Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Who and the Beatles (and everyone else I left out...).

So here we have a band with not one, but two keyboard players, much as Dylan had on the revolutionary album Highway 61 Revisited (and the no less brilliant Blonds on Blonde), delivering organ- driven rock music similarly to the Graham Bond Organisation and the Animals before them, with occasional references to classical music, as was the case with The Nice and 1-2-3 - and a whole load of other acts going right back to Elvis Presley, and more recently to Procol's debut, The Beatles, whose string quartet arrangement of Eleanor Rigby cannot have passed unnoticed.

The point here is that Eleanor Rigby showed the world that Pop music could be serious, to the point that it could be taken as seriously as classical music - and it's this that Whiter Shade of Pale built on. It's the song that made and effectively broke Procol Harum - a massive hit single in the revolutionary Summer of Love, spoiled only by the fact that it stood out like a sore thumb from the rest of their material, which lacked the striking immediacy.

The other famous track on this album, Conquistador, is rightly praised by other reviewers of this album, but lacks the almost magical aura that surrounds the title track - an aura that sadly becomes more broken with every successive overplay.

Everybody knows the title track - and most people overrate it terribly with the references to Bach; It's the music, the composition that makes it such a special song, not the Bach quote.

Other bands have also quoted Bach, usually with laughable results. What makes this song more special than other attempts to fuse classical with rock/pop (such as Elvis Presley's Wooden Heart or It's Now Or Never - or the more contemporary Groovy Kind of Love by the Mindbenders (1965)) - is that it's arisen from the Progressive Music scene, and is infused with that desire to create something a bit more than a pop song, right down to the Dylan-esque lyrics with the psychedelic twist.

Conquistador features a Beatles-esque piano, with delicious Jimmy Smith/Brian Auger flavoured Hammond, and a superb riff from Robin Trower that equals anything from the Yardbirds or any of the other riff-merchants of the time. The combination makes for a great overall sound, but makes a rock song with a quality that made it timeless until the end of the 1970s. It's still difficult to appreciate that it was recorded in 1967.

Then, for me, the album takes a nosedive. I've never really got into any of the remaining tracks, and there doesn't appear to be very much of note in them - although several of them sound like cool blues rock numbers.

She Wandered Through the Garden Gate features a particularly annoying upwards organ line - which becomes cringe-worthy in the instrumental break, making a quite pathetic (and smudged) attempt to quote classical music - Handel, IIRC. Real throwaway rubbish, which is repeated at the end to disastrous effect.

Something Following Me is a return to the R&B roots, and again, the Dylan influence appears to shine through the vocals.

Mabel is an unusual short track, very Vaudeville in flavour, and reminds me of The Kinks and the Bonzo Dog DooDah Band - but I don't like it.

Then we get on to the first of two long tracks (over 5 minutes, by 2 seconds...), but Cerdes (Outside the Gates of) doesn't set me alight - it's an organ-driven blues rock song that reminds me strongly of a less funky Traffic, with fantastical lyrics. The guitar solo is a real treat, though, Trower proving to be every bit Clapton's equal - perhaps then a bit, and is the reason for the song's length. Trower's rhythms are also notable in making this stand out from the more average blues rock fayre available in 1967. Matthew Fisher's Hammond also shines, but mainly from a tonal point of view - the sound is so thick and chunky you don't want to stop hearing it - but he doesn't actually play anything exciting.

Christmas Camel is pretty much in the same vein, the addition of the piano creating an unusual texture and overall style, with some nice chord progressions and another, much less convincing guitar solo - but no turning the music upside down here, I'm afraid.

Kaleidoscope - obviously a popular theme in 1967, as there was a band in the US as well as a band in the UK that named themselves after the famous light-refracting device. Again, great textures, lovely thick organ, crunchy guitar and driving boogie piano - all the same elements as before, and a chuckaway solo. Oddly this song feels much longer than it should, clocking in at 2:54.

Salad Days (Are Here Again) would be unremarkable if it were not for the lyrics, which lose their freshness after a while - just like most salad vegetables, by co-incidence.

Back to the Vaudeville for Good Captain Clack (people might think that this album was inspired by Sergeant Pepper's, Piper, or Ogden's Nut Gone). Here the Hammond sounds like a Cinema Organ... not that I remember them or anything... Horrible track.

Finally, the second 5-minuter, Repent Walpurgis, which is based on a sombre organ theme and carries a similar atmosphere to Whiter Shade..., almost as if it's part II. This rounds up the album well, but doesn't really compensate for the huge amount of filler here.

It is a great track, though, with some stunning melodic play from Trower that does not bore you rigid with pentatonic noodlrey, but instead forges inspired lines from somewhere very deep... until it's cut across with another classical reference on the piano - this is really annoying, and simple padding that this song does not need - but from this piece, it's easy to see why many see this as a fundamental album in the development of Progressive Rock.

There's no doubting this album's importance in the history of Prog, but there were so many others at the time (in fact, this album wasn't released until 1968, by which time many other equally or more important albums were already in the collective consciousness), it's not worth getting excited about it.

Just enjoy it for what it is - a collection of Dylan-inspirerd organ driven blues rock with an occasional penchant for simple classical (mainly Baroque!) themes, and you'll really enjoy it.

Good, but by no means essentaial.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The debut album from Procol Harum was released in 1967 and is rightly praised as one of the most important proto prog albums. The inclusion of both a piano ( Gary Brooker) and an organ player ( Matthew Fisher) were something totally new at the time.

The music is as a consequence dominated by piano and especially the omnipresent organ. The distorted guitars from Robin Trower is also a great addition to Procol Harumīs sound. The vocals from Gary Brooker are really strong. He has a beautiful and powerful voice. This is not music with much challenging instrumentation, but the strong and memorable vocal lines really keeps me interested throughout the whole album. Songs like Kaleidoscope, the instrumental Repent Walpurgis and the pop/ rock evergreen A Whiter Shade of Pale all has lots of progressive promise ( I think I hear a couple of hints towards Genesis), but thereīs generally a will here to make original music that is really honourable when viewed in retrospect. Note that A Whiter Shade of Pale wasnīt on the original European version of the LP which is such a shame. Later CD reissues all include the song though.

The musicianship is great. Such passion is always impressive. The organ playing from Matthew Fisher is hard not to notice but I really enjoy some of the piano parts from Gary Brooker as well. This is not the tightest interplay between musicians I have heard, but they probably didnīt have much time in the studio in those days.

The production is not very good. The drums and the bass drown most of the time because of the loud organ. This is a 1967 recording so itīs excusable. Iīm a bit annoyed but it doesnīt ruin my listening experience.

This album helped build the progressive rock genre I donīt doubt that. But personally this only gives me average enjoyment. Itīs good but not excellent music. If you rate after importance for the progressive music genre I would rate this album 4 or 5 stars but for my personal enjoyment this is a 3 star album. But this is a must hear for anyone even slightly interested in progressive rock music.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars It is strange and somewhat unfair that I have taken 3 years and 640 reviews to finally discuss the first album to lead me from the ephemeral pleasure of pop music to the cradle-to-grave rewards of progressive rock. I suppose there are many reasons for this, some of which could only be extricated by minimally reimbursed visits to the therapist's couch, but I could mention that dysfunctional belief that I have simply moved on, like any wayward teenager, to more sophisticated sounds. None of the reasons could take away from my assertion that "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was an astonishing debut, made even more remarkable by the by-now legendary back story that the whole album was hastily assembled to take advantage of the sure hit status of its opening track.

Back in 1974, my older brother was much enamoured of the work of one ROBIN TROWER, a guitarist himself much betrothed to Jimi Hendrix. At one point the full orchestral version of "Conquistador" graced our local FM channel and he casually mentioned that Trower was the guitarist, which turned out to be false. The next moment a muzak version of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was used on the television station's interlude which also featured a crystalline scene of winter in Montreal. The melody is so grand that it even succeeds as elevator music. When I wandered for the first time into the LP section of the local record shop, I emerged with this disk, already repackaged to underscore that it included the "original" version of "Conquistador". It turned out that poor Robin missed out on both of the group's worldwide hits, as he only took over from Rob Royer for the shotgun recording of the remaining 9 tracks.

While this rendition of "Conquistador" seems shriveled when compared to the 1972 hit, it came first, and is still a faithful ode to these bold men of the past. Matthew Fisher's organ solo, albeit brief, actually covers more ground than the later one by Chris Copping. From there we are in unknown territory for the neophyte, and what we discover is a rich organ and piano based sound with hints of R&B and classical music, and lyrics that range from narrative with commentary to absurdity. The tempo is slow more often than not, but punctuated with ditties often enough to sidestep sameness.

At the time I remember likening them to THE BAND, without realizing that they burst onto the scene a year earlier. Particularly in songs like the bittersweet "Salad Days" and even "Good Captain Clack", they conjured up the conflicts and the levity of "The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Rag Mama Rag". If nothing else, Gary Brooker sounded like Levon Helm. Then of course there is the cheesy glitter rock of "Kaleidoscope" which I only mention because a group called the ROLLING STONES seems to have been rather inspired by it in a 1968 song called "Jumping Jack Flash".

Other songs which remain high in my esteem are the off-kilter organ orgy of "She Wandered through the Garden Fence", the silly "Mabel", and the majestic finale "Repent Walpurgis", which musters the most in terms of overall band performance. Even "Christmas Camel", stretched out a bit beyond its worth, is noteworthy for its narrative style that would remain a staple of early Procol Harum through good times and bad.

If you don't want to start your exploration of PROCOL HARUM with one of the many compilations available, I recommend their debut, as subsequent works pale.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A fair debut

I love early albums, some are among my favorite titles by certain groups. Given the legendary status of Procol Harum not to mention the beautiful and intriguing cover art, I figured I was in for a treat akin to the first or second albums by Floyd (Piper), Yes (s/t), The Doors (s/t), The Moodies (Days), The Band (Big Pink). Wrong! I can only conclude that the legend of Procol took some time to develop and springs forth from future works. Because much of this album is something of a snoozer. According to the liner notes there were early personnel issues and I believe it-I can hear a band that is not fully working together yet. Aside from a pretty strong presence in the lead vocalist the playing is tentative and not very smooth sounding. The supposed guitar hotshot in Robin Trower sounds like little more than a session player aside from some nice work in "Cerdes" and "Repent Walpurgis." Lyrically there are some pretty cool moments, especially the mysterious lines played straight-faced in "Something Following Me."

The ingredients for success are certainly here in abundance. Built on the blues-pop-psych framework and stock rhythm section is a promising mix of keyboard work, both organ and piano. They can be employed in a carnival swirl (Salad Days) or a sad dirge (Repent Walpurgis) or a bluesy barroom twinkle (Something Following Me). But other tracks range from pure boredom (Kaleidescope) to silly throwaways (Mabel, Good Captain Clack). The tracks lack the unpredictable vocal excitement of a Morrison, the otherwordly vignettes of Piper, the elegance of The Moodies. The songwriting is occasionally pretty pedestrian lacking the fire and spirit of one of the most fruitful periods in music. And yet there's enough promise in the side corridors for this to register. I have a hunch that later albums probably better show off the obvious talents of the guys in this band. I just find this particular album to be an underwhelming debut album similar to the way the Genesis' debut is. It has a bit more grit and guts than "Genesis to Revelation" but is certainly not in the same league as albums mentioned above. Sadly, there were two tracks which could have made this album much more respectable. The early singles "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and "Homburg" are very good tracks that for some unforgivable reason were left off the debut while tracks like "Mabel" went on it. Go figure. There are three or four songs I enjoy enough to salvage the purchase but I just can't be much more enthusiastic I'm afraid. 3 stars and not a Christmas Camel more.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 1967 seems like such a long time ago doesn't it ? I love looking at the pictures in the liner notes from back then to see the clothes they were wearing and hairstyles etc. it was all so far out.

PROCOL HARUM scored a couple of hits from this album and certainly "Whiter Shade Of Pale" was huge back then. Actually the process back then was not to put the hit single on the album but to release it as a single only. My edition includes it though, in fact it starts off with it. I'm sure most people know this song well with the organ and vocals slowly leading the way. I think "Conquistador" is just as good. Check out the organ solo after 2 minutes to end it. Yes this one is just over 2 1/2 minutes long. "She Wandered Through The Garden Fence" reminds me of THE BEATLES. It's light and upbeat. "Something Followed Me" is slower paced with vocals. Is that distorted organ 2 1/2 minutes in ? "Mabel" sounds like a party tune. "Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of)" has some good organ to start out as vocals join in. Guitar solo before 3 minutes and later at 4 1/2 minutes in to end it. Good song. "A Christmas Camel" is one I like a lot. The piano and guitar later on are good. "Kaleidoscope" is catchy while "Salad Days (Are Here Again)" features lots of organ. "Good Captain Clack" is silly with piano, vocals and organ standing out. "Repent Walpurgis" is a top three with the opening two tracks for me. We get a beat to open as the organ floats in. Guitar before 2 minutes. Piano leads the way then more guitar. Organ ends it.

A good album no doubt but not worth 4 stars in my opinion. I'm a little surprised these guys aren't in Proto-Prog.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Procol Harum's debut album was knocked together in a hurry to capitalise on the success of the Whiter Shade of Pale single (available on most editions of the album aside from the original UK and German releases). Whilst it's historically significant as one of the first albums to present an undeniably progressive style of rock music (distinguished mainly by the interplay of Matt Fisher's organ and Gary Brooker's piano, along with Brooker's soulful delivery of Keith Reid's oblique lyrics), at the same time the material here doesn't really match the quality of the single that preceded it.

Robin Trower's guitar skills are the major addition - he didn't appear on A Whiter Shade of Pale - but whilst he is able to break out interesting solos on Cerdes (Outside the Gates of) or A Christmas Camel - he's clearly a late addition to the mix and his lead guitar is often not very much of a presence at all, Trower only stepping in here and there to add an accent or flourish to songs, which are based not around guitar riffs but piano and organ. Likewise, the rhythm section of Knights and Wilson do a competent but not especially attention-grabbing job.

On top of that, the album presents some downright bizarre decisions when it comes to which tracks to include. It's bad enough that some editions don't even include A Whiter Shade of Pale - which is far and away the best Procol Harum song from this era - but to add insult to injury there's some downright appalling filler material on here, The worst offenders are the trite music hall numbers Mabel and Good Captain Clack, which don't fit in the spirit of the rest of the album, ruin the flow, and just aren't very good songs - they're goofy as hell and the only good thing to be said about them is that they're only 90 seconds long.

It speaks a lot for Procol Harum that most of the material on the album is somewhat stronger, but even so the band were still coalescing at this stage, and this release demonstrates that producing one fluke single doesn't mean a group is ready to put out a full album.

Review by Conor Fynes
2 stars 'Procol Harum' - Procol Harum (4/10)

1967 is arguably one of the most important years ever to the development of rock music. With albums like the indomitable 'Sgt. Peppers' along with Pink Floyd and Hendrix's debuts coming out, rock was becoming less so much about giving youth a volatile musical alternative, and coming on its own as a valid means of expression. Along with the incredible albums I have already mentioned, UK art rock act Procol Harum's debut came out, and while it may hold a place in history for contributing to the development of rock as an art form, it is significantly less enjoyable an album than the others. In fact, 'Procol Harum'- for all of its influence- is a fairly irritating album to my ears, providing a collection of maudlin songs, of which a few are fairly memorable, but the majority amount to sappy art pop tunes that tend to have me think I do not like this band.

The two most important tracks are the first two that come up on the newer release of the album. When 'Procol Harum' first came out, they left the best track, 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', off the record (for the sake of selling singles, one might surmise) but the new edition is clever enough to start the record off on its best note; an organ driven ballad that takes more than a few notes from Bach. 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale' is one of the band's best known songs, so it comes as something of an irony that the central idea that drives the song is derived from J.S Bach's compositions. All the same, the band is lauded for incorporating classical music into the rock format, and there are some very poetic lyrics here, although the vocals of Gary Brooker can get a little strained when he tries to hit the high notes of the chorus. Then there is 'Conquistador', a more upbeat track that I have previously heard to death on FM radio, and didn't care for too much. It is a memorable track however, although I cannot say that I find myself particularly enthused when it rolls around.

The rest of the tracks invoke Procol Harum's baroque pop, vaudeville theme, and while there is certainly intelligence to the music (and especially the profound lyrics) here, Procol Harum seems to try far too hard at plucking the heartstrings here; the songs are overly maudlin, saccharine, 'sappy'. The instrumentation is functional, although the keyboards are certainly the highlight of the sound here, always taking the stage towards the album's greatest moments. Brooker's voice is quite nice when he sings in the lower ranges, but he really throws off his delivery once he gets up towards the high notes.

For an album that is considered by some to be a masterpiece of early prog rock, it is somewhat disappointing that the most memorable and beautiful things that 'Procol Harum' have to offer are taken straight from the work of Bach, rather than from the band's own innovation. Granted, the band does do things here that weren't heard before this record came out, but in terms of the actual execution and enjoyment of this debut, to call it 'lacking' would be a good start.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is of course among the records that, as well as being a marvelous collection of tunes, inadvertently tested the Prog waters - the style's viability in a competitive market - with a sensitive blend of quality rock, baroque, pop balladry and black soul. Sadly the LP was mostly a commercial flop in Britain but for the chemistry and skill of the players; a stone blimp heard by a handful of fans and musicians instead of flying off shelves as it would have if timeless classic & multi-million seller 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' had been on the damn thing in '67. The Westside remaster from 1998 sounds terrific though, and Procol Harum's debut was and is a beautiful piece of work that has aged with exceptional grace.

Denny Cordell did indeed mix Procol Harum with a live feel; a big, delicious open-air sound that helped the "church of rock" quality it has. Gary Brooker's riveting Ray Charles vocals enhancing Keith Reid's words, Matthew Fisher's light touch on the Hammond, Trower's restrained guitar and the always attentive support of Wilson/Knights made for a great show from start to finish. 'Conquistador' is an acceptable rock bit, but evidently before she came in through the bathroom window 'She Wandered Through the Garden Fence' with Reid's breathless lyric and our first glimpse of Matt Fisher's taste for Bach. Flat out dirge 'Something Following Me' is a New'Awlins beaut as it lumbers down the street under the weight of a casket, 'Cerdes' a classic Harum drone with slowly building waves of feeling, and 'A Christmas Camel' is an absolute joy, as good as anything they ever did. Large and brilliant 'Kaleidescope' heavy with Hammond but lifted by Brooker's voice, 'Salad Days' is the late 1960's on a plate with patchouli, seashells, doses, incense and myrrh, and mysterious 'Repent Walpurgis' finishes the original issue.

Just a damn fine release that remains a trailblazer showing rock could and would evolve, and simply one of the best albums of its time. One that reminds us the active and forward progression of rock was becoming not just a genre or even a movement, but an all-encompassing reality. A Grand Era of Prog that was not to be denied by critic nor listener when the artists were in charge of the art if not the asylum, represented here in one of its earliest stages, lovingly preserved for our pleasure and revelry.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Procol Harum's debut is a strong beginning for a band that left an indelible mark on organ led melodic rock. The remaster features the absolutely essential track that most people have heard at some time or another, A Whiter Shade of Pale. The organ motif is unforgettable as is Brooker's psychedelic vocals and dreamscape lyrics. They became known for this track alone but of course the album has more to offer.

She Wandered Through the Garden Fence is whimsical and features some infectious melodies. Cerdes (Outside the Gate of) is a killer track with psychedelic images and a contagious hook, with organs blazing and one of the more forceful vocal performances. A Christmas Camel is one of my favourites driven by hammering piano and a delightful soaring melody. The lyrics centre on the mysteries of madness and war with powerful imagery of men who "impaled themselves on six inch nails", and "my feeble sick wearied brain I'm overcome with shame". The lead break of Trower is a great part of each song and here is no exception.

Repent Walpurgis sounds slightly like Whiter Shade, at least in organ sound and tempo. The instrumental track is another highlight and meanders along slowly with an extended intro before Trower's guitar kicks in. the piano flourishes are note worthy and it a dreamy soundscape is generated.

Overall, this is a wonderful debut for a band that would soon be a worldwide success thanks to a little thing about skipping the light Fandango, a miller's tale, 16 vestil virgins, and the crowd turned out for more.

Review by tarkus1980
5 stars Undoubtedly, this is both one of the greatest debuts ever and one of the best albums in the history of art-rock. Horrifyingly enough, though, some fans actually somewhat dismiss it, mostly on the grounds that it was recorded in a hurry to take advantage of the success of the incredible smash hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (the album was actually originally called Procol Harum, and lacked the single for some reason - however, it was rereleased in the version I have presently a few years later). Well, what can I say, there's just no accounting for taste sometimes. For you see, while the title track is the best song here (how could it not be? Some of the best lyrics ever set to a pop adaptation of Bach's "Air on a G-String" of all things??!!! With that organ sound??!!!), this in no way whatsoever puts down the other songs. Some tracks are greater than others, yes, but there isn't a single piece on this album that I'd want to call filler - every piece has something really cool going for it, even if it maybe isn't developed to its "furthest" theoretical potential.

Indeed, even the "lesser" tracks only seem that way because they're sillier than others - even then, though, they provide a nice sense of diversity to the album, one that helps diffuse the general "monotony" of the band's sound. "She Wandered Through the Garden Fence" could seem out of place thanks to the moodier (and more serious) pieces that bookend it, but it has one of the best "silly" melodies ever penned by somebody not named Paul McCartney, and even Brooker's voice helps here, only because it's humorous to hear him sing the lines "she threw me down upon my back and strapped me to a torture rack" with a seemingly straight face. "Mabel" could also be dismissed as a relative throwaway, but it's so over-the-top drunkenly goofy, with all sorts of random slide whistles and drunken revelry taking place in the background while Brooker sings for Mabel to "please get off the kitchen table" that it's simply irresistable (in the context of the album, anyway).

"Lesser" track number three is an attempt at a vaguely "psychedelic" rocker (with standard PH instrumentation, of course), "Kaleidoscope." It's essentially a groove piece, based around a few measures of somewhat less-than-stellar melody line led by the keyboards, so it doesn't quite measure up to everything else... on the other hand, though, it has a cool instrumental break in the middle, first led by a really energetic keyboard solo and then a nice, brief, slightly frantic Trower guitar solo, so I'm not gonna dismiss it completely. And finally, the penultimate track of the original album, "Good Captain Clack," probably could have stayed in the outtakes box without hurting the album, were it not for the goofy group harmonies in the middle without which I can't imagine this album.

So that's it for the lesser stuff, and seeing as that's all good, that should give you an idea about the rest. "Conquistador" is simply brilliant, with a terrific juxtaposition of Robin's riffage with Brooker's amazing vocal melody (especially in the "chorus"), all with a MASSIVE keyboard part before the ending verse. (Incidentally, I'd like to say that my weirdest music experience back when I had my part-time job working for Meijer (a Midwest regional store similar to Walmart where I worked part-time in college) was when, over the loudspeaker, I could a hear a muzak version of this very tune. The funny thing is, everything was mellowed and cheesed over ... except for the keyboard solo which was done exactly like on this album). And man, there are some incredible lyrics in this song.

Later, "Something Following Me" is an eerily mellow ballad (apparently about seeing your own tombstone, among other things, not that I noticed before reading the lyrics online), with yet another excellent piano melody, and another great (though unfortunately short) Trower solo, making this moody as hell. And finally, there's the side-one closer, the INCREDIBLE "Cerdes (Outside the Gates of)," with one of the cleverest riffs Brooker ever came up with (with the bass seamlessly sharing its duty with Fisher's organ) and another amazing vocal melody and more great Trower work ... all this on only one side!!! Throwaway filler, I DON'T THINK SO.

Side two is a little weaker (three of the "lesser" tracks are here), but it's also bookended by two more *insert positive adjective here* tracks that leave no doubt in my mind of this album's greatness. "A Christmas Camel" is an exceptionally well-done Ray Charles ripoff - great vocal melody, great keyboard interplay, great Trower solo, etc etc etc. The instrumental "Repent Walpurgis," though, basically annihilates it in quality - the lone Fisher composition on the album, it functioned as the band's stage closer for many years, and it's not hard to see why. Aside from having one of the best melodies of any classical/rock fusion ever, it gives every member a chance to shine (without delving into self-indulgence); Trower stands out when given opportunity, giving out his best solo of the album, but there's also a brief interlude where Brooker's piano is given a moment by itself, and the rest has the band working as an absolute musical monster, before ending with one of the most (justifiably so) bombastic, crashing finales ever to grace a rock album.

In short, this album ranges from good to absolutely stunning (I forgot to mention another song with an absolutely lovely melody, "Salad Days (Are Here Again)," which also helps buoy up side two), and I can't see how any self-respecting art-rock lover could dislike this. And besides, the re- release has some cool bonus tracks - "Lime Street Blues" is a generic (but good) mid-60's r&b piece, and "Monsieur Armand" is a lesser track (that would be reworked for the '74 album Exotic Birds and Fruit), but "Homburg" is a quite lovely piece in the same vein as "Whiter Shade," while "Seem to Have the Blues All the Time" is a quite interesting "heavy" blues piece that sounds like little else on the album but that is quite good nonetheless. How's THAT for a run-on sentence??

Review by Guillermo
3 stars In this first album the band still was trying to define in more clear ways their muscial style. I still can find some influences from Blues music in their music, and this album was quickly recorded in a few days (in less than a week, if I remember well), almost recorded "live in the studio", and,.. in Mono (WHY?). With the passing of time, they have released some Stereo versions of some of the songs from this album, but those Stereo versions maybe were recorded with the original line-up of the band (which included drummer Bobby Harrison and guitarist Ray Royer). But it seems this album was recorded after the new members (B.J. Wilson on drums and Robin Trower on guitar, which in fact were Gary Brooker`s old mates from the band "The Paramounts" in the early and mid sixties) joined the band.

I have read in the web that their "A Whiter Shade of Pale" single was liked a lot by many musicians in 1967, including The Beatles and others, who praised it a lot. Without doubt, that song was very influential in the later development of Prog Rock music. So, after promoting this song with several gigs (with the original line-up and then with the new line-up) they quickly recorded this album, but I can`t understand why this album was released until late 1967 (and some sources say it was released until January 1968), and when it was finally released, it did not include that song in the U.K. (but in the U.S. the album included that song). It seems that some management problems and a change of record label in the U.K. were among some of the problems involved in the late release of the album.

Anyway, this album in its original released form had some very good songs, like "Conquistador", "She Wandered Through the Garden Fence" (the best of all, in my opinion) and the funny "Mabel" ( with some British humour). There are also some Psychedelic influences in the music, a very logical thing because this album was recorded in 1967, and Matthew Fisher`s Classical Music arrangements in his organ playing are very good. I think that this album really sounds like it was recorded "in a hurry" and with a low budget, but it is good anyway. Despite being recorded in Mono it sounds good for my taste. But the band was going to record better albums than this debut album.

I think that the cover design is very good too, very much related to the music and the lyrics of the band. It looks to me that it was inspired by the song "She Wandered Through the Garden Fence" or by "A Whiter Shade of Pale", but I could be wrong.

Review by DangHeck
3 stars Another one from my own vaults--one I'm grateful to own as it's an album I have historically enjoyed--I am unfortunately reviewing in the wake of the passing of another great artist: this time, Gary Brooker (1945-2022). Brooker was the lead vocalist, pianist and a key songwriter for Procol Harum; along with The Moody Blues and The Nice, one of the earliest bands to bridge the gap between the psychedelic and... something else. In general, to compare them to their other peers, these bands were more artful, perhaps, and more classically inspired. This will be a review of the slightly different original UK-pressed version, self-titled and excluding the earlier, landmark radio hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale".

Our album starts with "Conquistador", a track that does not translate as simply Psychedelic Rock nor as simple, radio-ready Rock music (I suppose, too, this concept in general was still relatively new)--though it is relatively poppy--significant in 1967. Well known, Procol Harum was a key player in what we now know to be (early) Progressive Rock. Perhaps, in the popular Psychedelic vein, a contemporary could be found in The Doors, but unlike them they offer more Pop and have more Soul. To me, therefore, innately British (more on that sentiment below).

"She Wandered Through the Garden Fence" is a sure favorite of mine, I feel a must-hear from early Prog. Poppy, too, this has a memorable hook, bright organ (neo-classically poised, I must add) and straight- ahead rhythm, though I quite like the very-of-the-time drumming. Wonderfully placed next is "Something Following Me", a soulful number, but very straight, even in comparison to the former. With Beat, R'n'B and 'Northern Soul', as it were, the UK has had a longstanding love and appreciation for the genre (Soul, that is).

Very other, we have the sort of honky-tonk "Mabel". It's cute haha. Interestingly enough, though at first glance I'd say it doesn't have a lot to offer, it does have some notable textural choices. Gratefully, we move onto the very cool groove of "Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of)", a backwards name if there ever was one. This is organ-driven and features some nice, bluesy lead guitar throughout. Honestly, this latter element is one I often forget they have going for them. And they really do: great soloing.

Starting the second side with a memorable piano riff and simmering organ, "A Christmas Camel" (har-har) is another with sure Proto-Prog significance to my ears. This is followed by the upbeat "Kaleidoscope" (Boy, the Freaks really loved those things, didn't they?), with fuzzy guitar, Rock 'n' Roll piano and Ringo drag, much to my delight. Good track. Much more low and slow is "Salad Days (Are Here Again)"--God, I sure do know a lot of songs and albums entitled "Salad Days"--this track is very R'n'B and yet also reminds me of the Roots Rock of mid-60s Bob Dylan (likely, really). The organ is nice, but ultimately the song is a low-light.

Next is "Good Captain Clack", a sort of Music Hall quickie-but-a-goodie. Fun track with group vocals and what sounds like a Wurlitzer. The album then ends perhaps with the most progressive track of them all, "Repent Walpurgis", with cool, rolling drums, open organ and a strong build of guitar soloing to the middle section, a near-solo piano, which it itself builds with the rhythm section and a triumphant and yet wary classical-inspired theme.

True Rate: 3.5/5.0

Latest members reviews

3 stars In 1967 a spiritual father PROG was born with just a title... but what a title!! 1.Conquistador an avant-garde sound I weigh my words, realize at the time, wonderful with this orchestration coming from the classic and a Hammond that of Matthew 2. She Wandered Through the Garden Fence flirts well ... (read more)

Report this review (#2953966) | Posted by alainPP | Sunday, September 24, 2023 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade Of Pale - Repertoire REP 4666-WY The only prog thing in this album is the sound of Matthew Fisher hammond organ, and only in "Whiter...." and "Repent Walpurgis". No research, no classic influences apart from the title track, and I don't remember a choir or a second ... (read more)

Report this review (#2632195) | Posted by berkaal | Tuesday, November 9, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 enti ... (read more)

Report this review (#1619479) | Posted by SteveG | Friday, October 7, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Innovative? Absolutely. Talented? Without a doubt. Interesting? Mostly. Well crafted? Well... no, not really. Some songs are absolutely fantastic, Whiter Shade of Pale, She Wandered Through the Garden Fence, Repent Walpurgis for example. Others are mediocre, Conquistador, Kaleidoscope, Cerdes for ex ... (read more)

Report this review (#1172715) | Posted by MJAben | Thursday, May 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Procol Harum was a British band that released their first studio album in 1967 with the same name as the band, Procol Harum. This was before the explosion of prog rock so it's not peculiar they didn't sound like prog. A sad thing is that their mega hit "A whiter shade of pale" wasn't included ... (read more)

Report this review (#1088553) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The debut album from this rather obscure band. It can be argued that this band very much set the likes of ELP on the course to release their albums. ELP off course evolved out of The Nice and adopted their sound and music. But there is also a lot of Procol Harum in their music. As an ELP admire ... (read more)

Report this review (#586364) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, December 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Matthew Fisher's organ must swell with pride whenever AWSOP is played! My favorite piece of music! The rest of the album is also quite good but bogs down in places (Mabel) and Robin Trower is still a couple of albums away from his peak. Cojsidering the circumstances under which it was recor ... (read more)

Report this review (#82870) | Posted by | Wednesday, July 5, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Hi, Well this album will never be repeated by anyone, thats why its unique! You can just feel the 60s vibarating out from the speakers to your ears! Songs fall like poetry from the disk leaving you with no doubt that this is one of the greatest efforts given by any band. Recorded at a time whe ... (read more)

Report this review (#30753) | Posted by | Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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