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Procol Harum

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Procol Harum Something Magic album cover
3.03 | 135 ratings | 21 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Something Magic (3:34)
2. Skating On Thin Ice (4:46)
3. Wizard Man (2:30)
4. The Mark Of The Claw (4:37)
5. Strangers In Space (6:02)
6. The Worm And The Tree (18:35) :
- Part one: Introduction / Menace / Occupation
- Part two: Enervation / Expectency / Battle
- Part three: Regeneration / Epilogue

Total time - 40:04

Bonus track on 2000 & 2009 reissues:
7. Backgammon (1977 B-side) (3:24)

Extra bonus tracks on 2009 reissue:
8. You'd Better Wait (Live) (4:44)
9. This Old Dog (Live) (3:41)

Line-up / Musicians

- Gary Brooker / vocals, piano, orchestral arrangements (5)
- Mick Grabham / guitar
- Peter Solley / Farfisa (?) organ, synthesizers
- Chris Copping / bass, orchestral arrangements (2)
- Barrie James Wilson / drums, percussion

- Mike Lewis / orchestral arrangements (1)

Releases information

Artwork: Bruce Meek

LP Chrysalis ‎- CHR 1130 (1977, UK)

CD Castle Communications ‎- ESM CD 293 (1995, UK)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 4918 (2000, Germany) With a bonus track
CD Salvo ‎- SALVOCD029 (2009, UK) Remastered by Nick Robbins with 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy PROCOL HARUM Something Magic Music

PROCOL HARUM Something Magic ratings distribution

(135 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%)
Good, but non-essential (34%)
Collectors/fans only (20%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

PROCOL HARUM Something Magic reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
1 stars Of course , this was the end of that band and punk was exploding int the faces of bands like these. This might have been better advised to release this in another era as the wind had changed and most the prog dinosaurs were looking up their arses (Works - ELP , Tales - Yes , Passion Play - Tull etc....) and this one is no exception. Pompous , bombastic , over- indulgent,pretentious & boring.... but this Procol album gets better marks than the other mentioned above because this sounds so naturally like ......Brooker. This is what the man was born to do , so he is less ridiculous than Emerson , Wakeman , Lord etc.....when going overboard.
Review by Matti
2 stars I make it very short this time. Something Magic is, I think, one of the least inspired Harums (for example Grand Hotel and Exotic Birds and Fruit are much stronger). The sound is quite clear but the songs are dull. Title track and slow ballad 'Strangers in Space' have some value though. And Brooker's distinctive voice works well on this album. The "epic" of the B- side must be THE most boring epic I've ever heard, a stupid story of a worm that grows and grows. Even if Brooker sang it instead of speaking, it would be boring. The three 4- star reviews are equally justified as personal opinions, but I can't help: an extremely useless work to me.
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A much-maligned album this one, and I will concede that it's an occassionally tired affair. However the main reason it comes in for so much criticism is the epic The Worm And The Tree, and there I'm going to have to go against the flow. While it was distinctly flawed, it was the most progressive track that the band had recorded in years, and I'm not going to criticise the ambition involved. Besides, while it doesn't work, there are some really nice moments on this album.

The departure of bassist Alan Cartwright after Procol's Ninth saw organist Chris Copping move back to bass (he had initially played both instruments on his first PH album Home) and tellingly this resulted in Pete Solley joining and using synthesizers as his main instrument. In some ways this was a really daring album for PH to have done, but obviously their progression doesn't always work ...

And yet the title track was really Something Magic. It's classic PH with sweeping orchestral arrangements and a great melody with Keith Reid's mournful lyrics and Gary Brooker's soulful voice to the fore. Skating On Thin Ice is another classical/rock fusion song in the vein of A Salty Dog and Grand Hotel, although it's a little too saccharine for my tastes, and even the addition of female vocals and some odd lines from Solley don't stir my interest.

Wizard Man is one of those upbeat, almost jovial rockers, virtually a singalong in fact, with some nice warm organ tones, The Mark Of The Claw is one of those hard-rockin' riffers, penned by guitarist Mick Grabham, with a twisty little synth solo from Solley, and a nice turn from Mick. It's not classic Harum, but it is daring. Which goes double for Strangers In Space, a real spacey, synthy somewhat eerie effort, even if Solley does add some classy organ flavours to go alongside the electric piano and synth.

Of course, a lot rides on The Worm And The Tree, which is a three part, 18 minute epic, with spoken words from Brooker. The story line isn't the best and at times this piece is really boring and forced (yes even for prog, it sounds forced). Yet in between the spoken segments there is a lot of competent playing, with strings, synth, organ and piano all having their moments. Perhaps it is the bleak mood that gets most down, and admittedly B.J. Wilson's groove on the second part does have a hint of disco to it, but I'll be damned if I don't enjoy parts of this piece. When Solley and Grabham establish themselves in Part two, I keep thinking that it's a pity that these two refugees from Paladin and Plastic Penny respectively didn't get to lead Procol in a new direction. BTW, trivia-hunters might want to see if they can spot an echo of The Piper's Tune (a piece from the preceeding album Procol's Ninth) at some point during the song.

So there you have it, Something Magic is a flawed, uncharacteristic end to a beautiful band. The worst album that Harum put out during its original run. And yet, it's not really as bad as most people make it out to be. ... 52% on the MPV scale.

Review by 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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars The last Procol album (first generation), or is it just another Brooker's one (?), is of course no highlight in their career. I have loved the band quite a lot and when you listen to "Shine On Brightly", the band certainly deserve to be considered as a pioneer of the music we all love: progressive rock.

But this can't be the case with this work. The end of a story, I would say. Of course, 77 was not the best year for prog music. But this album can't be considered as such. It is just a collection of mellowish tunes with a passionless Brooker on the command.

So, no miracles nor wonder here. Just an average album which might well have never been released. No one would have cared less. Really. Just listen to the poor "Wizard Man". Sounds as another poor rock attempt from Barclay James Harvest (just to give you an idea).

The best of this album being the excellent "Strangers In Space" and its sad mood. Brooker being as emotive as he could be. A lot of emotion perspires throughout this number. It is by far my preferred song from the whole.

The eighteen minutes long suite which covered the B-side, couldn't really thrilled me. Maybe a bold effort in those days, but truly pointless. Remember, there was Anarchy In The UK by the time. No place for such a dull and pompous effort.

There is absolutely nothing magic in here. Two stars.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
2 stars Oh, well. This was a melancholic way to say goodbye to one of the most interesting and creative bands to emerge from the 60's. I think it would make an excellent single, with the title track (I liked the bombastic orchestration) and Strangers In Space. They are the only really inspired and convincing songs on the entire LP. I still remember how disappointed I felt when I heard it back in 1977. It was a bad year for all proggers, but I always hoped some bands would pull off something really good to counteract the sniping of the press.

Sadly, this release only added fuel to the fire, going as long as doing a side long epic. Bold for the time, ok, but it was one of the most embarrassing affairs I ever saw by any other major band: the music is nice, but is not outstanding in any way and the story is simply too silly to take it seriously (even as a metaphor. Gary Brooker's narration instead of singing only enhances the feeling this song was written for kids under 7 only). It hurts when you think the authors of this dud wrote things so beautiful like A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Conquistador, A Salty Dog and other haunting classics.

The remaining short tracks are nice, but well below Procol Harum's standards. On the other side the production is very good . In all Something Magic seems like a picture of the time: they sounded ok but uninspired and lacking direction. Like a lot of great bands of the period. I was hoping they would prove themselves better with the next release. Unfortunately they disbanded soon after. It was a bleak period, but they left some of rock's finest moments recorded in their discography for posterity.

If you're new to this band, avoid this one at all costs, it'll give a false impression, even if it is not really bad. For collectors and fans, only.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars "Procol's Ninth" represented a modest shift of fortune but ultimately did not reverse the declining trend. In the two years before "Something Magic", everything changed in the art rock world, but Procol Harum seemed oblivious, inexplicably opting to build a disk around a side long suite.

Picture in your mind's ear, if you will, the myriad spoken openings and interludes on MOODY BLUES albums from 1967-1970. Even they stopped with the pompous pretensions on their 1972 release "Seventh Sojourn". Now picture these brief poetic snippets expanded out to cover 17 minutes, with mostly mood setting music around them. That this excess was the product of Procol Harum and not one of the so-called dinosaurs of prog is even more unthinkable. I don't detect a trace of irony in the sophomoric rhyming either.

Luckily, there is another side to "Something Magic", and it's actually worth hearing, particularly the title cut with its circus music meets Israeli meets Native American pow wow skirmishes and delicately inserted horns. "The Mark of the Claw" is Mick Grabham's only indulgence as a now 4 year member of the group, and it's not bad if a bit AOR ish, possibly the group's concession to the success of ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, and also sounding not unlike FOREIGNER who came on the scene the same year. The synthesizer makes its first appearance in the Procol Harum 10 year history, and it is quite well played by Peter Solley. Still, it is the light cosmic blues of "Strangers in Space" that reveal the group at its most creative and reflective at this late date.

Had "Worm and the Tree" been decent, this would be Procol Harum's first 3 star effort since Grand Hotel, but I am not conjurer enough to round up this overall insipid production, the group's last for 14 years.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Wizard man

Procol Harum is not really a Prog band, at most they can be considered Prog related or Proto-Prog, but Something Magic can be considered one of Procol Harum's most progressive albums ever and, in my opinion, one of the best too. There are only six tracks on this album with one being an 18 plus minute epic that is very much in the same style as In Held 'Twas In I from the Shine On Brightly album that was released almost ten years earlier! The title track, on the other hand, is more in line with the sound of Grand Hotel and the same can be said about Skating On Thin Ice, these two are good but rather typical Procol Harum "classy" symphonic Rock songs. Wizard Man represents the grittier, bluesy side of Procol Harum and as such is not bad at all. They stop it from being one of those rambling Blues rockers from, say, Broken Barricades by keeping it short and melodic; this song is only 2:40 in length which is quite enough of the Blues for these ears!

Mark Of The Claw is possibly my favourite track from Something Magic with its tasteful synthesiser solo. Strangers In Space is the most spacey song Procol Harum ever made and both of these songs will probably appeal to many people on this site even if they are not exceptional by any means. I can understand if some Procol Harum fans don't recognize their favourite band as some of the stuff on this album is quite different from what we are used to from the band.

The Worm & The Tree is clearly modelled on the earlier In Held 'Twas In I. There is some narration telling a rather silly story of a worm and a tree between musical interludes. This long track is enjoyable, but hardly great. But then again I have never been that impressed with In Held 'Twas In I either, so fans of that song will probably like this one too.

I have never been a big fan of Procol Harum and I would not say that they are an essential band for the Prog fan to explore, but Something Magic is a worthy addition to any Prog collection together with Grand Hotel and the band's first two albums.

Good, but not essential

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There seems to be a major disagreement concerning this album's status between the reviews of collaborators/experts and regular members. Allow me to, once and for all, set the record straight here! Granted that I've never considered myself a huge Procol Harum fan I still have to give credit where credit is deserved and this is definitely the case with Something Magic.

In preparation for my two previous Procol Harum reviews I became interested in hearing how the band developed after their tremendous success in the '60s. So I logged into my Spotify account and began going through some of their albums from 'the 70s. I commenced my journey by listening through Broken Barricades followed by the highly regarded Grand Hotel. To tell you the truth those albums left me completely cold and I was just about to quit my little experiment when I noticed that Southsideofthesky just posted a highly relevant review of Something Magic. The review intrigued me tremendously when I read that the album featured a suite titled The Worm & The Tree which was modelled after the classic In Held 'Twas In I from the wonderful album called Shine On Brightly. Since the choice of streaming this album was only one click away I didn't even have to hesitate before the first seconds of the title track came pouring out of my speakers.

This opening composition was miles ahead of the two featured on Broken Barricades and Grand Hotel. What a pleasant playfulness combined with superb melody and the Art-Rock undertones. All these distinct features elevate this title-track to the level that I haven't experienced since A Salty Dog!

The rest of the album might not be as up-beat and energetic but it features a solid set of symphonic ballads like Skating On Thin Ice and Strangers In Space. All these symphonic compositions give the album highly appropriate moody undertones which remind me of the album XII by Barclay James Harvest which coincidentally also was a transition album for that band with the departure of Woolly Wolstenholme. Procol Harum might have gone even further by disbanding completely after this release due to stagnation of their popularity in the late '70s but this album serves as a wonderful swan song after a series of incomplete releases.

The only slight miss for me here comes in the form of the cheerful Wizard Man which would probably have worked better as a stand alone single since it just sounds completely out of place when compared to the rest of this great material.

The 19 minute long centerpiece titled The Worm And The Tree might not be as spectacular as the band's previous effort in the category, with the narration passages that make the composition lose all the flow. Still the instrumental passages make it a worth a while effort and just like Supertramp's 16 minute title track off Brother Where You Bound the band gives the last really great performance which works great when it's put in that context.

Something Magic is a strong final album that should be enjoyed even by the less indulged Procol Harum followers although I strongly recommend hearing the marvelous Shine On Brightly before approaching it. As for the rating I feel that anything less than good but non-essential should be considered a crime and I will actually stretch it to an excellent addition due to the wide appreciation factor that this release entails.

***** star songs: Something Magic (3:37)

**** star songs: Skating On Thin Ice (4:49) The Mark Of The Claw (4:40) Strangers In Space (6:07) The Worm And The Tree (18:47)

*** star songs: Wizard Man (2:41)

Review by tarkus1980
2 stars Another lineup change occurred after Ninth, and while at a glance it may not seem that important (in other words, just another part of the revolving door), it betrays a good deal about the essence of the album and the band at this time. Alan Cartwright, who'd served as bassist starting on Hotel, departed (he probably could see the writing on the wall, lucky guy), and Copping moved away from his organist duties and became the full-time bassist once more. The band then brought in one Pete Solley, and in the process got rid of the Hammond Organ and replaced it with a Yamaha, as well as all sorts of generic synthesizers to augment the sound. Now, you may think that I'm about to say something along the lines of, "Solley's tasteless synths are a major downfall of the album," but that's actually not where I'm going with this. I mean, while I sorely lament the death of Procol Harum's "pure," "organic" keyboard interplay that came from the mix of the Hammond and Piano, Solley's synths are used fairly sparingly, and don't really affect the album one way or the other.

Yet while this move may not have a direct impact on the album, it is definitely symptomatic of the overall problem here: there is no surer sign of an art-rock band losing touch both with themselves and with the overall music scene than when they decide that the best way to become "artsy" again is to make the keyboards sound cheezier. After Ninth predictably failed to bring Procol Harum any newfound pop success or acclaim, one gets the impression that the members kinda flopped around looking for some new direction, and eventually compromised on getting artsy once more. Unfortunately, while there are certainly a few glimpses of solid inspiration, it is clear that, in this direction at least, Brooker's genius was gone (or going, at least).

It's quite telling, indeed, that the best song on here is Grabham's "The Mark of the Claw," based around a terrific heavy riff and with a neat repeated start-stop coda. There are some cheezy synth solos within, but there's also a terrific guitar solo near the end, so I'm willing to forgive it. The Brooker compositions, though, are, um, uneven at best. One of them, "Wizard Man," doesn't fit in whatsoever, as it's just a verrrrry average happy pop song amidst a sea of slow melancholy. The opening title track makes a vague attempt to revisit the glory of "classic" Procol, but it falls flat on its face; there's none of the usual genius to be found here, only a hope that the listener will fall for it because it resembles something classical, even though it just presents the band as a lame, mannerist parody of itself.

The other two songs on side one aren't brilliant either, but they do manage to stand out quite well, if only because there's a good chunk of really sad, really powerful resonance within each. "Skating on Thin Ice" is quite nostalgic in tone, but it's not an annoying kind of nostalgia - on the contrary, it shows the band as very very sad that whatever bit of respect and love they might have been able to command at one time with their brand of music had long since dissipated, and without a real understanding of why that had to be so. "Strangers in Space" is similarly sad, but also has the added effect of conveying a real feeling of floating in the middle of space, knowing you're not going to find anybody ever again, all the while feeling somewhat numb emotionwise and yet also quite depressed about where circumstances had led them. In terms of pure musical worth, these songs may not amount to much in the PH catalogue, yet within their context, they're quite powerful - they're like reading the diary entries of somebody who knows he/she is going to die within a very short time, and spends time lamenting over time lost and opportunities wasted.

Unfortunately, much of the currency this album gains with me with the good tracks on side one is lost on side two. Yes, Procol Harum decided it was time for one more stab at epic bombast, and while I've never been that much of a fan of "In Held Twas in I," it's a friggin' masterpiece compared to "The Worm and the Tree." Parts of the music are ok, sure, but as a whole, this eighteen minute monster is just AWFUL. The lyrics are done in fable form, and remind me of something Neil Peart might have written on an average day in the mid-to- late-70's. To make things worse, the lyrics aren't sung, but rather spoken at various parts, and I just can't help but cringe the whole time. By the time the very end comes, with the expected big bombastic ending, my eyes have rolled so far into the back of my head that I can see my brain stem.

In short, the first side is mildly entertaining overall (a solid ***) to me, but the second side is terrible (a * if there ever was one). Average it out, and you have maddening mediocrity, as well as my regret that the band that could not put out a bad album for so very long stuck around long enough to put out something as mediocre as this. The band broke up soon after touring this album, perhaps not wishing to sully their name anymore, yet left their fans a solid legacy to enjoy for as long as they so wished.

Review by Guillermo
2 stars I really don`t know but maybe by 1977 the members of PROCOL HARUM were tired of being ten years recording albums and of being on tour. Maybe this album was only a "contractual obligation" to finish the contract with the record label, and it is similar in some ways to ELP`s "Love Beach" album from 1978, which was clearly a "contractual obligation album" after which the band finally split for several years. But if "Love Beach" showed some shorter songs more oriented to Pop Rock than to Prog Rock (plus a long "Suite" in the side two of the LP, like this album), in this album PROCOL HARUM still tried to show some Prog Rock songs, some of which really sound as previous reviewers mentioned: pretentious, bombastic, pompous, etc. As a whole the album is not so bad, but it really shows signs of being recorded while being tired.

For this album, there were some "new" things. First, bassist Alan Cartwright left the band, so Chris Copping returned to play the bass, and new member Peter Solley added synthesizers to the sound of the band and used a Farfisa organ instead of a Hammond organ. The Hammond organ became very identified with the "old" sound of the band, so its absence made the sound of the band change a bit. There are also some orchestral arrangements, well done, but a bit pompous. Also, the album was recorded in Miami with the Albert Brothers doing the production job (a production team which at the time was producing albums by the BEE GEES and other similar bands from the Disco Fad). I even read an interview done with Gary Brooker some years later saying that the Albert Brothers did not like the songs very much but anyway they worked with the band in Miami. Even Brooker had some doubts about the quality of the songs then! But maybe the record label wanted a "new" PROCOL HARUM sound so they suggested to the band to work with those producers. I think that the combination finally did not work very well.

So, this album sounds "uninspired", even if the band still sounds well, as the songs are very well played, arranged and produced. But maybe Brooker and Reid were looking for a "way out" for the career of the band, at least for some years. So they agreed to work with those producers and to make a "polished" and a more "late seventies modern album" to finish the recording contract. The band even toured in 1977, but without Chris Copping, who was replaced by Dee Murray, a bassist who worked a lot with Elton John`s band. PROCOL HARUM finally split by mid 1977.

The main "problem" in this album for many people is the long "Suite" called "The worm and the tree", which has the lyrics recited by Brooker instead of being sung. Musically, is not a bad song, but maybe the idea of reciting the lyrics was not very good after all.

Peter Solley (previously an ex-member and the main composer of the band PALADIN in the early seventies) is a very good keyboard player. Unfortunately his style maybe did not fit very well with the band`s style, but his playing is very good anyway.

Some reviewers mentioned Punk as a cause of Prog Rock`s lack of popularity in the late seventies. Well. In my opinion Punk was only another musical fad, but in this case, a musical fad which lacked a lot of quality in comparison to Prog Rock and even with Disco Music and New Wave music. Punk was a fad which did not last and in my opinion did not contribute with anything good to music, with some exceptions like THE CLASH. Like TREVOR RABIN said in one interview which was included in the DVD version of YES`s "9012Live " video, Punk was "rubbish". I agree with him.

This album as out of print for a lot of years since the late seventies. Maybe it did not sell many copies as the label wanted.

Review by GruvanDahlman
3 stars I have to admit that I have gone through a sort of mental transformation concerning this album. I really like Procol Harum and have enjoyed their previous albums but when I got to "Something magic" I suppose something had died. At least was that my impression when I bought an old vinyl copy of the album about ten years ago. I was eager to listen to i for two reasons:

1) I like Procol Harum. 2) An epic three piece suite that lasts for 19 minutes must be Heard.

Now, I couldn't have been more disappointed or rather indifferent to what I Heard. Side 1 was, well, boring. The epic covering the whole of side 2 was, well, pointless? I listened to the whole album a couple of times before it silently slipped back into the vinyl collection, doomed to never return.

But now I am older, somewhat wiser and time has proven to be a healer of many a things. I suppose that the mere existence of this album has haunted me over the years. Lingering on. Making itself known, like an old wound. I have revisited this wretch of an album and I have sincerely changed my mind. It's not all that bad. Really, it's not.

Firstly, is it a "tired" album by a bunch of aging, dying dinosaurs making Music in the eclipse of extinction? I have to say no. The do not sound tired at all. I think it's quite a focused album, though maybe not that well thought through. Yes, it was released in 1977 and I do think that other occurences than punk owe debt to alot of old prog bands going under. The public having grown tired of overblown pomp? Maybe. This album is a Little of both. It holds shorter, radio friendly tracks and one truly impossible but endearing track in the sidelong epic.

The album opens up nicely with orchestrated grandeur. The title track is really Procol Harum. Great instrumentation, great lyrics and an ambiance that is really powerful. A really good track, The second track is very much a "Hello, it's 1915" song. An oddity but nice enough. "Wizard man" is slightly late 70's country rock/pop. Not very progressive but a decent song.

After the opening trio of songs we head into hard rock territory on "The mark of the claw". This is really a fantastic piece of hard rock. Ominous and dark with a great riff and the synth solo is to die for. It hits me really hard. "Strangers in space" is Procol Harum going space rock without being too much out there. It is a spacious, Electric piano driven piece that really is decent. I think they manage to portray the infinite space of space (!) and the loneliness one (probably) would feel up there, all alone and needing a restroom real bad.

So far the album has shown some promise. Good tracks, varied in moods and textures. Decent enough. Having said that we head into the epic.

"The worm and the tree" is a suite in parts, totalling about 19 minutes. Yes, I can hear thousands of prog mouths watering but wait a minute. Something is a miss here and I'll tell you what it is. Gary Brooker had this poem by Keith Reid called "The worm and the tree". No, it is not the content of the poem that's the problem. I like fairytale lyrics in prog. Why do you think I love early King Crimson? Gary Brooker chose to recite the poem over a musical background. Is it really that bad? No, it isn't. Would I have wished for him to sing the poem? Yes. ABsolutely. Is the epic now destroyed, torn into shreads of litter? No, it isn't.

If one just focuses on the music that makes up "The worm and the tree" there is nothing to complain about. It is really brilliant and multifacetted with a lot of great instrumentation. The narration itself, well nothing wrong but the track would have been a lot better if Brooker had sung it instead or maybe recited only parts and sung the rest. As it stands it is a narrative accompanied by music. So, how does it fare? My complaning aside it is a lot better than it's reputation. It is a great listen, actually. The well crafted music is too good to blame Procol Harum for just filling up the B-side of the album and really there are no fillers on "Something magic". I really enjoy "The worn and the tree", warts'n'all.

When I summarize my experience I think that this album is underrated and unjustly scorned. It holds some great tracks ("SOmething magic", "The mark of the claw" and "The worm and the tree") plus some okay ones. It is not an essential album for anyone, Procol Harum fan or not. But it is an endearing album full of warmth and effort that is really enjoyable.

I reward it with Three shining stars and a kiss of appreciation.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Something's Magic by Procol Harum marks a notable shift towards a more symphonic sound, with the band exploring new dimensions while staying true to their core identity. The album, as a whole, is a captivating journey through intricate compositions, showcasing their prowess in melding rock and orche ... (read more)

Report this review (#2954090) | Posted by Prog Network | Monday, September 25, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I continue my Procol Harum journey and for the first time after the live album am I absolutely content with what I hear. With this (unfortunatley last) record they took a big step towards a more pretentious progressive rock. That was perhaps not what their fans had expected, and by some strang ... (read more)

Report this review (#1092015) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Procol Harum's swan song "Something Magic" is definitely worth a listen, and easily gets a 4-star rating from me. There are some spectacular moments in here, but the album needed to be more thorough and consistent to get 5 stars, but otherwise the arrangements are more or less all excellent. The alb ... (read more)

Report this review (#1005305) | Posted by Xonty | Thursday, July 25, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is my favorite Procol album (don't shoot me!), as it seems, to my ears, to be the most coherent album since the Trower-era and certainly the most creative one since "Grand Hotel"! Opening with one of the most bombastic orchestral licks I've ever heard on a 'rock' album, with some incredible ... (read more)

Report this review (#479978) | Posted by Zombywoof | Sunday, July 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Something Magic might be the best album Procol Harum ever did. The feeling in the musical performance as well as the passion in Gary Brooker's voice is probably embodied most intensely in this their tenth recording. The absolutely beautiful title track which opens the album sets the grand melanc ... (read more)

Report this review (#186858) | Posted by jarild | Saturday, October 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Procol Harum is not certainly esteemed at its just value because too much underestimated. This album, far from being completed, is nevertheless pleasant to listen to. The first side of the album (a vinyl) offers five titles a little bit "easy". The second side is magnificent: a sort of opera i ... (read more)

Report this review (#45432) | Posted by miedj | Sunday, September 4, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This was my first PH's album. I have to say that is is greatly underrated and underestimated by both critiques and fans. The former mostly complain on the "The Worm and the Tree", because of Brooker's speaking instead of singing... I must say they understand nothing! Guys, listen to music first! ... (read more)

Report this review (#30789) | Posted by | Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is one of Procol Harum's most progressive and interesting albums, and likely to please most fans of symphonic progressive rock. The overall mood is a sort of a wintery melancholy. accentuated by baroque organ and romantic piano parts. The songs are well- constructed and arranged with taste ... (read more)

Report this review (#30788) | Posted by | Wednesday, August 18, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have to disagree completely with the other reviewer. This is a very good album from a veteral Art Rock band, and as late as 1977 they seemed to show no interest in the current music scene. but so friggin' what?! Who cares about Punk or Disco? This a progressive review site, for God's sake. I ... (read more)

Report this review (#30787) | Posted by EMinkovitch | Tuesday, August 17, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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