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PROCOL HARUM

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Procol Harum picture
Procol Harum biography
Formed 1967 in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK - Disbanded in 1977 - Reformed in 1991 and still active as of 2017

PROCOL HARUM came out of the ashes from a band called the PARAMOUNTS that had its roots back in 59 (!!) and had split in early 66. Gary Brooker meet lyricist Keith Reid and began writing songs and by 1967, it became clear that they would need the help from their old colleagues from PARAMOUNTS days to form their new band to be called PROCOL HARUM. They developed a really new sound with two KB (piano for Brooker and Hammond organ for Fisher) and a guitarist extraordinaire called Robin Trower who was greatly influenced by JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE. They quickly became one of the precursor of progressive rock (along the MOODY BLUES and The NICE) and mixed in some classical influences (BACH in "Whiter Shade of Pale") and sold millions of singles but also albums.

They became the first band to build a multi-movement suite that lasted a whole side and this was in early 68 in their second album called "Shine on Brightly" and became a real influence for all progressive groups to come. By their fourth album "Home", the sound had evolved to an almost hard-rock but by the following one, the guitarist Robin Trower left for a long and successful solo career, leaving Brooker alone at the driving wheel. From their "Grand Hotel" album, the sound will be tamer but still explosive but all of the succeeding album would follow suit, the band still enjoyed many hit singles. Until they folded in 77, victim of the punk wave. They sporadically reform around the Brooker-Reid duo and Fisher to record a new album and small tour, the most recent being in 2003.

PROCOL HARUM is highly recommended for all the progheads who are interested in the birth of prog and its roots as well as its inventive use of an symphonic orchestra often used a real instrument in their music.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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PROCOL HARUM discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PROCOL HARUM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 330 ratings
Procol Harum [Aka: A Whiter Shade Of Pale]
1967
4.07 | 331 ratings
Shine On Brightly
1968
3.58 | 251 ratings
A Salty Dog
1969
3.55 | 169 ratings
Home
1970
3.35 | 150 ratings
Broken Barricades
1971
3.89 | 234 ratings
Grand Hotel
1973
3.41 | 131 ratings
Exotic Birds And Fruit
1974
2.82 | 103 ratings
Procol's Ninth
1975
3.00 | 117 ratings
Something Magic
1977
2.41 | 74 ratings
Prodigal Stranger
1991
3.04 | 84 ratings
The Well's On Fire
2003
3.26 | 49 ratings
Novum
2017

PROCOL HARUM Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.09 | 129 ratings
Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
1972
4.04 | 18 ratings
BBC Live in Concert
2000
3.89 | 9 ratings
One More Time
2003
4.06 | 26 ratings
In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra And Choir
2009

PROCOL HARUM Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.17 | 16 ratings
Live (DVD)
2002
4.13 | 19 ratings
Live at The Union Chapel
2004
4.73 | 22 ratings
In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra And Choir
2009

PROCOL HARUM Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
The Best of Procol Harum [Fly]
1971
3.02 | 10 ratings
The Best of Procol Harum [A&M]
1972
4.29 | 7 ratings
Rock Roots
1976
4.77 | 4 ratings
Procol Harum's greatest Hits Vol.1 (Pickwick)
1982
2.67 | 3 ratings
Portfolio
1988
3.04 | 10 ratings
Chrysalis Years 1973-1977
1989
3.07 | 5 ratings
The Definitive Collection
1992
3.44 | 6 ratings
Homburg & Other Hats: Procol Harum's Best
1995
4.11 | 47 ratings
Various Artists: The Long Goodbye
1995
3.09 | 4 ratings
Greatest Hits
1996
4.21 | 10 ratings
30th Anniversary Anthology
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
Halcyon Daze: The Best of Procol Harum
1997
3.05 | 2 ratings
Three Classic Albums
1998
4.67 | 6 ratings
Pandora's Box
1999
3.50 | 2 ratings
Procol Harum, The Best Of (Golden Times)
2001
4.00 | 4 ratings
Whiter Shade Of Pale
2001
3.75 | 4 ratings
Singles, A's and B's
2002
4.17 | 9 ratings
Classic Tracks and Rarities: An Anthology
2002
4.67 | 3 ratings
Procol Harum/Shine On Brightly
2002
4.08 | 6 ratings
First Four
2003
3.75 | 4 ratings
A Salty Dog / Home
2003
4.04 | 7 ratings
Secrets Of The Hive - The Best Of Procul Harum
2007
3.41 | 8 ratings
All This And More... - A 4-Disc Compendium
2009
4.00 | 1 ratings
Still There'll Be More - An Anthology 1967-2017
2018

PROCOL HARUM Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.69 | 16 ratings
A Whiter Shade Of Pale
1967
3.40 | 5 ratings
Quite Rightly So
1968
4.00 | 6 ratings
Homburg
1968
4.07 | 8 ratings
A Salty Dog
1969
4.04 | 9 ratings
Conquistador (live)
1972
3.00 | 2 ratings
Robert's Box
1973
3.33 | 3 ratings
Souvenir Of London
1973
3.50 | 4 ratings
Nothing But The Truth
1974
3.80 | 5 ratings
Pandora's Box
1975
3.00 | 1 ratings
Something Magic
1977
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Truth Won't Fade Away
1991
3.00 | 1 ratings
(You Can't) Turn Back the Page
1991
2.00 | 1 ratings
A Whiter Shade Of Pale - 40th Anniversary Edition
2007

PROCOL HARUM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Shine On Brightly by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.07 | 331 ratings

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Shine On Brightly
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Procol Harum may have been one of the most pretentious prog-related bands due to keyboards and compositonal style but that also helped them staying unique on top of having excellent vocalist, distinguishable bluesy-prog guitar played and having two keyboard players in teh band.

"Shine on Brightly" is rightfully considered to be the band's peak in the 60's due to an excellent fresh combination of pop/rock/prog. It is the last epic suite that provides many astonishing and jaw-dropping moments of gifted composers and players. Tasty guitar playing, ambitious music sections, perfect development of the entire composition and emotional end make the suite "In Held Twas in I" one of the most enigmatic and greatest suites of the late 60's. I've first heard the version by Transatlantic to search for the original version later. The original version sounds more authentic, while the cover is more technical!

Other highlights on the album is the melodic "Quite rightly so" with churning Hammond organ and the title track. This was maybe the artistic peak by the band as later efforts had repetitive elements and in the beginning of the 70's, the band sounded a bit dated.

You should start with this album to appreciate impact that the band made in the beginning of progressive rock.

 Broken Barricades by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.35 | 150 ratings

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Broken Barricades
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

4 stars Broken Barricades, the fifth album of Procol Harum is the one associated most with the playing of Robin Trower. Trower performs and sings on the psychedelic, Song For A Dreamer, a homage to Jimi Hendrix who died only a fortnight after Trower last saw him perform. Robin Trower is often compared to Jimi Hendrix but the comparison is a bit unfair because there can only be one Jimi Hendrix. Song For A Dreamer is a precursor of the style of guitar playing you get on the Trower's Bridge Of Sighs album where Trower strengthens the guitars by adding bass player/singer John Dewar. Song For A Dreamer has all the familiar progressive elements of choruses, guitars that come and go and time changes to some sublime drumming of BJ Wilson. Another hard rocker on the album is Memorial Drive, also sung by Trower, with some superb heavy guitar playing. The album is mixed with a couple of stunning Brooker ballads, Broken Barricades and Luskus Delph. Keith Reid lyrics are a little less literal from the death obsessed lyrics of the Home album but have a certain poetry that suits the album. Simple Sister, the album opener, is much like the rest of the album in featuring less of the usual organ on a Procol Harum album and slipping in the occasional moog synthesizer. It starts off with a heavy guitar riff, rising in pitch to Brooker's voice and more electric guitar until settling into some Boogie Woogie style piano.

Broken Barricades is a hidden gem. It's a shame that Robin Trower didn't continue with Procol Harum, but then we'd be missing out on some great Robin Trower solo albums. BJ Wilson shows here that he is one of the great drummers of his generation. Pity Procol Harum didn't have a stronger bass player. Then we might be comparing them with bands like The Who. After this Gary Brooker started working with orchestras which yielded mixed results. While he continued to improve as a song writer the band loses that hard edge that they had with this album.

 Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra by PROCOL HARUM album cover Live, 1972
4.09 | 129 ratings

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Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

5 stars It's an unusual start, listening to a rock concert where the first sounds you hear are an orchestra tuning up and the conductor tapping his baton to signal the start of the concert, but Procol Harum have pulled off an extraordinary performance with amazing little rehearsal time with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Of course, people will complain, where is their megahit Whiter Shade Of Pale? Procol Harum have a plethora of good songs in their repertoire they don't have to play Whiter Shade Of Pale at every concert. Second complaint. Where is the great Robin Trower? I guess for those attending this concert you might have felt a bit cheated. However, Dave Ball is a more than adequate replacement. He does all the same soloing here that Trower does.

Set aside these misgivings this is a perfect concert where the dynamics of the orchestra cross paths with the piano, organ and guitar of the band effortlessly. Conquistador begins with the violins and the Spanish sounds of the trumpets before we get to Gary Brooker's booming voice which comes over the top of the orchestra. Then piano and drums and Dave Ball gets his chance to play a guitar solo before the Hammond organ finish with flash of trumpets. A Salty Dog and Whaling Stories are presented here together. Two similar sounding folk ballads Whaling Stories is the more complex beginning with voices and some quiet electric lead then changing into an orchestral chorus of violin and brass before it builds again with piano and increasing intensity of drums before you get to some screeching electric guitar licks.

All This And More precedes the highlight of the concert which is Procol Harum's large scale epic In Held Twas In I. From the 1968 album Shine On Brightly Held Twas In I is the template for other epics to follow including Genesis's Suppers Ready. Transatlantic do a great cover of Held Twas In I. The song is a mystic Tibetan piece with spoken word, choir voices, church bells and organ. The main piano theme keeps returning amid the mad interruptions of applause, sirens and street noises. Electric guitar swaps with the piano theme before the orchestra returns for the grand finish with organ, drums, solo electric guitar playing and choir voices. If King Crimson hadn't invented progressive rock with the album, In The Court Of The Crimson King then it was Procol Harum who invented progressive rock with the song In Held Twas In I.

The bonus track of the album is Luskus Delph, a song off the group's 1971 album, Broken Barricades. Only a short piece it has a catchy piano riff running through it with organ and trumpets. Both orchestra and band are superb in this live concert. Barrie Wilson drum fills keep the concert moving at a hectic pace. My only complaint is that the concert is too short and I don't know which order the songs were played in, or which songs were left out. This was the age of vinyl so we have to be thankful for 45 minutes of music. Held Twas In I may not be in everybody's taste. At times it moves all over the place, but this was at a time when 7-10 minute songs were considered very long and Gary Brooker was treading new ground here in 1968 when he wrote it. By the time Brooker wrote Whaling Stories off the 1970 album, Home, he was a more mature composer.

 Something Magic by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.00 | 117 ratings

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Something Magic
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

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.

 (You Can't) Turn Back the Page by PROCOL HARUM album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1991
3.00 | 1 ratings

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(You Can't) Turn Back the Page
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars It was 14 years since their [in my opinion rather weak] 1977 farewell album Something Magic, when Procol Harum made a return to the music business. And it wasn't one of those comebacks in which the band's lead figure - in this case, vocalist-pianist- composer Gary Brooker - recruits a bunch of musicians who have hardly ever been involved with the band's past, no, this was a "real" comeback as a band. Lyricist Keith Reid was in, and so were organist Matthew Fisher and guitarist Robin Trower, both key figures in the Procol saga. Drummer B. J. Wilson died before the realization of this comeback. Expectations were probably high among the old fans. Sadly the comeback album The Prodigal Stranger is generally regarded as a disappointment: professionally done, but without particularily strong song material, not to speak of once-so-fascinating lyrics from Reid, now playing with worn-out clichés even on the titles such as 'One More Time' and 'You Can't Turn Back the Page'. But let's have a closer look at this CD single's three songs.

'(You Can't) Turn Back the Page' has a big production typical for the era, or rather the late 80's. The drums are loud and clinical- sounding, and there's a choir reminiscent of the one in the Foreigner hit 'I Want to Know What Love Is'. As a whole the arrangement is dynamic, ie. at the beginning and on other quieter moments Brooker's digital piano is on the front and Fisher's organ makes nice appearances too. The song itself is quite good AOR with emotion and good melodies, but a bit over-produced, after all.

'One More Time' is pure Foreigner-type AOR with a rockier approach compared to the single's title song. Those choirs are present again... :( The sound features the Procol trademark of piano & organ combination but the big, commercial production is all around. The electric guitar solo is OK. 'Perpetual Motion', together with the slow-tempo song 'The Pursuit of Happiness', was my favourite song on The Prodigal Stranger. Its powerful chorus is among the finest in the whole Procol catalogue, and the more delicate parts leave room for the beautifully soft organ sound. The lyrics have a reference to the song 'Grand Hotel', which 1973 album actually is a good comparison to 'Perpetual Motion'. Unlike the two other songs here, it's not over-produced in my opinion. Needless to say this single won't score high from the prog's point of view, but it's not bad at all as a pop product of its time.

 Novum by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.26 | 49 ratings

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Novum
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

4 stars Ok, not all the over 70 vocalists have the same extension they had when they were young. Brooker is not an exception, his voice is still recognisable and fits perfectly but nobody can expect high notes like on A Salty Dog to say one title.

Also, the songs are quite dated. It's like a fantastic album has been recorded and put into a time machine just to appear 50 years later then its time.

You know what? I LIKE IT!

It's an excellent album. The sound quality is at today's level and doesn't sound too "vintage". Of course the songwriting is not evolved, but whoever likes the classic Procol Harum will not be disappointed by this "Novum" album. There's plenty of melodies, very British I'd say, with songs like "Can't Say That" which seems to come from the Blues revival years.

In the end it's like it was a lost album and I think that Procol Harum have done the best possible thing: instead of trying to be "actual" and renewing their songwriting they have done exactly what a fan wants: be themselves, even if it's everything but a reunion of the original members. Only Brooker is survived from the first album's lineup 51 years ago.

But this is a proper Procol Harum album. Fit for purpose. You won't find a new Whiter Shade Of Pale inside, but the whole album is very consistent. Not many peaks but absoutely no lowlights. In my opinion it deserves not less than 4 PA stars.

 Novum by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.26 | 49 ratings

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Novum
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by FunkyM

3 stars I saw Procol Harum play live two years ago, but it was a set of older material, so I had no idea what to expect out of their first album of new material in 14 years.

Gary Brooker is back, of course. Brooker has been the singer, pianist, and main songwriter for the group over the course its 50 year history. There has been some discussion in reviews online that Brooker's voice is not what it used to be and that may be true; the man is 72 years old, after all ? but it must be said that for a 72 year old man, his voice sounds pretty good.

For those expecting a glorious orgy of organ music, you will be disappointed. Novum has a more modern sheen to it. The style of music here is, for the most part, pretty straight forward rock 'n roll with Brooker's piano at the forefront.

I did find a few tracks in the early half of the album, such as "Last Chance Motel" and "Don't Get Caught" to be a bit pedestrian, but the song writing is solid enough throughout the album to keep things from getting too dull. A couple of tracks do try a more ballady style with Brooker crooning at his piano. Of these, "The Only One" stands out. "Sunday Morning" is also pretty strong, occasionally echoing old school Harum.

Overall, Novum delivers a solid set. The album is not one that I see myself revisiting often, but I would not classify it as a disappointment per se.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the beautiful cover art, credited to Julia Brown Illustration. One of the finest album covers I've seen this year.

Highlights: "Image of the Beast", "Neighbour", "Sunday Morning", "Businessman", "Can't Say That", "The Only One"

 Novum by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.26 | 49 ratings

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Novum
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by The Jester

3 stars Review # 54. Is there anyone who was expecting Procol Harum to release their 17th studio album, after a long 50-year-old career, in order to form an opinion about them? I hope not! I must admit that this new release caught me by surprise, as I wasn't expecting anything like that. I know that the band is active, performing a few live gigs every year, but that was all. So, I was really happy and excited when I learned about this album of theirs. Before anything else, I should mention that I consider myself as a "fan" of Procol Harum. I grew up with their music, I have all their albums in my collection and never got bored of them. They had many ups and downs of course, like any other band, but Gary Brooker's warm and unique voice was always there to befriend me in my melancholic and dark times. Let's take a look at Novum now: The production of the album is excellent (as expected), the musicians that are participating are very experienced, and the overall outcome is satisfying to my ears. (But as I wrote above, I'm not the average listener of PH). So, further than Gary Brooker, here we have some very good musicians, such as: Matt Pegg (Jethro Tull / Fairport Convention) on bass, Geoff Dunn (Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Van Morrison, Jimmy Page) on drums, Geoff Whitehorn ( Kevin Ayers, Bad Company, Roger Waters, Paul Rodgers, Roger Daltrey and others) on guitar and Joss Phillips (The Who, Diamond Head, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Pete Townsend and others) on keyboards. Procol Harum's "trade marks" always have been Gary Brooker's warm and unique voice, the extended use of organ, and the influences from the great classical composers, such as Bach and Handel for example. Unfortunately the organ and the classical influences have been reduced a lot, having the piano as the leading and dominant instrument, accompanied by some really good guitar passages and riffs. As for Gary Brooker's voice, it is definitely not what it used to be, but it is not bad at all, considering that he is almost 72 years old. The album includes 11 tracks, and has a total running time of almost 55 minutes. There are some songs in a more "Rock" style, such as, I told on you (the album's opening song), or Image of the Beast for example. But there are some others, where you can hear something from the magic of the good old Procol Harum, such as, Sunday Morning or The Only One. In my opinion, you should listen to the album a few times before you form up an opinion. Let yourself "sunk" in the melancholy and the beauty of some of its songs, and then decide. Concluding this, I want to say that Novum in not a bad album, but not a masterpiece as well. It is a well structured album, including some fine and nostalgic moments. Definitely recommended for the fans of Procol Harum, but not only them. Every fan of Rock or Progressive Rock music will find some songs that he/she will like. I will try to be objective here, and give 3 stars
 Novum by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.26 | 49 ratings

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Novum
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

3 stars I had some reservations about listening to this new Procol Harum album as I had heard that Gary Brooker's voice was deteriorating over the last few years. At 72 year's old, it has. And that creates a dilemma as Brooker's voice was also Procol's sixth instrument which he used, generally, while singing with a lack of diction along with a pitch shifting change from one of the lyric's syllables to the next.

To compensate, this latest incarnation of Procol Harum have ramped up their playing as they were always a bit measured and reserved in the past. Guitarist Geoff Whitehorn really shines as he is able to jump from Richie Blackmore like riffing to Eddie Van Halen like flourish's. New organist/synth player Josh Phillips stays away from the old Procol sound of Bach or Handel flourishes and is more in a supporting role. Bassist Matt Pegg and new drummer Geoff Dunn really click and set off some driving rhythms in the harder rocking songs like "I Told On You", "Business Man" and especially on "You Can't Say That". Great songs, by the way.

However, Brooker struggles with the ballads on the album, as his voice can just barely cover the range of this material and generally sounds scratchy. The exception being the stellar "I Am The Only One", one of those magically emotive Procol songs that would even sound good if it was sung by Tom Waits.

Long time lyricist Keith Reid is oddly missing on this outing, but former Cream lyricist Pete Brown has stepped in and, naturally, fits right in with Procol's music. The production on this album is top notch and sounds quite warm, almost analog, and dynamic. The key to Novum is if one can accept Brooker's aging vocals and enjoy the music for what it is, or dismiss the album out of hand. I'm on the fence at the moment, but I suspect I'll fall off after a few more listens. I feel that 3 stars is suitable for the band's effort to deliver something of value fifty yeas after recording their first album. They have really played to their strengths this time around and that in itself is refreshing, even if Brooker's voice is not. I must say that I find it amusing that many have picked this album in which to reacquaint themselves with Procol Harum instead of the much better This Well's On Fire previously released way back in 1203, but that's always par for the course.

 Procol Harum [Aka: A Whiter Shade Of Pale] by PROCOL HARUM album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.92 | 330 ratings

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Procol Harum [Aka: A Whiter Shade Of Pale]
Procol Harum Crossover Prog

Review by SteveG

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 entire UK mono debut album and, of course, the bonus smash single release of A Whiter Shade Of Pale and follow up hit Hamburg, along with various album track stereo mixes, alternate takes and bonus B sides. A Whiter Shade Of Pale is recorded in much the same vein as is the follow up album. The bass being muddier and less defined than the album tracks, with Hamburg sounding more detailed than both, but not showing them up to any degree. Which works well for continuity and long, long listening.

What's sets AWSoP apart from the album, aside from it's being involved in one of the costliest legal battles over the music authorship (with organist Mathew Fisher awarded a 40% songwriting credit for his musical contribution in the 2005 (!) court case against cowriter pianist Gary Brooker) is the fact that the song was recorded with session drummer and Georgie Fame band member Bill Eyden, who also sued Procol for a sales royalty percentage in 1868!

But Eyden's contribution to prog is more than monetary. His metronomic percussion work would become the standard barer for prog drumming styles in a few short years. Full time drummer BJ Wison, who was recorded on the entire eponymous debut album and replaced the drum parts on the hit Hamburg, would go on to forge his own idiosyncratic style which was both precise and flamboyant. The result? A melding of both styles would become a prog style in itself. Now that's a lot to say about just one song on this double CD, but it is one of the greatest selling hit records of all time and remains a standard after many others have fallen out of consciousness.

AWSoP can be said to be the blueprint for the album proper with it's Bach inspired polyphony, descending bass line and surrealistic lyrics. Lyrics from a person who only wrote lyrics for a rock band. A first at the time. And, despite it's timeframe, these lyrics do not drip of lysergic excess, like the meanderings of the Beatles' I Am The Walrus. Keith Reid's lyrics were Salvador Dali-like expressions in words mixed with the stark introspection of Bob Dylan, and are quite beyond their time. Throw in a stellar blues guitarist like Robin Trower, and a solid as a rock bassist like David Knights, and you've got quite a potent proto prog stew bubbling up with all kinds of wonderful flavors.

The album's leadoff track Conquistador, a reworked hit with orchestra accompaniment in 1972, is notable for it's absence of the familiar orchestral backing, but the original version is given a healthy boast with a memorable organ solo from Fisher. Gary Brooker's vocals are not quite as strongly developed at this stage, but his emotional delivery is paramount to the success of every song that warrants it, and he delivers admirably.

She Wondered Trough The Garden Fence is still as joyous and ridiculous as ever, with the band quickly getting into a groove that would wind it's way though the entire album. Something Following Me is Reid's first lyrical ponderings on the eventuality of death and is in stark contrast to the mostly upbeat, albeit regal, musings of the rest of the album's songs. Especially when contrasted against the two silly music hall throwaways Mabel and Good Captain Clack. But the Bach inspired frenzy continues with the songs Cedes (Outside The Gates Of), Kaleidoscope, the only song have dated lyrics, Salad Days (Are Here Again), and the album's magnificent instrumental closer Repent Walpurgis. Repent Walpurgis is a Mathew Fisher penned tour de force that features the angry lead guitar of Robin Trower trying to claw it's way out of a cage of swirling organ and piano runs and never quite succeeds. But it's the spirit of that fight which sends the song over the edge and into it's grand crescendo, and finally a release from the intense musical drama.

The Esoteric Special Edition also features an earlier extended run through of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, with a drummer that is probably the quickly departed Bobby Harrison, as he lacks the precision and drama of both Eyden and Wilson, along with the previously mentioned alternate and stereo mixes. An early instrumental version of the 1975 UK hit Pandora'a Box is also featured and works well on it's own terms, as it's an eerie gothic piece that is pure ear candy.

So there you have it. One of the cornerstones of prog rock that, despite it's modest recording techniques and mono sound, remains remarkably undated when compared to other proto prog albums of it's era. And did I mention that it's a damn good listen? 5 stars. Absolutely essential.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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