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Procol Harum - Novum CD (album) cover

NOVUM

Procol Harum

 

Crossover Prog

3.26 | 49 ratings

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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.

SteveG | 3/5 |

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