Roland and Jens, the Anglo/Norse team who run 'Beyond the Pale', would just like to take this quick opportunity to wish all the site-visitors a Happy New Year!
On record 2004 has been a brilliant year for Procol Harum fans, with the release of the 'Union Chapel' DVD showing the band's most stable-ever line-up in a fantastic, varied concert ... with some hard-core fans in camera too. The concert has had some good air-time ... in a few hours' time it will even be replacing the scheduled Country Music Awards show on Norwegian TV! We've also enjoyed the Friday Music re-masters, and hope the forthcoming titles will sound as good as that freshly-released Blue Danube did.
A Whiter Shade of Pale continued to receive accolades, not least when it was declared to have been the most-played record of the last seventy years, and when it topped the BBC Radio 2 song poll.
Line-up uncertainties and flaky promoters haven't made for a vintage live year on the Procol front – though let's not forget that a few years ago any Procol gigs were received like treasure! But it has been a superb year for fans of Gary Brooker's 'other' activities, from January's monster show in Guildford to the Christmas gigs in December, which were attended by a good number of overseas visitors, and distinguished by a lovely Christmas lunch with the musicians.
May saw the release of a second 2CD album of Brooker / Fisher / Trower / Reid songs, recorded by amazingly talented fans worldwide and beautifully illustrated by Gerry Guthrie. From Shadow to Shadow has been brilliantly received (read Gary's comments here: 'stuffed with gems' is the key point). Funds from the sales of these excellent albums are what keeps the website online, and at the time of writing there are fewer than three dozen copies remaining: so order now if you ever intend to get it!
We listen hard to what BtP readers say, and following some adverse comments we have removed the 'pop-under' adverts that were associated with some of our most popular pages. The loss of advertising revenue is something we can live with if people will keep buying the Palers' Project CDs and using the 'Donation' button at the What's New page (many thanks to those who have done so!); we also encourage you to use the links on that page to enter Amazon if you are buying anything there: it doesn't cost you a cent, but BtP gets a little commission. (Speaking of that page, look out for some cosmetic adjustments to the top level of the site before too long. When the webmasters get together at gigs it's not all music and drinking: planning goes on too!)
Another exciting fund-raising manoeuvre was Gary's initiative to sell some of the Grand Hotel artwork via eBay, splitting the income between BtP and his BJ Wilson Memorial Fund. Three pictures (here, here and here) have already made unique Christmas presents for three lucky fans; we haven't got the whole Grand Hotel set, but we can reveal that there will be another sale some time in the new year!
We've been sending out a number of 'Fresh Fruit' newsletters this year, mostly associated with the spate of new gigs that has been announced for the New Year. (In this connection, it was very pleasing to get our 2,000th subscriber in the closing minutes of 2004 ... welcome, Torgrim!). Of course, we are planning to organise some nice socialising when fans gather for Procol's London showcase gig in March ... keep tuning in to 'Beyond the Pale', as always, for your daily fix of Procol information. It's a particular pleasure at these events to meet, face-to-face, fans from so many nations, who have previously been only known to each other by their online 'handles'.
Of course it has been a ghastly year on the world news front and it's been heartening to hear that so many music fans have responded directly to the various relief appeals, especially following the tsunami disaster this Christmas. Music is still the closest we're ever likely to get to a world language, and since our e-communications put us at a unique position in human history, it's nice to feel that fans untouched by the particular calamities can do their bit to help. Right now BtP challenges all of you Palers out there – who are economically able – to give a CD's-worth of money to the rescue work in Asia. Please support an organisation in your area that you trust, or you can use the link provided on our What's New page.
So here's hoping that things will look a lot brighter all round the world in 2005, and wishing a Happy New Year once more to all Procol Harum's musicians, administrators, and fans!
Jens + Roland