Procol Harum

the Pale

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Marc Almond's 'A Salty Dog'

Sam Cameron

The Almond Dog occurs on the 1997 compilation album, A Virgin's Tale, on the Disky label. The source was a 7-track 12" in 1986 called A Woman's Story (Glow 212), which was planned as a larger project of songs about women (!) but the budget ran out. Budget collapse might explain the weedy arrangement of his Salty Dog. Its appearance on the disc is explained in the notes to A Virgin's Tale Vol.1(1992) as follows: 'I was never a great Procol Harum fan but that track was on a tape given to me by a friend in New York who used to make up compilations of stuff that I wouldn't necessarily listen to and this was on it.'

This version is listed as 4.34 on the CD although it appears to be about 4.25. The arrangement is of a somewhat 'chamber nature' as it sounds like harp, piano, 'cello and flute with definitely no drums, no Bosun's whistle and no seagulls.

The delivery is operatic in a Scott Walker kind of way. The words are sung continuously through, without even the verse breaks of the Brooker arrangement. The only break comes at 2.34 2.53 where the above instruments play the middle passage in the Brooker version. Pretty much the same passage occurs at 4.00 and the song is ended at 4.19 with an abrupt dramatic chord on the string instrument.

As for the words, I wonder where they were taken from? A few odd changes might make you think they were apathetically done from memory of the tape sent by a friend and yet the correct rendering of 'seventh seasick'd day' would tend to undermine this. There is no hint of mumbling at any point. The strange alterations are: in the second line: 'we're all afloat' instead of 'we've run afloat'. Then 'how many Junes since we made land' to 'how many Junes since we made love' which coincidentally was rendered as a quotation in a 1970s magazine appraisal of Procol Harum. This is followed by: 'the salty dog and a seaman's log, your witness in my own hand.'

Of all Procol songs, this is perhaps the one that Gary Brooker has been least inclined to alter the words in performance indeed I have only heard him get the order wrong and not make a significant word change {and the wrong order as in a very weary 1977 performance} so it is interesting to see these changes: and can the 'made love' be a Freudian slip or does it come from sheet music?

I have not heard the Sarah Brightman version or the one done by members of the band Wigwam with a female vocalist so can not extend this discussion further. So, is A Salty Dog the only Brooker-Reid song to have been sung by males, females and homosexuals?

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