Procol Harum must be one of the quietest groups around, especially considering their achievements in the rock field, which range from a début single that sold four million (and still sells) to a 17 minute cantata, In Held 'Twas In I which they performed with the Toronto Symphony orchestra at Canada's Stratford Shakespearean Festival (before it was trendy for rock groups to team up for these gigs).
Procol Harum -- left to right: Barrie Wilson, Chris Copping , Gary Brooker, Keith Reid, Robin Trower
So the quiet Procols plow on. They do a tour a year, perhaps and put out an album a year, which Gary Brooker, pianist, singer and composer, points out sells around 30,000 more than the previous album. A&M, their record company, states that each Procol Harum LP sells over 100,000.
The latest Procol album is Broken Barricades which A&M also lyrically describe as "speaking in the universal language of youth." Keith Reid, one of Procol's brains and the lyric writer, says it's "erotic in lyrical content, to do with sex but not dirty." A&M announced it as "hard rock and roll" but Gary Brooker says it's "not rock really but the mood of the album is more progressive."
Gary and Keith use more instruments on Broken Barricades than on the previous Procol issue, Home.
Said Keith: " Home was cut after the traumatic experience of Matthew Fisher leaving the group. It was important then to establish that this was the new group. So we kept it simple and played what we would play on stage live." Fisher was a Procol original [sic], from the Whiter Shade of Pale days.
Commented Gary: "Matthew was really more of a technician - he was never very happy going around playing places, all the touring because what he really liked was being in the studio, producing or engineering. I really liked the group when Matthew and Dave Knights were in it but I'm happier with this one. It's terrible to do tours with somebody that you know is hating it all."
Broken Barricades took about three to four weeks to complete, with a lot of working out in the studio - although this isn't always the case with Procol. There were about 35 sessions in all, mostly mixing. Procol Harum did a radio show this time in America, and, asked the inevitable question about the bootleg album off the show (ideal recording conditions) Gary said:
"We'd be very honored if someone brought out a bootleg of us."
Thanks to Joan May, who comments: that radio show is probably the great WPLJ from 12 April 1971, most of which I hope will be released on CD with state-of-the-art sound, perhaps as bonus tracks to a Broken Barricades reissue.
More reviews of the Broken Barricades album