Procol Harum could well be called the group that Britain forgot. Two years ago they had world-wide smash hit with A Whiter Shade of Pale and at the beginning of 1968 gained a second gold disc with Homburg.
But personnel changes hit the group and guitarist Robin Trower and drummer Barrie Wilson were brought in to replace the departing Ray Royer and Bobby Harrison, who left to form their own group, Freedom.
Management problems followed, and it seemed that the Procol Harum entered a wilderness after these unsettling events. But now they have left it after getting things sorted out during long spells in America.
One result was their excellent Shine On Brightly album released here in February this year, and now just released is A Salty Dog, the title track from their latest album to be issued here soon.
Like Shine on Brightly, the new album is a superb piece of mature pop music. Keith Reed has written imaginative, forceful lyrics which Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher and Robin Trower have set to melodic lines and great arrangements, as on A Salty Dog, Boredom, All This And More and Wreck Of The Hesperus.
Their personal appearances recently, at a free concert before 15,000 people, and at the Midnight Court, at the Strand Lyceum, have confirmed this.
It was just before the group went on stage at the Lyceum that Gary Brooker spoke to Melody Maker. How did he feel about the apparent ignoring of the group by the British music scene?
Not surprisingly he said, AI feel resentful about it. I feel sorry. I guess we weren't acceptable to what was hip or popular at the time.
The shame isn't on us. We produced what we thought were good albums but people didn't seem to dig them. They heard the first and second single, but they weren't concerned."
The group have found musical and financial success during their stay in America.
"Not through choice, though," points out Gary. "After our initial successes people would listen to us in America, but not here. We'd much rather work here. It's no fun living in a strange house."
Whether Procol Harum stay with us in Britain for any length of time will depend on how well the album and single are received.
"I've always looked on singles in Britain as important," states Gary. "I read that the Moody Blues were top of the chart with their LP and I've read that albums are the thing.
We've turned out two LPs that we think are both good pieces. This was proved by other people buying them in other countries but here they haven't been picked up.
The difference between singles and albums depends on the music you're dealing with. Somebody's better off buying an album with a single on it, but in some cases it's better just to get the single because that's all that would be good on the album."
Of the Salty Dog LP, Gary thinks it is not a progression so much as broadening of what the group has put down before.
"The music stays the same, it's just going out in branches. We've never been a group that has written topical things about riots and wars.
Everything influences us. We are away from home, so possibly things that we write become more English.
We have enough success to keep us happy. The purpose of it is to sustain what we're doing, to pay our way if we did have to stop. That's why we're happy about it."