The December, January and February leading up to the March 2003 release of The Well's on Fire saw a variety of pre-release clips aired on the pages of 'Beyond the Pale', thanks to Eagle Rock, Procol's record label.
These clips, from six very varied songs, gave us a good chance to hear how the New Millennium Procol is presenting itself, and they straddled the genres from the classic-hymnal-PH to the less mellow R'n'B side of their collective genius. To people who have not heard Brooker, Fisher, Whitehorn, Pegg and Brzezicki in 'No Stiletto Shoes' mode (video clips here) – presumably large numbers of fans beyond the Atlantic in particular – the contrasts on the album may come as something of a surprise, and they will probably promote some comments along the lines of '21st Century Schizoid Band'.
The following brief reviews of the song-clips, sent to BtP from Scotland by Charlie Allison, will surely do something to prepare the ground for people who perhaps didn't choose to download them: it may also be a good moment to re-read the interesting comments by Richard Beck, written when recording of the album had only just begun.
Here are my impressions from the briefest clips of The Well's On Fire – it's hard to judge a whole track from a one-minute snatch, even when replayed over and over to the point of familiarity. I hope the album lives up to the "build-up" – I think having these few glimpses of the songs will make assimilating the CD easier when we get it.
OLD ENGLISH DREAM
We have heard this in its entirety from the summer of last year, but in this recorded version we hear the final minute, where Geoff is to the fore over the last chorus and plays prominently to draw it to a conclusion.
Up tempo, great drive from Geoff and Mark. Very Ian Dury, this one – even to the hint of a Cockney accent at times – "Instant Karma, Dalai Lama" – and other short rhyming phrases. I liked Geoff's wobbling ascending guitar played across Matthew's organ, just prior to the fade – wonder where it goes next. After ten hearings, I think it's great! "Watch that sound!" says Gary, loving it!
THE BLINK OF AN EYE
A chugging rhythm, nicely punctuated by Mark. Some synths, or are they strings? Gary sounding measured, sad and American! In the true tradition of PH, there are some indistinct phrases (What blocks out the sun? Sounds like a bomb outrage, presumably relating to the Twin Towers) "All the people could do was run". Closes with Matthew reprising the AWSoP sound for the nth time – playing the song's melody on the faithful Hammond.
THE VIP ROOM
Gary bluesy, trading phrases with Geoff. "Yes I do" "Me oh my" "Lord, Help me Out". "If I gonna die, want to die in that VIP room" "If I'm gonna choke, got to be on a silver spoon" "Gotta be on the velvet rope" Condemned cell? House of pleasure? Think this will grow on me.
THIS WORLD IS RICH (for Stephen Maboe)
Very United Nations/African feel to the lyrics and music ambience. A close cousin or sister song of Holding On, with drums, organ, native choral sounds, some great quietly-atmospheric Geoff. The clip fades – is this the end of the song?
WEISSELKLENZENACHT (THE SIGNATURE)
Majestic Matthew instrumental, with churchy figures (perhaps from Bach again?) Explosive entry of Geoff, playing something akin to the Trumpet Voluntary, with tambourines and shakers behind. Will be interested to hear how it develops and ends – a long fade-out or a resolved mega-finish?
Thanks, Charlie: not long until we all find out the answers to some of these questions!