Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Exotic Birds and Fruit

Contemporary album review


Ray Telford in Sounds, 27 April 1974

Grand Hotel, the last Procol album which I considered to be the best British record of last year, is now followed by this new epic which nearly, but not quite, measures up to the devastatingly high standards set by its predecessor. Granted, the concept of Exotic Birds is a long way removed from what was happening on Grand Hotel this sees Procol stripped down to basics, no strings or echoey horn arrangements. Instead the group work through the nine titles under their own steam entirely and it is nice to see them back playing an album of songs with nothing in particular to connect them in the same way Hotel or Broken Barricades had before it. Moods sift [sic] and change with Gary Brooker displaying his unique vocal mastery on everything he gets behind. Nothing but the Truth, which has been taken as a single, opens side one and sets a stomping up-tempo mood which is given space by Chris Copping's climbing organ chords and Brooker's thunderous grand piano. Vocally, too, it is Brooker's best performance on the album. I have always considered him to be a soul singer, albeit a soul singer with a peculiar English twist, but it is soul nevertheless. No other word suits him better. For guitarist Mick Grabham this is his first full involvement, recordingwise, within Procol and his heavy, dreamy licks add a selling quality to songs like Strong and Samson while on the titanically-constructed Butterfly Boys he turns in one of the best electric guitar solos I've heard in a long time. Best forget any notions you may have had that Procol are somehow lagging behind. They've been around longer than most and maybe they don't quite raise the surface excitement level as much as some newer, flashier other bands do but if you have a mind to buy this album you'll find something to think about. Procol Harum are very much alive and kicking.


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