Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Ears 'oping the record's good

Keith Ashwell, Edmonton Journal, Friday 19 November 1971


Well, now I really have to buy the record if only to ascertain whether I really enjoyed what I heard.

First verdict; Procol Harum gave strident hints of inventive, disciplined musicianship.

The group is exceedingly virtuous about old-fashioned memorable melody and never shy about paying its dues to the serious music heritage.

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, for a happy change, was made to work for its pop popularity with scoring that was rhythmically interesting and accompaniments that were not just note-for-note note accompaniments.

Second verdict: the internal bombardment the auditorium suffered was nothing to what is still exploding in my ears.

Sitting at the front of the first balcony I did not hear five consecutive words by Gary Brooker, not could I discern five consecutively clean bars of music from the orchestra.

The da Camera singers, though also distorted by the sheer power of the amplification, came through as lofty and confident in their high notes and stolid at the bottom of the stave.

Postscript: my pose as classicist was pointless. I was labelled the minute I joined the madding crowd last night over-dressed and over-aged, an obvious interloper.

One of Brooker's most evocative compositions was Whaling Stories, which after a pretty enough beginning suddenly yielded an ominous eight-note passacaglia with the fifth and sixth notes deforming the structure in a remarkable way.

Though there was little development here what followed a sea storm and then a tender daybreak announced by piccolo, flute and clarinet was interesting.

In All This and More there was sufficient lack of volume to hear the 'cellos nicely doubling Brooker's left hand and to appreciate his sturdy pianism. There was also a delightful descant to the work's 'chorale'.

Simple Sister stuck in the mind for the way Brooker syncopated his words against some fascinating pairs of chords on the piano and the positively up-tempo work of the 'cellos. Their scoring later passed the violins but they didn't have nearly as much of a ball, and when the orchestra was finally in full flight only the blowing and bowing said so. Procol Harum controlled the surge.

The grandly mellow Salty Dog had a beautiful early key transposition and I kept getting pleasant feelings about this song until BJ Wilson savaged my mood with his taut but crashing drumming.

What I am informed is a rock cantata In Held 'Twas in I was indeed a tone poem of large and loud proportions.

If the elements of paradise lost and gained were to be sensed in it so too was the awful imagination of Bosch in a middle section overflowing with clamorous and ingenious figures.

There was a passage of damnable discords from the ESO brass and the organ, played by Chris Copping, which I could listen to many times over. And I am sure on the record the later comfort of the rich diapason from Copping's instrument will lead to a more emotional ending to a fine piece.

It is said that Toscanini could never appreciate recorded music until the RCA engineers had multiplied his speaker amplification four times. Certainly Lawrence Leonard, in the thick of the sound, had a joyful evening.

He could never be accused of just waggling his stick.. Why should he? He had extremely talented musicians both in front and behind him. And some excellent singers.

As noise goes it was all magnificent, I still would like to actually appreciate the music.


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