Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Live in Edmonton

Contemporary album review


MICHAEL HOOKER in 'The Staff', Volume 1 #40, 9 15 June 1972

If ever in your rock listening you have felt dissatisfied with groups' live efforts to meld their essence with that of an orchestra, and the inevitable mishmosh [sic] of semi-rock semi-classical sounds so often produced by those efforts, then it is time for you to be revitalized by Procol Harum Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

To be sure, Procol Harum Live is not a true representation of the group's usual live sound. Instead, this album is the product of a somewhat experimental project designed to fit the sounds of an orchestra and choir (the Da Camera singers) around the rather stately, majestic music of Procol Harum, during a concert which was more than a little similar to a studio recording session complete with quadraphonic tapes, and retakes of songs whose first performance may have been somewhat shaky (as was the case with Whaling Stories, and the 19 minute, side-long In Held 'Twas In I).

Despite the varied musical dangers inherent in such a grand scheme, the resulting album is, surely, one of the best yet this year; and one of the most beautiful sounding works ever to have been recorded by anyone.

Beauty in rock is hard to come by, if one is seeking a beauty which keeps intact the essence of rock itself. All too often, one's strivings to record something of great beauty and depth lead to a record which sounds syrupy, overstructured and pretentious. The Bee Gees, Deep Purple and the Moody Blues all seem to have had visions of recording "beautiful" albums at one time or another; but the final work always seems to have fallen victim to the sin of overindulgence. Happily, Procol Harum Live avoids that pitfall; for, structured as the sound may be, the orchestra and choir sound as though they "belong" to the songs.

This leads to yet another point; that of the album's containing previously-recorded Procol Harum material. Whereas some other recordings by group and orchestra have featured quasi-classical rock interplays, designed specifically for that one performance, Procol Harum and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performed only material which had appeared on Procol's various studio albums.

And what material there is to be heard! If one is to count In Held 'Twas In I as one song there is a total of but five songs to the entire work. However, those five songs do represent the rather dark essence of Procol Harum, and do give quite adequate representation to the extraordinary intercomplementing of Keith Reid's poetry-lyrics and Gary Brooker's almost symphonically moody music.

On side one, there is the rocking, Spanish flavored Conquistador, conceived after a Keith Reid visit to a museum; the turbulent Whaling Stories; a moment of serenity and beauty with A Salty Dog; and then the stately, climbing, All This and More.

Side two is composed entirely of the conceptual In Held 'Twas In I, the definitive Procol Harum song, whose live version demonstrates, among other things, that Dave Ball is an adequate replacement for Robin Trower. Along with that, this live version bears out the conviction that the song is rather symphonic in its structure anyway.

So, for once, this meeting of musical styles lived up to the hopes of both performers and audience (as it should surely live up to the expectations of the album listener), evidenced by the degree of heartfelt applause heard at the songs' endings. Indeed, by the album's end, one is hard put not to join in with the enthusiastic kudos.


Many more pages devoted to the Edmonton concert

More reviews of the Edmonton album

More reviews of other Procol Harum albums

Order this album on CD re-release with a bonus track

 


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