Procol Harum

the Pale

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Isle of Wight Rock Festival

from 1970 music press – details unknown

Procul [!] Harum are a strange band. They looked weird, sounded weird, and the reaction was ... odd. After less than inspiring performances by Taste and Family, it was good to hear a band with character and a strange kind of intensity.

Just after midnight they launched into a set that was not merely relaxed but downright casual. They did not seem in the least concerned with audience reaction, one way or t'other. They were professionals who had been through hard times and came through blowing.

Gary Brooker's songs may all have an element of nameless doom, but they have real soul. Salty Dog is still beautiful and it was good that his grand piano was properly amplified, when so many keyboard instruments had suffered from distortion in other bands.

And whenever the gentle and deliberate notes from the Brooker touch lulled us into a state of pleasant euphoria, then came the screaming, protesting guitar.

Too Many Women and Not Enough Wine with the heart-felt lyrics of Keith Reid had odd chords. Their entire approach – laying back on the beat, good taste, subtle material – made them in our humble, non-revolutionary opinion the best band of the day.

When they got into obligatory rock medley [sic], their style reminded strongly of Merseybeat days, with the same chugging, simple but earthy chords.

A Salty Dog was on this record, but nothing else Procoloid: they also played Wish Me Well, Juicy John Pink, and 'a new number', Your Own Choice ... please mail us if you know the whole set list.

Work in progress on that list is here

Thanks, Miguel


Procol Harum followed – well past midnight – facing a giant spotlight, the newly-christened Devastation Hill dotted with fires and even a few flames inside the main arena (so that's where the lavatory 'doors' went!)

All this made Gary Brooker, sitting at his grand piano, look pretty incongruous. Sadly the band were very untogether at the start. A lot of Procol's songs have the Whiter Shade of Pale approach, but not that lift. Songs from the Salty Dog album brought the most reaction, the title track eventually getting them the normal encore.

'It's too cold to play anything slow,' said Brooker as an aside, so they launched into the good old rock-n-roll, still guaranteed to get everybody going. Move On Down the Line, High School Confidential and Lucille and another heavy band had won the day – thanks to Jerry Lee and Little Richard!

Sounds of the 70s (6.0 Radio One) – Edgar Broughton Band, Procol Harum.
The latter's superb set on the Isle of Wight, when they warmed up a freezing midnight crowd, may herald an upsurge of interest in this greatly underrated band (from Radio Times).

More Isle of Wight reports here and here at 'Beyond the Pale';  or try a link to a page about the festival
Procol at the Isle of Wight 2006

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