Procol Harum

the Pale 

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A packed concert by the 40-year-old band, in a stunning outdoor venue

The Ledreborg DVD reviewed (7 June 2009) by John Henry online at Audiophile Audition

Nearly everyone remembers Procol Harum from A Whiter Shade of Pale of the 60s – one of their hits which displays the band's strong connection to classical music.  In fact, the band's still-active fan club call themselves The Palers [??]. Led by keyboardist/composer Gary Brooker for four decades now, the band’s name was taken from the name of a Burmese cat owned by a friend of their original manager. (Still don’t know what it means, though, after all these years.)

The progressive rock band pioneered performing with symphony orchestras with their Edmonton Symphony LP of the 60s, and led the way to a similar effort from other rock groups such as Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  They have done previous  DVDs of concert appearances, but this one probably bests them all both visually and aurally. The setting is the historic estate of the Palace of Ledreborg near Copenhagen, which dates back to the 1740s. The summer weather in 2006 was perfect and the sound setup fully conveys the impact of the fine arrangements and playing by the sizeable orchestra, as well as the singing of the choir – each of whose members are provided with their own wireless handheld mike. There are a total of 72 performers on the stage and 23,000 in the vast spread-out audience.

In spite of the classical leanings of such hits as Whaling Stories (which even has a genuine anvil in the percussion section) and Conquistador, the band also shines on blues and roaring rock numbers such as Simple Sister. The orchestral score for Whaling Stories had to be reconstructed off the Edmonton LP because in the intervening years it had been lost.  Brooker plays a Yamaha synth with various keyboard timbres [sic] and is the main vocalist, and the band’s trademarked B3 influence is handled on tunes such as Whiter Shade of Pale by organist Josh Phillips.  I sometimes wished to have supertitles for the lyrics; even though the sonics – especially with the great DTS surround – were excellent, it was not always possible to clearly hear Brooker.  I checked the simultaneous CD release for printed lyrics, but alas, none there either. Guess I’ll have to get out my old Procol Harum LPs in the garage.

A change of pace is the one piece composed entirely by Gary Brooker, Symphathy for the Hard of Hearing – at least in its title a wonderful comment on the fate of many rock musicians as they age.  Speaking of that, watch at least some of the 1974 TV show first.  The only performer there to be seen on the 2006 stage is leader Brooker, who has obviously matured, but nothing like the decrepitude of the Rolling Stones in their most recent video concert.  This exciting concert would be de rigueur for any Procol Harum fans, and could serve as a fine introduction to the group for those too young to remember them or who weren’t paying attention at the time. The performances are all superb, the sound top flight, the introductions interesting and not too extended, and the lavish venue of the impressive grounds of the castle adds a classy touch to the whole enterprise.

1. Grand Hotel
2. Something Magic
3. Butterfly Boys
4. Homburg (Brilliant!)
5. The VIP Room
6. Fires (Which Burnt Brightly)
7. Nothing But the Truth
8. Into the Flood (New)
9. Simple Sister
10. A Salty Dog (Chilling!)
11. An Old English Dream
12. Symphathy for the Hard of Hearing
13. A Whiter Shade of Pale
14. Whaling Stories
15. Conquistador
Performers: With the Danish National Concert Orchestra & Choir
Program: [TrackList below]
Studio: Eagle Vision EV 30275-9 [Matching CD (without 1974 tracks) on Eagle Records]
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: English DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, Dolby 2.0
Extras: 1974 Danish TV Special with six tunes
Length: 124 minutes
Rating: *****

[1974 TV Special never aired outside Denmark]
1. Bringing Home the Bacon
2. Toujours L'Amour
3. Grand Hotel
4. The Devil Came From Kansas
5. The Idol
Butterfly Boys

Other Procol Harum recordings | Procol Harum record reviews | This concert on audio CD | More of this concert on DVD | Order now from Amazon UK or from Amazon USA

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