Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale 

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The Well's on Fire

The Daily Vault review: Mark Kadzielawa


THE WELL'S ON FIRE : Procol Harum, Eagle Records, 2003

It's been ten years since the last Procol Harum studio album, and to be honest I thought the band might have finally called it quits. But, then again, Procol Harum was quite active on the European concert front in recent years, even managing to release a live DVD.

The Well's On Fire is a very laid-back record. The band isn't obviously trying to break any new ground here, but the music is good, and gets better with each listen. At this point Procol Harum has long since established its own sound and style, and is definitely sticking to its guns. Gary Brooker sounds as good as ever. It's his voice that really makes this album shine, but that's the case with any Brooker/Procol release for this writer.

Besides Gary's pipes, Matthew Fisher's organ is another great feature. He definitely has a sound that is irreplaceable, and very original. Just try to imagine the basic sound of Whiter Shade Of Pale and you'll know what I mean. Fisher, however, plays very gently, and doesn't abuse his presence on the album. In other words, he appears where he's needed.

Procol Harum's music these days can be considered an adult contemporary, as it has a very peaceful flow. I tend to call it night music. You know, when the lights are dim, you're drinking wine, and listen to something gentle, yet very rhythm-oriented. That's where this album fits in. I wonder how this material will work live. It certainly has a potential to develop into interesting set. On the other hand, Procol Harum has so many great songs to choose from that it will be difficult to knock down the classics in favor of the new songs.

The question is, was this the album everyone was waiting for the last ten years? It's hard to answer that, and you can look at it from both angles. On the positive side, it is a very good music played by a band with definite feel, and great amount of professionalism. And on the negative angle, it doesn't really bring anything new to the band's already established norms. I prefer to stick with the first view, as I thoroughly enjoy this album.

RATING: B+

2003 Mark Kadzielawa and The Daily Vault. Review reproduced by kind permission of Jason Warburg, editor


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