Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale 

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3 Reviews of The Well's On Fire

Originally at the classical music review website


Rock For Grown-ups...
...and I mean that as a compliment.

Procol have managed to deliver an album of articulate lyrics (via Keith Reid) and dignified music (let's hear it for Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher) ... although it suffers a bit from slightly generic production, it's a vast improvement from 1991s Prodigal Stranger, with its leftover-80s sound. Only a couple of tracks qualify as filler (Wall Street Blues the main culprit), but in the main the material is the literate, R&B-meets-Bach that Procol Harum have uniquely provided. Their trademark worldweariness is leavened by compassion for the world today; the understated Blink of an Eye the best song about 9/11 I've heard. For old-school Procoloids, Weisselklenzenacht updates the spirit of Repent Walpurgis, with organ straight out of Whiter Shade of Pale and guitar-driven, Abbey Road climax like Robert's Box. Perhaps the most moving number is This World is Rich (for Stephen Maboe), a stately Brooker/Reid meditation on poverty and misfortune. All in all, not an album for the children that buy pop CDs today, but for those that remember the era of (truly) classic rock...a breath of fresh air, or maybe a musical life-ring. 4 stars


Harum's On Fire!
Welcome back *again*, Procol Harum! I don't know what took them so long to record a follow-up to 1991's The Prodigal Stranger, but, 12 years later, it's finally here at last: The Well's On Fire, and I'm very happy to report that it was SO worth the wait. Founding members Gary Brooker (piano and vocals), Matthew Fisher (organ), and lyricist Keith Reid are back on board, and, with guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, bassist Matt Pegg and drummer Mark Brzezicki, they've delivered an outstanding Harum album that sounds completely fresh, yet still harks back to the band's classic sound of yore. Fans will be smiling from ear to ear as they dip through [sic] the band's wonderful latest batch of melodic songs, like the opening An Old English Dream, the rockers Shadow Boxed, The VIP Room, The Question, Wall Street Blues, So Far Behind and Every Dog Will Have His Day (featuring great barks and howls from Brooker), and beautiful ballads like A Robe Of Silk (very reminiscent of the classic She Wandered Through The Garden Fence), the heartfelt The Blink Of An Eye (inspired by the 9/11 tragedy), This World Is Rich, Fellow Travellers, and The Emperor's New Clothes.' And Matthew Fisher still knows how to deliver an organ masterwork with the finale, Weisselklenzenacht (The Signature). Gary Brooker's voice and piano playing is still as strong and commanding as ever, and Matthew Fisher's classic organ is still a joy to hear. As for the new Harum men, Whitehorn is so good on guitar that you don't miss Robin Trower, Pegg is a fine bassist and Brzezicki is a very powerful drummer (Harum's late great drummer BJ Wilson would've definitely approved of him, I think). And co-produced by the band and Rafe McKenna, the album's production is crisp and sharp.I sure hope we don't have to wait 12 years for the next Procol Harum album these guys are so good! The Wells On Fire is a terrific album, and a very welcome comeback of one of rock's finest groups. Procol Harum have returned again! Pick up this CD and celebrate. 5 stars


Procol Back in Grand Form!
The Well's on Fire marks the first original Procol Harum release since 1991 and the group certainly does not disappoint with a compilation that stands right alongside their finest work. The album features a splendid mix of blues, rock, lovely ballads and a stunningly composed instrumental. The band is at once true to their original roots as well as presenting a fresh and creative sound. The album allows all of the band members to display their creative talents and unique styles with some rousing organ riffs from Procol veteran Matthew Fisher, memorable solos by Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, and solid drumming by Mark Brzezicki and bass play from the 'baby' of the group, Matt Pegg. 'The Commander' Gary Brooker is in fine form vocally and his keyboard work is brilliant as usual. Last but not least, Procol legend Keith Reid provides the words behind [sic] the music and has some notable moments on the record. Some particularly outstanding numbers from the record include the hauntingly beautiful ballad Fellow Travellers, the stately Emperor's New Clothes, the poignant This World is Rich, the big rockers Shadow Boxed and The VIP Room and the stunning instrumental Weisselklenzenacht. In truth, there isn't a poor cut on this album and this, coupled with the fact that most of it was recorded live in the studio (rare these days) contributes to its 5-star rating. All in all, a splendid album which is certain to spawn a few classics! 5 stars


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