Steve G • April 2017 • ProgArchives • online here
I had some reservations about listening to this new Procol
Harum album as I had heard that Gary Brooker's voice was deteriorating over
the last few years. At 72 [sic] year's [sic] old, it has. And that creates a
dilemma as Brooker's voice was also Procol's sixth instrument which he used,
generally, while singing with a lack of diction along with a pitch shifting
change between the lyric's syllables.
To compensate, this latest incarnation of Procol Harum have ramped up their playing as they were always a bit measured and reserved in the past. Guitarist Geoff Whitehorn really shines as he is able to jump from Richie Blackmore like riffing to Eddie Van Halen like flourish's [sic]. New [sic] organist/synth player Josh Phillips stays away from the old Procol sound of Bach or Handel flourishes and is more in a supporting role. Bassist Matt Pegg and new drummer Geoff Dunn really click and set off some driving rhythms in the harder rocking songs like I Told You, Business Man and especially on You Can't Say That. Great songs, by the way.
However, Brooker struggles with the ballads on the album, as his voice can just barely cover the range of this material and generally sounds scratchy. The exception being the stellar I Am The Only One, one of those magically emotive Procol songs that would even by good if it was sung by Tom Waits.
The production on this album is top notch and sounds quite warm, almost analog, and dynamic. The key to Novum is if one can accept Brooker's aging vocals and enjoy the music for what it is, or dismiss the album out of hand. I'm on the fence at the moment, but I suspect I'll fall off after a few more listens. 3 stars for the band's effort to deliver something of value fifty years after recording their first album.
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Procol Harum albums