|Sometime in 1962, Gary Brooker formed the Paramounts. Loved by mods, they were, in truth, an R&B / Soul covers band, enormously popular in their hometown of Southend-on-Sea, Essex and cited by the Rolling Stones as their favourite R&B band. Many of the obscure, hip tunes that the group performed were borrowed from Soho's Scene club DJ Guy Stevens' record collection.||
It was at Stevens' flat that Brooker first met his future writing partner Keith Reid in 1966. By this time Brooker was writing tunes. However, like his contemporary counterpart Elton John still at that time a relative obscurity he was unable to write lyrics. Reid could and rather well! A partnership was born and Procol Harum began to take shape ...
Within weeks of forming Procol Harum, Brooker and Reid's first recorded composition reached the #1 slot on the British Pop charts (on 10 June 1967). The fastest-selling single in the history of Decca Records and released on their then-new progressive Deram subsidiary A Whiter Shade Of Pale remained at the top for six weeks before becoming a global hit of incredible magnitude, allegedly selling in excess of ten million copies!
In many ways WSoP defined the essence of the group: dual keyboards, blue-eyed-soul vocals, a fusion of classical themes with mid-60s R&B / Soul crossover and cinematic lyrics. Its influence was enormous, and is reputed to have inspired, among other notable events in music, John Lennon's penning of I Am The Walrus. Elton John's lyricist, Bernie Taupin, rates it as his favourite song of all time, and Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg's Je t'Aime Moi Non Plus owes it an enormous musical debt. Countless covers of the song abound, some of the most notable being by Percy Sledge, King Curtis, Joe Cocker and Annie Lennox.
Riding the success of their chartbuster, Procol recorded their debut album at Olympic Studios in Barnes, south-west London, in the summer of 1967 at the heights of Flower Power. The group was tied into an all-embracing deal with Essex Music. Said deal meant that Essex not only owned the UK rights to the recordings, but also furnished the group with management services via their subsidiary Straight Ahead Productions. As a result, decisions were often taken in the interest of Straight Ahead / Essex rather than Procol Harum themselves. Consequently, instead of capitalising on the success of WSoP Straight Ahead Productions decided to delay the release of the album for six months while they cut a suitable deal for the remainder of their roster of new talent which included the then-relatively-unknown T(yrannosaurus) Rex, Joe Cocker and The Move. Their course of action meant that the album, which would have been ahead of the field in the summer of '67, was almost ignored when it was finally released on EMI's Regal Zonophone label in January 1968 [sic].
Procol Harum (the album) had been intentionally recorded with a 'live' feel by producer Denny Cordell. The acclaim that was heaped on the stereo version of the Beatles' Sgt Pepper during the previous summer created a yardstick for all subsequent production and engineering to be measured by, The music press proceeded to pan Procol's début and one of their criticisms was very valid. Worldwide superstars the Beatles could afford to leave Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane off Sgt Pepper. Procol, however, could not afford to lose Whiter Shade of Pale and its million-selling follow-up, Homburg (a UK # 6) from their début LP. The back cover of the album claimed that it should 'be listened to in the spirit in which it was made'. This must have seemed like a poor excuse for the omission of hits, as a well as a shoddy apology for the delayed release of an album recorded quickly in 'live-in-the-studio' sound. It failed to chart in the UK in 1968, but when re-released in 1972 paired as a 'Doubleback' with A Salty Dog and now including WSoP it reached #27 in the UK.
The rediscovery in late 1997 of an original, first-generation
production master of Procol Harum means that this CD
reissue offers the best-ever presentation of this material. The
songs are as magnificent as ever, and the performances among
Procol's finest. The opening track, Conquistador, provided
the group with their third top-thirty single on both sides
of the Atlantic when re-recorded with the Edmonton
Symphony Orchestra in 1971. Salad Days was used in an
obscure British Film Institute feature entitled Separation,
while Kaleidoscope, a minor masterpiece of psychedelia,
sounds as powerful today as it must have done thirty years ago.
Along with the rest of the album and a significant number of
bonus tracks including a number that have never been heard
prior to this release it forms an integral part of rock
history, and is reproduced for your delight with full digital
The bonus tracks
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Lime Street Blues
This was the original 'B' side of the above. Both tracks [sic] feature session drummer Bill Eyden who acted for Procol in this capacity on these two tracks only. Eyden had previously occupied the drumstool for Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and coincidentally this record sounds not unlike something that Fame might himself have recorded!
The original recording of the group's follow-up to WSoP. It features Bobby Harrison on drums and Ray Royer on guitar By the time the record was released in October 1967, both men had quit Procol to form Freedom. Two alternate takes of Homburg can be found on the 30th Anniversary Anthology and these feature Robin Trower and BJ Wilson on guitar and drums respectively.
Salad Days (Are Here Again)
This is an alternate, much longer version, recorded in late summer 1967. It again features Harrison and Royer alongside Matthew Fisher, Dave Knights and Brooker. Along with other tracks marked with an asterisk, it was mixed down from the original 4-track session mastertapes by Nick Smith and Westside's Tony Rounce in August 1997. It is probably the same basic recording as that which is heard in Separation, although the film version is not available for comparison at this time. The film itself was directed [sic] by the late Jane Arden, former wife of noted UK TV director Philip Saville (Boys From The Blackstuff etc.) and it also boasted a theme scored by Matthew Fisher entitled Separation which can be found on Fisher's eponymously-titled [sic] solo début.
This was cut at the same session as the above, and features the same line-up of musicians. This alternate is similar to the issued version, but is sparser lacking the many overdubs that are a feature of the previously-issued version and has a relaxed, live feel. Procol stopped [sic] playing this Lovin' Spoonful-styled number shortly after Harrison and Royer quit!
Once again features the Brooker / Fisher / Knights / Harrison / Royer line-up, but was recorded at the same session as the next track, on August 1st 1967 [see here]. The engineer for the session was one Gerald Chevin.
Something Following Me
Another alternate take, SFM was the first song that Gary Brooker and Keith Reid ever wrote together!
Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)
Remastered from an original acetate featuring the Homburg line-up, this was originally scheduled to be the follow-up to WSoP, but the release didn't occur because the engineer accidentally erased the mastertape after cutting the acetate! The group recut Magdalene during the course of the sessions for what would become their sophomore album, Shine On Brightly.
Quite Rightly So
The original undubbed version of the song some 30 seconds longer than the one which became Procol's third single release in the spring of 1968. According to the tape box, the song was originally going to be titled An Ode by Any Other Name which all fans will recognise as being a line from the song's lyric. More alternate versions of QRS will be available later in 1998 on Westside's special edition release of the Shine on Brightly album (WESM 533)
Shine on Brightly
A real find, this. Recorded and mixed down for intended inclusion on the album, it has been hidden away on the end of the production master of PH that was in the vaults of Abbey Road for almost 30 years, and was only unearthed when Carry Anning and Ian Pickavance of the AR tape library conducted an exhaustive vault trawl on Westside's behalf, in search of said master.
If this doesn't whet you appetite for Shine on Brightly ... Plus! (WESM 533) then nothing will!
All recordings originally produced by Denny Cordell. Asterisked bonus tracks mixed for issue by Tony Rounce and Nick Smith at Hatch Farm Studios, Addlestone Moor, Chertsey, Surrey, England, during August 1997.
All [sic] songs composed by Gary Brooker (melody) and Keith Reid (lyrics) with the exception of Quite Rightly So which was written by Reid (lyrics) Brooker and Matthew Fisher (melody). Henry Scott-Irvine, December 1997
More about this album
Order this CD from Amazon
USA - or from Amazon
Buy the Procol Harum Pluss CD from CD-Now