Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum • A Salty Dog and Home 

Salvo reissues Nos 1 & 2, reviewed by Alan Robinson at Shindig

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Procol Harum represent an almost textbook example of how a bunch of moddy herberts morphed from being a feisty, gutsy ensemble playing R&B and soul covers into a full-on, be-kaftaned Prog Rock butterfly – within the space of mere months. Of course, with A Whiter Shade of Pale, the band not only scored colossal international success (six months at number one in Venezuela, no less!), but also produced an era-defining record that ushered in the UK’s Summer of Love and took Prog Rock to the toppermost of the poppermost for the first time. A record that just won’t go away, it has been the subject of litigation in recent years (and the case is now making its progress through the House Of Lords), A Whiter Shade … has never sounded better than as a bonus track on Salvo’s superb reissue.

The Procol’s debut album is a splendid mix of (often) Dylanesque lyrical jive and some tremendous musicianship. The band’s unusual line-up – featuring Gary Brooker on piano and vocals, and Matthew Fisher providing the churchy Hammond organ counterpoint, with the secret weapon of Robin Trower on lead guitar, who provides stinging six-string action throughout, and the great Keith Reid as a non-performing lyric writer – gave their sound a thoroughly distinctive quality. Moreover, Brooker, as a tunesmith, brilliantly realised the often difficult task of setting Keith Reid’s idiosyncratic lyrical barbs to memorable music.

Shine on Brightly, the second album, was originally released in 1968, and is the sound of a band with a now-settled line-up truly stretching their musical wings – the side-long song cycle In Held 'Twas In I was a massively-influential piece that helped nudge Pete Townshend towards writing Tommy. However, the album didn’t sell in their homeland, despite its innovative qualities and dazzling wordplay.

Lrd knows that the first two Procol Harum albums have been repackaged umpteen times over in the digital medium, but Salvo have, with this brace of superb reissues, finally delivered the definitive articles, that score heavily in terms of their packaging, authoritative liner notes, and most importantly of all, superbly remastered sonics.

I look forward to Salvo’s reissues of the rest of the Procol Harum catalogue, including a scheduled box set. Look out for a Procol feature in a future Shindig!

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