Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Home • Salvo

The fourth reissue reviewed online by Dmitry M Epstein

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The place where everybody come to roost – and to roots.

It's a rare occasion when a slight change in a line-up makes the outcome so drastically different, but the swap of Matthew Fisher for Chris Copping, who also took up the bass duties, not only slimmed Procol Harum to a quartet but also threw them back to the time when this newcomer, together with Gary Brooker and Robin Trower, were known as The Paramounts. That combo played rhythm-and-blues – and this became the agenda for Home, which made it the most unlikely album for their new band.

It's almost impossible to recognize the ensemble of Shine on Brightly in the progressive blues wail of the opening Whisky Train that pre-dates the guitarist's solo endeavors and allows BJ Wilson to rattle all his wares gracefully – as if to compensate for the lack in the drumming department on most of the tracks further on – and lets Keith Reid to bend his lines to fit the genre. Then, the darkness sets in firmly with the madrigal dirge of The Dead Man's Dream and the Nothing That I Didn't Know acoustic drama awashed in strings and sprinkled with Brooker's accordion. Where previously was tunefulness now the vain anthemity reigns, so even the acidic Still There'll Be More and the oinking coda of Piggy Pig Pig don't pour lightness into this creepy gloom.

The death theme gets explored deeper in the brooding Barnyard Story and the paradoxically soulful About to Die with its piano solo – a nice trick, given it was composed by Robin Trower; and isn't there a hint in the soundalike 'rob the tower' passage of the album's sole epic, Whaling Stories? The piece is gaining its momentum as it progresses, it swells impressively and has its magic moments, yet still doesn't flick the switch to make Home really inhabited with spirit.


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