Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Broken Barricades • Salvo

The fifth reissue reviewed online by Dmitry M Epstein

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Thunder and lightning. Light and shade. The beauty of apocalypse with a promise and a song.

With a rootsy affair in the heart of Home fully explored and its inhabitants established well, a time came for Procol Harum to embark on a new journey, hued darkly still. Opening with a memory-lashing Robin Trower riff of Simple Sister and ending with Poor Mohammed, the guitarist's last contribution to the band's classic canon, their fifth album flies on like a cannon swung to destroy the meek. The former a threatening assault with Gary Brooker's albatross piano and booming voice fleeting over gloomy rock bottom of Chris Copping's bass and BJ Wilson's almost jazzy drums, quite scary in the middle instumental section that scores the orchestral heights, and the latter a fuzz-and-slide jive hinting on something very indecent, Broken Barricades is not for the faint of heart.

Its three-minute title track might roll placidly on a synthesized tidal wave yet Keith Reid's lyrics paint the most frightening picture of all, so the contrast here is purely aural, while Armageddon of a different kind seeps out of Power Failure; it sketches the oft-sung life on the road in the revved-up wailing phrases and features the well-tempered drum solo, a usual time-filler for the stage electricity problems. There's a hint of the French Quarter in the Playmate of the Mouth bluesy brass, but it's in Luskus Delph that the ensemble come soft in openly erotic way made all the clearer by the surging strings-and-woodwind veil. Memorial Drive, at the same time, picks the sea theme up for a Neptune feast of unstated obscenities lurking in the honky-tonk panache of the song's pearl-encrusted depth. Then, Song for a Dreamer dives in the deepest to let Trower cry away, both vocally and in the multi-tiered guitar solo, his grief over passing of Jimi Hendrix, most notably on the bonus backing track which swells nicely even in voiceless form. After that the guitarist packed the blues to strike on his own and left Procol to dream on lightly.

4.75 stars out of 5

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