Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Broken Barricades • Salvo

The fifth 2009 reissue reviewed in the Jackson Rock and Blues Music Examiner by John Nielsen

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Digital remaster time again, and another welcome one, Procol Harum's Broken Barricades. Procol Harum has a lot of remasters out this week but Broken Barricades deserves the attention. Procol Harum scored one Top 40 hit in 1968 with A Whiter Shade of Pale, have a classic rock staple with their live version of Conquistador but their overall body of work has been largely forgotten. Somewhere between progressive rock and hard British blues, Procol Harum's music is more accessible than the bombast of Emerson, Lake & Palmer or the elevator sounds of The Moody Blues. Organist Matthew Fisher left the band in 1969; the absence of his brooding sound goes unnoticed.

First released in 1971, Broken Barricades was guitarist Robin Trower's final recording with the group as he embarked upon a solo career. Trower certainly leaves his mark on this recording. For reasons unknown, rock radio did not jump on Broken Barricades' obviously radio-friendy [sic] Simple Sister, with pianist Gary Brooker's vocals at his best and Trower's powerful rock guitar dominating – though Brooker's left-hand run on the piano through the middle of Simple Sister is breathtaking. Memorial Drive is another rocker deserving of airplay, but the album has its uneven moments (this was the last throes of the counter culture, remember), so songs with meaningless lyrics [!] like Luskus Delph and Song For A Dreamer are part of the CD.

But Power Failure and Playmate Of The Mouth are solid rock songs letting Trower loose on guitar, bluesier than his later Hendrix-styled heavy sound. The final track of Broken Barricades shows just how far the world's sense of humor has fallen: Robin Trower and Keith Reid co-wrote and sang Poor Mohammed, a rocker that would cause death threats if aired on UK or European radio today. Definitely about the original Mohammed's last days, the bold lyrics won't go over well in today's tense world: "'Poor Mohammed at the keyhole / Sit him by the kitchen door / Slop his food all around the table / Let him lick it off the floor / Put Mohammed in the cellar / Keep him there 'til half past ten / Ties [sic] some bacon to his beard / Let the rats out on him there[sic]". Heck, just posting these lyrics invites trouble in the worldwide culture of the offended. If this song was released today, not one radio station would touch it, making it sound all the more delicious due to remastering.

Offend more, please. The world needs the introspection.

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