Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Broken Barricades • Salvo

The fifth 2009 reissue reviewed online at Head Full of Snow

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In 1971, when Procol Harum’s Broken Barricades was first released, the band that has been through a massive 23 different line-ups was only on their third, the same quartet responsible for the previous album Home.

There was Chris Copping doubling up on bass and organ, alongside BJ Wilson and Robin Trower from the classic era, on drums and guitar respectively. Then, of course, there was the one constant factor in Procol Harum’s lifespan: Gary Brooker, singer, pianist and songwriting partner to the band’s lyricist, the ever-present Keith Reid.

Home had seen the psychedelia of A Whiter Shade of Pale, and the earlier albums, shown the door in favour of a harder rock sound that kept the progressive edge and cemented Procol Harum’s reputation as one of the most innovative acts doing the rounds.

Broken Barrricades saw them continue along this road, paring back the symphonics that had really come to the fore on A Salty Dog and Home’s Whaling Stories, to produce an album that’s still chock full of ideas, despite seeing them in their rawest form.

Robin Trower’s guitar dexterity dominates throughout, with Gary Brooker’s piano often content to provide depth as opposed to the usual lead, whilst BJ Wilson’s drumming really comes into its own, particularly on Power Failure where a solo sees him punishing the skins without becoming needlessly pretentious or overstaying his welcome.

Kicking off with Simple Sister, a song bursting with robust enthusiasm and utilising Brooker’s R'n'B vocals to maximum effect, the eight tracks on the original release contain some real gems, worthy of immortality within the extensive Procol Harum canon.

The title track is a joy of melody, juxtaposed against its apocalyptic if suitably abstract lyrics, whereas Song For a Dreamer, a fitting tribute written in the wake of Jimi Hendrix’s untimely death, will feel familiar to anybody who has heard the guitar legend’s 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) from Electric Ladyland. Also worthy of mention is Luskus Delph, the only song on the album to slip into the symphonic rock territory Procol Harum made their own.

Broken Barricades is a superb continuation of the band’s legacy, marking themselves out as a matured, serious rock act for the 1970s.

The Salvo reissue sees the label teaming up with Strongman Records and maintaining the high standard set by their collaboration with Fly. There are four bonus tracks, two alternate takes and two backing tracks – but once again it’s the lush packaging and booklet that gives the major labels, carelessly popping out reissues like they’re going out of fashion, something to aspire to.


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