Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Grand Hotel

The seventh reissue reviewed online by Matthew R. Perrine

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Procol Harum (the A Whiter Shade of Pale group) readies reissues
UK-based reissues specialist Union Square Music ( is reissuing expanded digital versions of Procol Harum’s classic albums Grand Hotel, Exotic Birds and Fruit, Procol’s Ninth and Something Magic on 1 November 2010 allowing fans of sophisticated music the chance to re-evaluate one of rock’s most consistently innovative bands. Careful remastering has brought out hitherto elusive nuances; judiciously-selected bonus tracks offer a unique insight into the compositions of Gary Brooker (music), Keith Reid (words) and their less-frequent collaborators, and into Procol Harum’s studio methodology.

Grand Hotel
Released in March 1973 in a busy year for classic albums (Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run, and a brace of albums apiece from Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Roxy Music) Grand Hotel once again proved Procol worthy of their place among those major players. The album reached No 21 in the Billboard charts in 1973, was certified Gold and remained in the album chart for seven weeks.

Many were surprised that the theme of the Grand Hotel did not extend over the whole album – to form, dare one say it, a concept album. But Keith Reid confined his concept to the title track: “‘Dover sole and oeufs Mornay; profiteroles and peach flambé...’ I was very pleased that no-one had come up with that rhyme before,” Keith told sleevenote writer Patrick Humphries.

Certainly Grand Hotel is a brilliantly evocative moment. Brooker’s stately melody supports Reid’s gorgeously decadent lyrics, and as with Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret the previous year, there was something louche and slightly illicit about what Procol was promising here. Elsewhere, the poignant For Liquorice John, the wry A Souvenir of London (a single that was banned by the BBC as it concerned catching an STD, albeit none too obviously) and the elegant Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) offered further proof of the band’s astounding versatility.

NME acknowledged the title track as ‘a masterpiece of musical perfection and lyricism’, while Richard Williams, in a glowing Melody Maker review, reckoned it ‘stands with Whaling Stories and A Salty Dog as the group’s finest achievements (they are, too, almost unique in that the more ambitious they get, the more they succeed)’.

The digital release is augmented by two previously unreleased bonus tracks selected by Gary Brooker from the session tapes – raw versions of Grand Hotel and Bringing Home The Bacon without the orchestra [sic].

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