Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum All This and More 

The Box Set reviewed online at Head Full of Snow

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Procol Harum – a 4-disc compendium

With packaging as lush as and three times more lickable than a Gary Brooker orchestral arrangement, Salvo release the Crème de Menthe of their Procol Harum Fortieth Anniversary reissues, the four-disc compendium, All This and More.

All this and more, indeed. What we have here is three CDs spanning the lengthy career of Southend-on-Sea’s finest, a DVD brimming with live performances, and a 70-page booklet distended with photographs, song facts and the story so far regarding the perennial psychedelic/progressive/symphonic rock act.

Disc 1 cherry-picks the crop from the band’s first four years and albums, though for my money slips up in excluding both Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) from Shine on Brightly and Whaling Stories from Home. Minor quibbles aside, it’s a decent harvest of Procol Harum’s first phase, distilled into 16 tracks. A Whiter Shade of Pale, Homburg, A Salty Dog and all five suites of the epic prog rock cornerstone In Held 'Twas in I, are present and correct, as one would hope.

Aside from Your Own Choice, which appears on fourth album Home and mysteriously makes the opener here, Disc 2 covers 1971 and beyond, snaffling songs from Broken Barricades, right up to 2003’s The Well’s on Fire. These include the excellent and moving lament For Liquorice John from Grand Hotel, the Gypsy campfire ambience of Beyond the Pale, and a restored version of The Blue Danube, recorded live in 1976 at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens and produced by Steve Winwood’s brother, Muff. Needless to say, the lion’s share of the goodies rightly come from the 1971–1977 era, prior to Procol Harum’s fourteen-year break.

Disc 3 is a real treat for those already familiar with the albums, as it brings together fourteen live performances stretching back as far as 1969. Amongst the gems collected here are an extended workout of Home's Whisky Train from 2007 and a rendering of the epic Last Train to Niagara, which contains lyrics and musical motifs from Procol Harum’s long history, tied together by the central theme of a reflective train journey.

The DVD on All This and More, also brings together live performances ranging from 1974 to 2006. 22 in all. The after-dinner brandy arrives in the form of a Danish TV special from 1974, featuring  the most seventies-looking audience, sitting in the most seventies-looking set ever conceived. With four tracks taken from Hotel Grand, A Salty Dog and Exotic Birds and Fruit, the band (in their fifth incarnation) belt them out in typical dynamic style. Also worthy of a mention is a rousing rendition of Whaling Stories, filmed at Ledreborg Castle in Denmark, 2006, and including a full orchestra and choral accompaniment. Sterling stuff.

Overall All This and More is as comprehensive an overview of the first forty years of Procol Harum as one could wish for. Sure, the inclusion of more modern tracks – 1991 onwards – may seem unnecessary, but by broadening the brush Salvo have fulfilled the remit of a  Procol Harum compendium. Besides, there’s more than enough of the old stuff on here to keep us all happy.

The absence of any alternate studio versions, unlike last year’s The Move Anthology (also fantastically packaged by Salvo), makes All This and More fall just short of being the essential purchase that particular release was … If you already have the reissued albums, that is. If not, it knocks any other Procol Harum “Best of” into a cocked hat. The presentation, extra content, and the sound quality on both the CDs and DVD are second to none, and petty nitpicks aside, All This and More is the recommended port of call for those wanting an easily accessible, yet extensive journey, into the musical realm of one of prog rock’s finest.

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