Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Procol Harum The Secrets of the Hive

2007 compilation reviewed by Scott Schinder in Stomp and Stammer, April 2008


Procol Harum Secrets of the Hive The Best of Procol Harum [Salvo]

Prog-rock tends to get a bum rap for being pretentious and musically sterile, but those criticisms rarely apply to genre pioneers Procol Harum. As first generation prog purveyors, the musicians had previously cut their teeth playing R&B, and those roots remained strong throughout Procol's early output, particularly in Gary Brooker's wailing, melancholy vocals and piano, and in the gritty gravitas of Matthew Fisher's Hammond organ. The music, by turns raw and grandiose, kept Keith Reid's complex, enigmatic lyrics which were occasionally overblown, but more often poetic and evocative firmly grounded in human emotion and melodic accessibility.

Despite some debatable programming choices (e.g. substituting an OK live version of A Salty Dog in lieu of the subtly magnificent studio original, and an overemphasis on the reunited band's recent output), the 2CD UK anthology Secrets of the Hive does a good job of distilling Procol Harum's salient qualities. While many of the '70s bands they helped to spawn now sound hopelessly dated, Procol's best work eg the bittersweet ballad Homburg, the fierce orch-metal Simple Sister and the classic-rock staple A Whiter Shade of Pale retains a beguiling blend of ambition and earthiness.

Scott Schinder


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