Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Sock Rock and Rock Amok'

Jim McGlynn in the New York Times Review, 1973

Guitarist Robin Trower's resignation last year from Procol Harum was the classic example of burning one's bridges. It came after four years with the group at a time when Procol Harum was riding a crest wave of popularity. The move, however, was understandable in light of Procol's regrettable propensity to vapid pomposity. Trower's own apparent inclinations pointed toward a more substantial and emotional music, a format which could better fulfil the promise offered by Song for a Dreamer, a tribute to Jimi Hendrix and the only Trower composition recorded by the group [sic].

Now, after a year of false starts and personnel shifts, Trower seems to have hit upon the winning combination he set out to find. The début album, Twice Removed From Yesterday (Chrysalis CHR 1039), represents a hefty achievement and an auspicious beginning for Robin Trower and the group which bears his name.

The album accomplishes a fusion often attempted but usually mishandled-grafting the instrumental techniques of the seventies onto the musical and emotional thrust of mainstream rhythm and blues. While others have directed their attention toward more or less faithful replication of R&B standards or at least have superimposed their own lyrics on the original chord progressions, the Trower band has evolved its own musical vocabulary to deliver home the bittersweet soulful punch associated with R&B.

The central figure in this vocabulary, appropriately is the redoubtable lead guitar of Trower himself, eerily injected with ghostly flashes of Hendrix, an influence I'm sure Trower would be proud to acknowledge. Behind the compelling raspy vocals of bassist Jim Dewar and the controlled funkybutt drumming of Reg Isadore, Trower's guitar slithers with serpentine grace alternately lyrical and downright explosive.

The compositions on the album, with the exception of BB King's Rock Me Baby, are all original and offer convincing testimony to the band's range and fluency. From the Motown feel of Man of the World with its "I-want-to-be-I-got-to-be" backing vocals to the obvious overtones of Hendrix in Daydream and Ballerina, Robin Trower displays a versatility and expertise that should cause even the most jaded to take notice.

What a competent review (says Jim Dolen from the USA, who kindly typed this up and sent it to BtP)! Too bad others were too lazy to do any more than bang out the common "Hendrix clone" nonsense. I don't know why he says that Song for a Dreamer was the only Trower song recorded by PH and there's no mention of Matthew as producer but heck, I'll forgive him for that.

More Procol history at 'Beyond the Pale'

Robin Trower's page at 'Beyond the Pale'

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