Something Magic: Procol Harum (Chrysalis CHR 1130): Alan Niester in Rolling Stone, 16 June 1977
Something Magic contains six more rewrites of A Whiter Shade of Pale and nothing even approximating the band's Rockin' Robin Trower days. But fans will herald the album as the most important since Shine On Brightly – that is, a final end to the rock experiment and a complete return to the classical Procol sound.
Fans will see The Worm & the Tree, a long musical allegory along the lines of In Held 'Twas In I, as the highlight of the album. Its theme is either the classic one of good triumphing over evil or a disguised comment on America's government, depending on how you read it. Like its predecessor, The Worm (which, incidentally, takes up one whole side of the album) manages to touch numerous musical bases, mostly orchestral and funereal, although guitarist Mick Grabham does manage to slip in a few good riffs early on.
The other side contains five more near-dirges, all of which seem to have been created expressly for lyricist Keith Reid's views on life, death, society, etc. In short, a fairly typical Procol Harum album with neither surprises nor excitement.
Thanks to Joan May for submitting this to BtP. Joan comments (December 1998):
Niester was sure in tune with the Procol fans' tastes, wasn't he? <G> and he didn't seem to notice a major difference between In Held and The Worm – ie that the latter had no melodies, that those awful words were spoken rather than sung, throughout the entire horrific side of the album. He also failed to notice something missing from the 'classical Procol sound' on this album, ie the Hammond organ. These huge oversights, coupled with Niester's clueless review of Exotic Birds and Fruit, lead me to believe that he might be one of those tone-deaf rock critics who focus mainly on the lyrics because they can hear little else. That would go a long way toward explaining both reviews.
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