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the Pale

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A Procoholic Double Review

This page presents part of a unique Procoholics' double-act: Larry Pennisi presents 'The Secrets of the Hive' and Clyde 'AJ' Johnson contributes 'Extracting the Honey' … both being detailed and personal looks, from very different perspectives, at tracks from the Westside Pandora's Box album

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The Secrets of the Hive
by Larry Pennisi / Cerdes

Extracting the Honey
by Clyde ‘AJ’ Johnson


Another Glimpse Through A Looking Glass

Frenetic is the first word that comes to mind in describing Kaleidoscope, regardless of the medium or modality it is heard through. Musically and lyrically it is truly one of the supreme Brooker-Reid coalitions. "Lonely in the dark I grope, keys in my kaleidoscope," warns Brooker. Jostled and hassled, it is effortless to imagine Brooker and Company being catapulted down the maw of some colossal metal and glass behemoth, perhaps to be forever lost, perhaps to wash upon the shores of Cerdes.

In stereo, this track really shines. For the first time, it is actually easy to hear Matthew's left hand negotiating the chordal accompaniment on the lower manual. Matthew also solos in a style that is the closest thing to a jazz solo that he has ever played. The organ setting is delightfully hollow and round, almost tubular. This organ registration, with a touch of percussion and chorus, really translates well on a studio recording. It never sounded as gutsy live, probably due to poor miking and amplification of the Leslie. Leslies are not powerful amplification devices and when pushed too far they distort. It is essential to have the organ properly miked or the resultant sound becomes more akin to Jon Lord's schizo-affected tone with Deep Purple. Procol organ requires clarity and the volume pedal should not have to be maxed at all times. I have played Hammond in many bands and the only way that I was able to circumvent this problem was to have an amplifier through which the Leslie was directly miked next to me onstage. That way, I was able to control the tone of the organ as there was more amplification allowing for greater control. Here, the organ solo, cascading over the G major, C7th suspended to C7th chords of the verse, rolls with an intensity that befits the general character of the song. The allusions to jazz figures here are the loose and fluid, almost free-form approach and the distinctly jazzlike addition of a B natural after hitting the uppermost C during the solo. The B note does not fit into the conventional blues run scale system that a solo might normally take and so is oddly out of place but perfectly in synch with the rest of the configuration. It was a one-note addition that made all of the difference in the world. Perhaps, this was a nod in the direction of Jacques Lousier of whom Matthew has made mention in earlier days.

The separation here is a superb adjustment from the original mix. Piano and organ are again distinct and the guitar is further out front. It is effortless to hear Robin under pressure as he solos over the changes. For a fledging blues guitarist, these are difficult chords to play over, indeed. His technique was restricted at that time and he sounds indecisive; but that is part of the paradox that makes his solo work so well. The biggest revelation, upon hearing it for the first time, was the ending. Unlike the infinitely suspended coda that hangs, seemingly forever, to segue into Salad Days, this version is clearly irresolute. The band drifts over the final diminished chord for the expected duration only to disintegrate with Matthew glissading up and down the manuals as if searching for closure. No matter how one may look at this track, it works. Here, a touch of Holst's The Planets can be found. Unfortunately, this track lost a good deal of its edge when Matthew left the group. Copping's solo was disorganized, played with fast rotor Leslie and had none of the jazzlike qualities of the original. BJ was also a bit too heavy handed, in my opinion, and the live executions are bereft of the fluidity that the original had. It just got too damn heavy and lost its charm. However, the record has been preserved in its original conception and is all the more improved due to the new-found stereo mix. Car radio loud it is. Let up on the accelerator for a moment and transition to the next secret of the hive, a killer classic that only Procol Harum could conceive of … Repent Walpurgis … a drone will escort you to the next honey-cell.

Kaleidoscope … LIVE and Studio??

Another very lively dash through to the OTHER side of the mind swirling with colors and one of the best organ driven riffs of ALL TIME!! Due, I was told, to over-consumption and certain ‘HERBS’ the boys may have been smoking during these sessions. Ah ha, but then it fits the myth very well and so does this song. Piano, drums and bass on one track and the guitar and organ given their own in this case. And in this case it worked quite well for the stereo spread and is much fuller than the mono version as with most of the tracks on this album, excepting two which may have been mixed with singles in mind ie Wish Me Well and In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence. The latter did end up as a 'B' side and may be the definitive version for many, since it is on a legit single we first hear it.

Back to the colorful spread of the ‘rainbow tussle’ for which one needs a key obviously like riding in some great psychedelic Porsche hitting a good 120 mph on the M1 or even the Hollywood Freeway at rush hour!? This cut speaks well for itself without too much comment from me. All can hear and see … of all the takes this is one ‘live’ song which transcends the studio or studio protocol in that it’s just there. Set up the microphones. Put them in the right place and I can not see why anyone could not have captured the majesty presented here with Gary screaming out over his own fourth and final track on the reel. This song literally recorded itself!

Sometimes it just happens that way. And we are so much richer now for the unearthing of the full beauty of this stereo gem.

So in closing if MAF didn’t remember doing cuts like the stereo track of Pandora’s Box due to over-consumption and ‘herbs’ …where was his mind at the point of departure on this, his finest hour? Obviously he was awake for this one. Perhaps too awake? I suspect we have a full-on ‘LIVE’ recording here with perhaps NO overdubs as I hear it. We can only ponder if it was so. I think it was, just ask Matthew. Hey man, HE was there, RIGHT?

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