Procol Harum

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the Pale

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Repent Walpurgis

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' Ö 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 ĎAJí Johnson

Repent Walpurgis

A Voiceless Reflection and Projection of Whatís to Come - What Went Before and What Never Was - The Reification of A Glorious Accident

"Ow!" The studio was filled with exhilaration, I am sure. Not to mention copious amounts of enchanting 1967 vintage marijuana to make the recording sessions even more wraithlike. So, that exclamation must have been for more than one reason. Had they any idea of what they were doing? Had these lads any idea that they sounded like wizened middle-aged-to-old men? Had they any idea that they were creating music as important and ultimately influential as anything that was to come? I venture to guess that they didnít but as Trower said later on, if you attempt to be consciously avant garde you miss it by a million miles or so. Words to that effect, he uttered, but so very true. This was simply how they played. There was no posturing, no forethought, no calculation. Amazing. I am still amazed at the entire thing, this Procol Harum thing; this glorious accident!

Repent Walpurgis, long considered crucial to the Procol canon by fans as well as outsiders, is a definitive statement. Short, concise, yet full of exploration, it was precursor to the likes of more daring but not always better progressive music of the next few years. The stereo mixing makes it clear that Denny Cordell was indeed good. If he could make Olympic sound that good he had to have something going for him. That same year, the Moody Blues with another professional producer and a lot more money behind them, recorded Days of Future Passed in those same studios. Days is a wonderful album but the recording is as tinny and high-ended as the horrific "electronically reprocessed for stereo" Procol vinyl was. This recording is proof positive that the whole album could have been a stereo release, if A Christmas Camel and Salad Days proper were done in stereo.

Robin is much more prominent here than on the original Deram / Zonophone recording. He is comping chords during the organ extrapolation that are very audible. On the original we hear his arrival only moments before the guitar break. This recording is damn well done production-wise. The mix is right, the placement proper and it just oozes out of the late 60s into my current consciousness with such ease, it is as if it were always there.

The guitar continues to make utterances during the Bach section. This is something I would have mixed out if it were to be the one chosen for release and so it was. The guitar is far more victorious when it is unexpected.

The production allows for a far better view of Matthew's organ sound. It is played using his usual, early percussion teardrop registration. The melody is Matthewís. The structure belongs to the group mind. The chords are from the Four Seasonís song Beggin', though if one listens to Tell It To the Rain, these same chords come up in that song as well if slightly mutated. Bob Gaudio was quite a pop writer indeed. Conclusion: If ever there was a "perfect" track, this may well be it. Then again, as with children or beloved pets, how do you choose a favorite?

 The final cut for the First Album that was never to be but made it in anyway more or less Ö a lot less

Who am I to stand in the way of the stereo version of Repent Walpurgis from the first album even with the edit missing Ö haha! Which makes it longer? Or just more interesting? I find the sound so much better than the first time I put the album on a turntable and took it for a spin several times. This was a HORRID American waxing famous for taking a mono selection and rapping it silly by using the left speakers for a bass woofer and the right sounded like a high-end treble nightmare similar to scratching a chalkboard with one's fingers. Ouch! Probably why I really didnít appreciate PH till the second album came out with its glorious stereo sound, well balanced with the midrange still intact. Not so with these phony stereo albums first put out in America. Oh, if I had only had the sense to buy the mono version then my review might have turned out differently but I hated Repent Walpurgis and thought it more of a filler for feeble minds who couldnít write some decent lyrics or something? To this day the mono version doesnít really turn me on like so many PH fans: sorry, but it falls way flat in my book.

I will try and explain the reasons why. For one thing this stereo image gives away the fact that it was really meant to be heard in all its stereo glory, not the compressed wimpy mono version that made the cut on the original album. Itís the same take but man, what a difference. The mics seemed to have been placed properly to capture the brontosaurus of an instrumental but in the end the drums took a back seat even here in stereo IMO. Plus the lead playing of Robin, cool as it is, doesnít seem to be placed in the right spot production-wise for me and lacks the heavier treatment on the long lost extended version along with BJís wonderful drums.

No this is a well-thought-out but hastily-done affair as with the rest and it comes across with great depth unlike the original mono piece. It does however breathe BODY-X and was produced I think more by the Westsiders than by the original producer, and they did a great job of it Ölike fine spices, a little garlic here, a sprinkle of thyme there to bring in the 3D portrait for us! Again my hats off to the Westside team here. They brought what I always thought was (on record anyway a rather boring long filler) into its proper light as it was heard onstage Ö hurrah! (applause in background)

I will stop here and say I can now, after all these years, actually enjoy what others heard but I missed thanks to the engineers and recording techniques of the time and the miserable mono mastering which gave BJ Wilsonís drums a backseat on the one song where he and the band LIVE got crowds to their feet shouting for more way back when. My review of the Ö IMO ultimate in-your-face live-sounding stage-version which is contained also on this volume and you will see what I really think.

 

 

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