Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Cropredy, 2003

Richard Hollingum, BBC Radio Oxford

With a curious twist, old bands seem to be re-emerging [sic] across the country, as if in revenge for all those cover bands that seem to do so well in small town arenas.

The trouble is, they can end up being tribute bands of themselves, and this is a problem I had with Procol Harum.

I remember reading an article regarding a classic Bentley. The article debated the originality of the machine - it was the original body and part of the original chassis and was therefore the real thing.

The problem was that someone else had the rest of the chassis and the engine and had a car built on that - and claimed that this was the real thing.

So, in a band that has some of the original members, is it still original? I got so far with this and thought, well I am liable to disappear up my own exhaust pipe.

Instead, I considered whether Procol Harum's performance was a good one - and good enough for everybody to listen to them for an hour and a half or more until they inevitably played A Whiter Shade of Pale.

The conclusion was yes - in so much [sic] as those who did not want to listen to them left as soon as they started.

What were they like? They sounded good. Gary Brooker's voice is still distinctive and has stood the test of time well, though I got the impression he held back in one or two places where, 30 years ago he would have let go.

Matthew Fisher still drives the Hammond with all the fire and determination of decades ago. The relatively later arrivals of Matt Pegg, Mark Brzezicki and Geoff Whitehorn (a brilliant surname for a rock guitarist - can't you lose the first name?) did not detract from the line-up, and they are all good musicians with good pedigrees.

The tunes are still inventive and a good mix - if you only know AWSoP and Homberg [sic], then you could be misled into considering that this is the style of their total oeuvre.

They were, in fact, the perfect band to mirror the Cropredy Festival audience. Their musical attire was more bridal than matronly, something old, something new, etc.

And they reflected the state of mind of many with the continuing, perpetual crescendo [?]or the incomprehensible lyrics with the odd flash of brilliance.

So, in all, it was something for everyone. But for how long?

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