Procol Harum

the Pale

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Reflections on ‘Echoes in the Night’ • The Palers' Band

Saturday 6 April 2013 • Charlie Allison for BtP

The Palers’ Band at Club Barmen, Wuppertal, Germany (setlist here)

I decided to go to the Palers’ gigs without taking notes, and not to make judgements about who was better than whom – and where there were dud moments. I remember gently criticising the singing on one of the CDs, or maybe it was a gig in Denmark, basically because no-one sings like Gary Brooker. I hope I didn’t cause offence – but later on I thought it didn’t read too cleverly.

The Palers' Band, convened again as a week-long convention to coincide with a Procol Harum event,  is a moving force in its own right, paying tribute to Gary and Procol Harum and giving life to songs either unplayed or indeed lost.   

What I found here once again was a mutually-supportive commune of friends, many of them wonderful multi-instrumentalists, who themselves made no judgments and were obviously very helpful to those of more modest talents.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience and was totally immersed in the cause. We were also well transported, fed and watered ... so well done to the organisers of the infrastructure. The sound, lighting and security must also be thanked and commended for their skills.

But I must single out a few individuals and memorable moments, otherwise there’s no review at all. Remember this is from memory two long days later, no notes.

I can only apologise profusely for errors and omissions and give Roland and Jens full editorial control to add (or subtract) names which have been omitted.

Let’s start with the obvious impresarios and musical directors – Roland, Jens, Ian Hockley, Luiz de Boni and Gary Shepard – who seemed to lead the ensembles and organise stage-management. They had the obvious respect of their peers and naturally their audience.

A lot of work had gone into writing arrangements, rehearsing, “picking a team’. The reward was a hugely enjoyable experience for performers and listeners.

Next the family groups – wives and offspring – the Clares and Ravnaases come immediately to mind. I was amazed how many instruments some of them can play.

Must have been great households to grow up in: “Go practise tonight with a trombone, you can get a xylophone tomorrow.” This accolade also applies to those other individuals who circled between say guitar and bass and keyboard, then drums.

Drums – what great drummers. Axel Leonhardt got to play with Gary Brooker: hey, big hand for our Highland Dane. There were maybe half a dozen (maybe more?) really good accurate drummers, no duffers. Pride of place must go to German star Wolfgang Lieke who got to play Power Failure not just OK, but brilliantly, with power and originality. BJ would have been proud to know you. Five stars.

Keyboard players – all seemed to have mastery and they also rotated from pianos through synths to the Antipodean Hammond. I must however give an extra rosette to Don Milione who surfed the Hammond organ even more than his namesake Don Snow on Edmonton II. And über alles in the smile department too – though everyone was so happy.

And I did buy a CD of mainly Procol music from the young Italian maestro “Jack”.

Guitarists – well there was Gary Shepard who you could feel could almost dep for Geoff Whitehorn: great solos all day and a few shifts on the bass too. The young Italian lady with the hat, Beth Pellegrini. And that big tall dude from Brum with a bit of an Oz accent ... Dave Ball ... he could maybe do this for a living were it not for his uncomfortable and crippling shyness. He was great company from start to finish, his jokes were OK and he has a remarkable ability in remembering everyone’s names. I particularly remember him dancing with George Lovell and posing as a Harley Street consultant advising One-Eye on the benefits of Fresh Fruit.

Geez I am panicking ... I am forgetting and overlooking whole rafts of musicians, like the brass section up in the corner. The ladies like Kari Warhuus and Elizabeth Bryson who sing and play. There was Linda Clare on the ’cello. Who paid all the excess luggage charges for the Clares?

Singers. Great performances from the more serious crooners like Antonio Costa Barbé, and musicians also doing singing and playing, to fun-troopers like George Lovell and One-Eye, both of whom did both some serious songs and the “comedy numbers” with great charm – and mainly in-tune.

Lastly the climax of the evening for me was Gary Brooker singing two songs – Hear What You’re Saying and Saw the Firebut he also deserves thanks for coming over to listen in the afternoon when it would have been easier to chill at his hotel. He must have been delighted that so many rarities from his solo projects were chosen by the Palers.

We left around 1 am, thus missing Geoff Whitehorn playing the gone-but-not-forgotten instrumental. I was informed at breakfast that he played a real stormer (well he always does!). His wife Annie told me Geoff was bound to get up and play but we had to go as we were to be up at 6 to get to the airport at Cologne at 8. I see this Walpurgis Hour treat is now posted here. Must also have been great for Chief Petty Officer Clare to wear the Grand Commander's jacket!

Oh I nearly forgot – Henry Scott-Irvine paying a wonderful tribute to Kellogs, rather than nakedly promoting his Procol biography. Come to think about it, what he said and wrote about Kellogs was some of the best stuff he could have chosen. Sure he will sell out all his copies without them appearing in discount houses. It would be a good read, even if it had been about any ordinary band (like say The Moody Blues) – well maybe not!.

But I must have forgotten someone. Panic. Crave forgiveness. Roland – help! [All personnel listed here, and what they played here]

One suggestion, though, as I look forward to the next time. A couple of songs for community singing please: nominations? OK, Captain Clack and Fresh Fruit?

And when will the next time be? A 2017 Golden Jubilee? How about Scotland? Dundee, with the new waterfront V&A by then opened, is `bidding for City of Culture in 2017. That gives me five years to learn the bagpipes for McGreggor and The Piper’s Tune.

But for now, a mere appendage. At least I took a lot of pictures and one or two of them are OK:  a selection will appear sometime, without a doubt.

Photos on this page (by Rolf Kindler) shew Geoff Whitehorn, Dave Ball, and Gary Brooker – all of whom performed with the Palers' Band – at the Echoes in the Night convention

Procol dates in 2013 | Palers' Band setlist

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