Procol Harum

the Pale

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Robin's Last Stand

A bootleg reviewed and commented upon

As a matter of policy 'Beyond the Pale' does not promote bootleg recordings: we don't want to divert custom away from Procol's legitimate output, and we feel that the best 'method of access' to non-studio recordings is for us to convey to the band the Palers' continuing enthusiasm for hearing whatever tapes they may have stashed away. That's why we reprint this review of a Procol bootleg, and the ensuing commentary from a correspondent not unfamiliar to BtP visitors!

From Discoveries No 123, August 1998: Procol Harum: Robin's Last Stand, Tendolar TDR-015

Recorded in the UK [sic] and Stockholm, this bootleg doesn't include any non-studio material, yet some of the songs were rarely performed live after any given album tour was over.

This was their Broken Barricades tour; Trower's last album with the group before going solo. And he's very hot, even playing 'off the cuff', on occasion improvising his blues-based lead guitar work. The opening track (Memorial Drive) is a cool blues-rock tune in the mould of Hendrix with Trower playing homage to one of his heroes. The oddest track here is Pilgrim's Progress, originally sung on A Salty Dog by organist Matthew Fisher (who was long gone by 1971). It's sung here by Brooker who completely changes the feeling through his voice and phrasing.

This disc was obviously taken off vinyl. It says stereo soundboard recording, but it sounds more like a decent audience tape, though every instrument sounds balanced. So there are a few clicks and skips here and there. The titles are also wrong; some songs don't appear, while others are not listed in the light place. One track (an edited version of Simple Sister combined with Quite Rightly So) is listed as two tracks ... typical bootleg fodder. But few die-hard Procol Harum / Trower fans will care. Until a legitimate live in-concert disc is released (as opposed to in-studio material – available on radio promo discs and the bootleg Through The Garden Fence, Haight Street Records), this is only the second concert documentation I'm aware of with Trower, the second [sic] being perhaps the best Procol bootleg (Easter Island) from their A Salty Dog tour, Third Eye Records, NK 002. They released one live album immediately after Broken Barricades with David Ball on guitar memorising Trower's part. Eat it up before this one goes out of print.,

Brad Bradberry

Thanks for Procol Harum Review

Dear Discoveries:

Thanks to Brad Bradberry for his interesting review in your August 1998 issue of the Procol Harum bootleg Robin's Last Stand. I think bootlegs can serve a useful function in stimulating interest in a band, especially one like Procol Harum whose live shows sounded so much better than its studio albums. In the rare event that I must buy a boot rather than trading for it, I make it a practice to compensate the band by buying an extra copy of one of its commercially available CDs, and I urge others to do the same. Of course, the perfect cure for bootlegging is for the band itself to release high quality copies of its live shows, and I hope Procol Harum will begin doing just that.

I appreciate Brad's comment about Pilgrim's Progress just not sounding the same with Gary Brooker, rather than Matthew Fisher singing it; I'll go a step further and say that, to my ears, Brooker's vocal just sucks all the ethereal beauty right out of that song and that only Fisher can do it justice. As Brad remarked, Fisher was 'long gone' from the band when this material was recorded. But as I've discovered via the many articles and interviews at Jens Anders Ravnaas' and Roland Clare's premier Procol Harum website:, Fisher's musical legacy remained with the band throughout its entire tenure. He was the one who brought most of the Classical element into the band at its inception, influencing Brooker's subsequent compositions in that direction, and he originated Procol's trademark Hammond organ sound, which his successors had to try and emulate (but of course never duplicate). The latter is evident on this CD: if one listens carefully to Shine On Brightly – right before Chris Copping begins playing Fisher's gorgeous organ solo – note for note but not sounding quite the same – Gary Brooker can be heard to shout: 'Matthew!'

That gaffe, as well as the mistaken cover photo depicting the Fisher incarnation of the band, can be seen as a form of poetic justice. And what an interesting cover photo that is too!

Here's some additional detail about the track-list: excerpts from WPLJ Radio, New York, 12 April 1971: (The original source was probably someone's having taped the concert from the radio, but it may have gone through a vinyl incarnation prior to being transferred to CD – there have been at least two vinyl boots of this material): Memorial Drive, Still There'll Be More, Nothing That I Didn't Know, Simple Sister, Shine On Brightly, Whaling Stories (with jazzy intro), Broken Barricades, Juicy John Pink.

Simple Sister wasn't edited by the CD producer – that was the way the band sometimes played the tune – without the instrumental interlude; and I much prefer this lean and powerful version. Excerpts from [the] show with Dave Ball replacing Trower on guitar – probably Stockholm, sometime after July, 1971: (this is probably sound-board material, as there was no LP bootleg that I'm aware of): All This and More, Quite Rightly So, Pilgrim's Progress, Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone), In the Autumn Of My Madness, Look To Your Soul, Grand Finale.

The tracks from WPLJ not included on this CD are great versions of Luskus Delph and Power Failure, an OK Whisky Train, and an A Salty Dog where Brooker experiences some intonation problems on the high notes; this occurred to a lesser extent on Whaling Stories as well.

There are six tracks from the WPLJ show that I feel showcase Robin Trower's playing at its very best, and are also a tour de force for master drummer BJ Wilson. Memorial Drive, Broken Barricades, Luskus Delph, Power Failure, Simple Sister and Juicy John Pink. The first five were from the Broken Barricades album and the last from A Salty Dog. All of them put the album versions to shame, especially JJ Pink, which was produced in the studio with footstomps and handclaps replacing BJ Wilson, and with a horrible harmonica infesting the entire song. Fisher produced the A Salty Dog album more as a set of Brooker, Trower and Fisher solo projects than a Procol Harum album (neither he nor Trower played on the title track, for example), with much studio embellishment replacing Procol's greatest asset, its huge ensemble sound. I think he did this because he was suffering from a combination of 'New Producer-itis' and BeatleMania, and (again, inferring from articles at the WebSite [here, here, here, here, here, here and here ...] he was just plain suffering as well – becoming more and more despondent about his not receiving his due co-composer credit for A Whiter Shade of Pale, desperately trying to make a commercially successful album, and to find a way to be able to remain in the band in light of that terrible crediting injustice.

Anyway, the hot and heavy live version of Juicy John Pink from WPLJ is an absolute Revelation! I hope those six great tracks can be released some day in state-of-the-art sound, emphasising the drums. A perfect place for them would be on a CD reissue of Broken Barricades (so JJ Pink would be an interloper – I assure you no one would complain!). Barricades is the least-reissued, and thus most-requested, CD of the Procol catalogue, and it's much too short not to include such great bonus tracks as these. And showcasing Trower and [/or – jm] Wilson as these tracks do, I bet such a reissue could sell far beyond the usual Procol Harum fandom. I also predict, that if such a CD were released, most listeners would just skip over the studio tracks and go directly to these fantastic live performances.

Thanks again to Brad Bradberry for his continuing interest in Procol Harum. I hope he'll visit the WebSite if he hasn't already.

Joan May, Sonoma, CA

Thanks to Antσnio Alfaiate for sending this to BtP.

More letters to editors

Other Procoloid reviews by Brad Bradberry:
Westside box-set, Matthew Fisher solo albums, Procol snippets

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