Procol Harum

the Pale

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PH at the Fillmore

Three brief pieces


4 October 1968
Already familiar with their soulish music, I was surprised to find, when I first saw them, several white, upright (and uptight) Englishmen, and immediately believed the story about how they came together suddenly to record a song that somebody else had written. Once that record succeeded, they had good reason to develop an ensemble performance style. This time they were better than before, though they still seemed to move from one song to another faster, and more anxiously, than most groups. Their best piece is still A Whiter Shade of Pale (which draws upon a JS Bach cantata), and their playing it yet again reminded us that this group hasn't had a hit since then (and, unless they do something better, may never have one again). At times I seemed to be hearing, particularly from the organist (Garry Brooker [sic x2], who is very good), a lot of Protestant church music.

1 November 1968

Gary Brooker - lead vocals, piano / Matthew Fisher - organ, vocals / Robin Trower - guitar / BJ Wilson - drums / David Knights - bass / Keith Reid - lyrics: live concertlistenable-to at Wolfgang's Vault, containing notable rarities McGreggor and Stoke Poges

Procol Harum was one of the earliest bands to make the transition from British Invasion pop group to serious, progressive British rock icons. Along with Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues, they opened the door for countless others groups, including Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson.

This is arguably the first professional live recording of the band, done on its début US tour at the Fillmore West. The year earlier, between gigs backing up various British singers, vocalist/pianist Gary Brooker decided to record Whiter Shade of Pale, which he had written with an aspiring rock lyricist named Keith Reid. It was loosely based on Bach’s Air on the G String from the Suite in D Major #3. The record was released under the name Procol Harum, which was the name of producer Guy Stevens’ pet cat. When it became an instant smash, (one of the few times a group hit #1 with its first record) Brooker regrouped his band under the new name and hastily recorded a début album. The band did not make it to the US until their second album, Shine on Brightly, was released.

This concert, which still featured the original line-up, consists of material from both the self-titled début album, originally released in September 1967, and Shine on Brightly, which would hit stores six weeks after the band recorded this show. Although none of the trademark Procol Harum radio hits are found on this recording, it does feature the distinct sound of the early prog rock pioneers, spearheaded by Brooker’s compelling baritone voice and Trower’s bluesy lead guitar work.

14 March 1969
They are not quite among the great groups, mostly because their material isn't various enough. Their best songs, as with most rock groups at the Fillmore nowadays, are the old ones like A Whiter Shade of Pale. They could use another strong voice, particularly since Gary Brooker ran out of energy at this concert. Though they are not the insecure performers I first saw (only two years ago), they would benefit from adding more patter between their songs.

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