Procol Harum

the Pale

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Goldmine Magazine

Procol Harum reviews : Brad Bradberry

From Goldmine Magazine #521, July 14, 2000, page 132 -- Reissues Section

The past few months have produced a bumper crop of Procol Harum items. Pandora's Box is a 10-track disc of previously unreleased glistening stereo mixes (in some cases alternative versions altogether) recorded around the time of their début album, which was issued only in mono. Classics such as A Whiter Shade of Pale and Conquistador sit majestically next to a seven-minute extended version of the instrumental Repent Walpurgis. The title track is an early instrumental take on Procol's last hit, which was subsequently re-recorded in 1975. A true find for die-hard fans.

Procol Harum: BBC Live in Concert is a 1974 performance from their Exotic Birds and Fruit period (with six of the 11 songs here culled from that album). This is the Mick Grabham period, and his guitar is dominant on tracks such as Simple Sister and Bring [sic] Home the Bacon. The Dylan-esque As Strong As Samson, a stark political ballad, and the epic eight-minute Whaling Stories are among the standouts on this impeccably recorded live set.

Pilgrim's Progress is a two-disc set, an audio disc and a CD-ROM. The concert disc is a nine-track live in-studio disc. One-time Procol member Dave Ball is featured on guitar as the band casually romps through a varied set from 1971. The title track is a true rarity with Gary Brooker singing lead on the Matthew Fisher composition from A Salty Dog. The rarely performed [sic] Power Failure, with organist Chris Copping on second guitar is also quite a treat. The CD-ROM is merely a video CD of the first four tracks here (Shine On Brightly, In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence, Still There'll Be More and Pilgrim's Progress.) (Screen-shot gallery)

Procol Harum: The Best of Musikladen Live is the videotape version of the above 1971 concert (filmed in Germany). Procol Harum was never a flashy group live, always concentrating more on the music than over-the-top showmanship. Non-fans may find this (and the above CD-ROM) a tad dull - though both feature some subtle special effects. This, however, is the first official Procol video and it is noteworthy for the involvement of Steely Dan producer Gary Katz (who gets a co-producer credit). The nine-song set is rounded out by two concert tracks from 1974 (featuring Grabham): the rare B-side Drunk Again and an evocative version of Grand Hotel (with drummer BJ Wilson doubling on mandolin!).

Claes Johansen's biography Beyond The Pale, the first ever on the band, is a look at the group from its earliest stages (The Paramounts, a pre-Procol R&B outfit) up to their 1991 reunion and on to solo careers. This book is clearly a labor of love, as Johansen is a self-professed lifelong fan. There are some rare insights into the group's writing process and internal strife (things were never very cheerful according to this account). Many little-known facts are also revelatory, even for die-hard fans. A detailed discography and picture section are included. This is an extensively researched, often insightful look at one of rock history's most original-sounding bands. 

More Procol in print

Lots more PH reviews

Other Procoloid reviews by Brad Bradberry:
Westside box-set, Robin's Last Stand, Matthew Fisher solo albums

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home