'A Souvenir of Ona'
Mark Mott on Grand Hotel CD pressings
The Procol Harum Grand Hotel album has always been a personal favorite. My first format was 8-track tape, then later, twelve-inch vinyl. Then after twenty-five years, I went on a quest to find the album on CD. After many disappointing searches for the then discontinued CD, I finally ordered the newly-released Repertoire CD.
Always the bargain hunter, last Thanksgiving I was wandering the Huntington Mall in Ona, West Virginia. A music store was going 'Out of Business'. There I found an English Grand Hotel CD, still shrink-wrapped, with a multitude of stickers (and no cuts), in a 'cut-out' bin. For four bucks, I now had a pristine copy of what I thought was the original CD. (I had considered donating the English CD to a local Nashville radio station (WRLT) so they can play some PH during their Saturday Retro program, since all they had was the vinyl, off-site).
Next, having won a copy of Broken Barricades during the holiday 2001 contest, I started an email conversation with Roland at 'Beyond the Pale' about the English Grand Hotel CD. He informed me that he had actually got rid of his first Hotel CD … "It had a banding mistake ... the chord at the end of For Liquorice John comes out as the first note of Fires (Which Burn Brightly)!"
So I opened and played my English CD. Here are the details.
It is the Castle ESM CD 290. It does not have the banding mistake mentioned above (it even has the count down timings between every track) so it would be interesting to know if anybody possesses a copy of the CD which has that particular flaw.
It does have the original centerfold photo and the original notes from the LP but not all of the artwork of the lyrics like the Repertoire CD. The mastering is quite hot, a little too hot as many of the loudest passages distort, especially Grand Hotel. On the other hand, it sounds a lot like the old 8-track. I had never noticed the right-to-left pan of the harp before the last verse of A Rum Tale, and BJ Wilson's drum and crash cymbal (and Dave Ball and Denny Brown's spoons) sound fantastic on A Souvenir of London.
The CD had a black insert in the tray, but I noticed that there was something behind the hole. So I swapped my tray with another CD that had a clear tray and no art behind, to discover a large version of the goblet and script – Procol Harum sideways – that shows through the left spine on the front of the case.
My CD pressing particulars are "Made in the UK by PDO" and "ESMCD290 10385641 01 %" and on the CD ink it has Essential! Records LC 6448. Possibly a second / different / corrected pressing?
Guess I may have to hold on to this one too, as the mastering and art are so different from the Repertoire CD. Now … is it Dave Ball's photo in the wine goblet? (I doubt it, as there seems to be a face replacement that doesn't curve with the glass distortion as the rest do, and the leftmost (upside-down) has a beard). Now to get a magnifying glass to read the script notes on the back page of the CD booklet!