Procol Harum

the Pale

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PH at the Cropredy Festival, 1995

Patrick Humphries in The Guardian, 16 August 1995

Procol Harum's problem has always been that song: within weeks of its release A Whiter Shade of Pale went to Number One around the world, and became the anthem of 1967. Making their first UK appearance in 18 years at Cropredy, Fairport Convention's yearly reunion, Procol showed they had lost none of their mystery or imagination.

Beginning with songs from their woefully ignored 10-album career, Procol really hit their stride with Quite Rightly So, their third single, which emphasises the band's piano and organ blend, binding their R&B roots to ethereal psychedelia.

Procol's Gary Brooker is one of the great unheralded white soul voices, and he began Homburg a cappella. Nearly 30 years on, the song still haunts and baffles. Geoff Whitehorn's guitar lent gothic gloom to The Gates of Cerdes, while Fairport's Ric Saunders added spritely [sic] violin to Conquistador. A Salty Dog came cruising out on to the night air, epitomising Procol's grandiose sweep, as the band set off on another voyage through the Sargasso Sea of rock'n'roll.

Slowly and enticingly Brooker went into the genesis of Whiter Shade, a snatch of When A Man Loves A Woman, then it was that instantly recognisable Bach signature, and the 17,000 crowd were on their feet, lighters and matches flaring up in the night sky. Procol quit the stage just before midnight, proving emphatically that all these years on, they are still capable of skipping the light fandango.

This was Friday 11 August 1995, first day of the weekend's festival: Cropredy is a village in Oxfordshire, UK. Procol Harum were supported by Eden Burning and the Kathryn Tickell band.

Set list for this gig A fan's-eye view of the weekend and a lifetime's Procoholism

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