Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol's Ninth

1975: Friday Music re-issue, 2005

After three successful albums, Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Grand Hotel (Friday 1020) and Exotic Birds and Fruit (Friday 1021), lightning struck for a fourth time as Procol Harum released their next offering Procol’s Ninth. As with their previous effort, Exotic Birds and Fruit, this newer album continued to highlight the more rocking side of the band. These acclaimed musicians also drew from their astute knowledge of the American rhythm & blues scene, along with their legendary production team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

The first time they crossed paths with their famed producers was in 1964 as The Paramounts. Gary Brooker, Chris Copping, Robin Trower and B.J. Wilson recorded a rare 45 of their Coaster’s [sic] classic Poison Ivy. Over a decade later, these two producers were in London recording Stealer’s Wheel, and Brooker approached them to produce the sessions that would go on to become Procol’s Ninth.

The album kicks off with Pandora’s Box, which yielded yet another international hit for the band. Gary Brooker’s vocals explore a magic carpet ride filled with mythological and fabled characters, while Keith Reid’s lyrics successfully fuel a common chord “While horsemen ride across the green, and Snow White still remains unseen” Listen for the late B.J. Wilson’s interesting use of varied percussive instruments throughout this exciting track.

An interplay of horn arrangements by the band and their producers truly enhanced several of the songs on Procol’s Ninth. Upon careful listening to Fools Gold [sic], one can visualize the legendary sound that Leiber and Stoller helped architect throughout the golden age of rock music. Shaped with the skilful piano styling of Gary Brooker and the brilliant guitar licks by Mick Grabham, Fool’s Gold went on to become a fan favorite from this recording session.

Chris Copping, who for several years played bass guitar with the band, also filled the organ chores for most of the Chrysalis recording output. His work is truly in fine form throughout this album. Listen to the interesting fills alongside Brooker on the Leiber and Stoller classic I Keep Forgetting. This former Chuck Jackson hit single echoes the famed Brill Building sound, where writers like Leiber and Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King and Neil Diamond were all churning out rock and roll history on a daily basis. While this particular band arrangement pays homage to that era, the unique horn charts are truly an enjoyable added feature of this track.

Keith Reid’s lyrical wit and sometimes autobiographical approach is realized on several tunes throughout the album. Typewriter Torment is no exception. A sarcastic look at the art of being the poet and the madness that follows “Typewriter torment a dreadful disease, Caught it the first day I touched the keys.” This theme continues with the stunning Without A Doubt. The character in this story is searching for the inspiration to create a masterpiece. “Just a story’s all I need, Just a thought to sow the seed, Just a line to start me out, The rest will come without a doubt.”

Another strong showing on this collection was the rocking The Unquiet Zone, Mick Grabham’s tour de force. Truly a fine display of guitar technique along the lines of 1970’s Broken Barricades. Along with the tight rhythm section of Alan Cartwright on bass and B.J. Wilson on drums, The Unquiet Zone truly lives up to its name.

As a special bonus for this release, Gary Brooker has gone back to the vaults and located the very rare French Chrysalis single of Adagio di Albinoni b/w The Blue Danube. Brooker comments “After the release of Procol’s Ninth, the band undertook a twelve city sell-out tour of France, the first extensive trip there since the success of Grand Hotel. In order to give themselves a challenge and something a little different, after the repertoire of the previous few months of concerts, they worked up a combo arrangement of Venetian composer Tommaso Albinoni’s (1671–1750) Adagio for Organ & Strings in G minor. They were intrigued by the legend that the original manuscript had been lost to fire and that the version we know today had been reconstructed from just the bass and viola lines in the 20th century.”

“Indeed J.S. Bach was very influenced by Albinoni’s ideas and one can hear the chain of the bass line (ex. the minor key) from Adagio through Air on a G String to Whiter Shade of Pale.”

“The piece was very well received on the tour, so much so that the French branch of Chrysalis Records asked if the band could record it for a single release there. On return from tour they booked a very large sound stage at England’s Shepperton Film Studios, hired a mobile 24 track truck, and recorded it in one ‘take’ using the air of the large space to create the sound. Alan Cartwright used an acoustic Spanish style bass, and while the organ and piano handle the main theme and harmonies, it is left to Mick Grabham on guitar to pursue the cadenza. B.J. Wilson, meanwhile comes up with surely the most inspired and unique drum-kit part that only he could have played, assuring his place as one of the finest and tasteful drummers of the era.”

This is the first time Procol’s Ninth has been issued on compact disc in North America, and it has been over three decades since its original vinyl release. Friday Music is proud to present another installment in the Procol Harum Remasters series with this classic recording. It has never sounded better, and with the addition of two very rare tracks, Procol’s Ninth will continue to be one of their more enduring works. Enjoy!

Joe Reagoso and Gary Brooker 2005 (thanks, Jill, for typing)

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