Procol Harum

the Pale

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Grand Hotel

Contemporary album review

Tony Stewart in New Musical Express, 17 March 1973

Procol: book a room now: Procol Harum: Grand Hotel (Chrysalis)
There are swirling skirts, fat pigs with cigars gluttoning themselves and one of those romantic violinists leaning over your table as you scoff your Dover sole at the Hotel Grand. All this and more is conjured up in the title track of this album which I'll tell you now is a masterpiece of musical perfection and lyricism.

Writer Keith Reid excels himself with the words. There's the nostalgia of Grand Hotel, the pathetic sadness of Toujours L'Amour, a gentle poke at the social disease picked up as a Souvenir Of London, and an obtuse reference to the suicide of Liquorice John.

Reid is subtle, not only in his subject matter but in his compositions, which range from using rhyming couplets to grand poetry.

And then there's the music. It doesn't take the form of orchestrated epics as on Live At Edmonton, but has more variety. There are the strings, and yet these fall back to allow the heart of the band to come over.

Sometimes, as with Bringing Home The Bacon, the music is rock, with hard piano chords as accents. Then it'll turn to a quiet, beautiful melody on Fires, with the wonderful voice of Christianne Legrande skipping daintily behind Brooker's piano phrases while Chris Copping's organ hangs in the air.

You can remark on the command Brooker holds as vocalist, with a texture so suited to the different moods, but it's a difficult task to try to dissect the instrumentation, because it comes over as one.

BJ Wilson may seem to be timekeeper, but always the flourishes of dexterity are there, with Alan Cartwright's bass gingerly picking out the threads.

Rather unfortunately, Mick Grabham who's come in on guitar tends to be lost too often, until his breaks. And this again brings in only a minor criticism, that Procol tend to follow the same patterns of arrangements too often. The piano intro, two verses, then the break the result being a little predictable.

Yet how in any way could an album of the quality of this one be put down? Surely we'll even forget about the chord progression into the chorus of Grand Hotel being similar to Whaling Stories. Why don't you book your room with Procol now?

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