Procol Harum

the Pale

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I'll Be There

Reviewed by Bruce Malamut, Guitar World, August 1974

In many ways, this review is just as appreciative as Bud Scoppa's rave review of Journey's End: too bad it didn't appear in Rolling Stone, and probably wasn't read by many people. The accompanying photo was the same as that used in the Circus Raves article / review about Journey's End, except without a caption, and omitting the cat.

Malamut differs from Scoppa in that he recognizes the intense personal sorrow in Matthew's lyrics, but, like Scoppa, he's unaware of the very justifiable reasons for that sorrow. (Joan May, January 1999)

29 August, 1974: I'll Be There : Matthew Fisher (RCA APL 1-0325)

On last year's Journey's End, rock's original Grand Organ Master presented us with a picture of the young romantic consumptive, withdrawn and introspective, grappling with his art as much as with his life. On I'll Be There, Matthew Fisher's second solo album since departing Procol Harum, we note a definite lyric vision beginning to emerge: whereas he was merely sort of sad on the last LP, we now realize he is incurably bitter.

The guilt-laden [sic] title-track (for the conscience-stricken man who's lied and cheated his way to the top) is an ironically unromantic and life-negating defeatist hymn, an appropriate closing lament for this especially autumnal album. It shows off Fisher's patent bent toward the dirge structure, minor keyed phantom organning and slow, sure steamrolling rhythm, the perfect musical complements to Fisher's sardonic theme.

Within this new aggressive cynicism, It's So Easy is a disillusioned rocker that pleads from behind a desperate sigh:

So now you've burned all your bridges
ya gotta keep going on
but where it's gonna lead you've really got no way of knowing
and now you find you're living with a curse
cause all the time the questions get worse and worse.

Jim Ryan's guitar solo stings, somewhat like Trower's lines used to before he became the ghost of Jimi Hendrix, and Fisher's Wurlitzer piano barrelhouses along in leering counterpoint to the song's nihilistically fatalist and spent theme. Thought he'd left it at home, but there's no doubt about it, it's his own tombstone.

The rest of I'll Be There exhibits pretty much the same polarity of inspired musicianship the classical blues and dejected, dazed and confused lyricism, akin to Keith Reid's original paranoiac funeral march Something Following Me off that first Procol Harum album; depressing lyrics backed by a Blonde on Blonde-influenced keyboard-heavy instrumental mass. Now Fisher plays the life-like somnambulist zombie on this LP's cover, hoisted on a mutant crucifix, consumed by smoke and flame who says this boy's got a martyr complex?

As with his instrumental theme from the Separation movie off the last LP, this album's Song Without Words finds Fisher blowing the same appealing, classically jazzed, Hammond C-3 organ line, his specialty, the sound behind the 'aura' which once surrounded Procol Harum, which once made them something special. Here a picture is painted of an artist suffering from severe melancholia. Like most of the rest of Fisher's solo work, much of it recorded in Rome, it is a requiem, indeed, a Song Without Words.

I'll Be There: the album to which this review relates

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