Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes'

Into the Flood

Released: on a German single only (1991) and on the Repertoire singles compilation

Authors: Brooker / Noble / Reid

 Read the words

Performed: rarely; see below

Cover-versions: none

These notes examine the songs released by Procol Harum on legitimate records, not live rarities nor trawlings from the vaults. Into the Flood might seem to have a foot in both camps since it was released only on a single, and has been rarely (though very prominently) played live. It came out on the 5-inch CD The Truth Won’t Fade Away (BMG / Zoo PD49160) in Germany (October 1991). As a left-over from the Prodigal Stranger session, the rather spare-sounding band-only track weighs in at three-and-a half minutes, possibly retaining a guide bass played on synths; a sturdy rocker in E minor, it nonetheless partly inhabits B minor too and makes its way back to the home key with some rather attractive almost modal progressions. The line-up credits, covering all the tracks on the single, show only Trower on lead guitar, but according to Geoff Whitehorn the guitarist on Into the Food is Bob Mayo: Trower would surely have noticed how the words overlap with his own Gone Too Far!

Gary, assuming nobody ever heard this record, presents the first live Into the Flood (at 1992's Edmonton Reunion concert) as 'a new song', written on the 'plane on the way up, 'a new one that we're still working out'. The orchestration is confident and full, and the desultory identikit backing-vocal heard on the fade-out of the record (sung by one of the Imponderable Strangers) has mutated into a full-blown call and response routine for choir, who also have a completely new, exposed section to sing, all-but wordless and replete with liturgical suspensions. This is followed by the RSI-inducing orchestral string-workout, reminiscent of a Copelandesque hoe-down, before the band comes in again: although the structure is episodic and (unlike other Harum orchestral outings) presents band and orchestra in Deep-Purple-Concerto-like opposition, the overall effect is muscular, balanced and pleasing.

The song had its European première on Wetten Das… (German TV, RTL+, 11 December 1992), when the camera focused more on one uncommonly attractive woman in the choir than it did on Gary! The 1993 'Rock Meets Classic' tour of Germany (featuring Procolers Brooker, Cottle Spinetti, and Whitehorn) had a scheduled 29 gigs (a couple of which were cancelled) and Into The Flood was played at all of them, always after Grand Hotel. This was much the same musical arrangement as Edmonton II, but it was again introduced as a new song, specially written for the tour (mp3 from Hanover here).

When it appears again (still 'unperformed before … within EC1'), in a brilliant performance (bar some mental blocks in the lead vocal department) at the Barbican in 1996, the choir's solo part has become equipped with words, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, sanctus deus etc … cod-liturgy (appropriate to the somewhat religious imagery of the rest of the song), now supported with new orchestration including an irrelevant, though well-integrated, quotation from the very opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. One suspects the skilful hand of arranger Nicholas Dodd – accustomed to such adaptations in his film work – in these interpolations.

Into the Flood was still 'one we never put on record' by the time of the Millennium Concert at Guildford, but it retained its Latin words (cf the new text for A Salty Dog) and Barbican orchestration. Here it was the final number of the show: on other outings it's been the up-beat sequel to Grand Hotel twice and to A Whiter Shade of Pale twice … and that's it. There can't be any other song in the Procol repertoire to have been played so little and to have changed so much. Thus the musical evolution of 'this storming thing' as Gary called it at the Barbican, its tempestuous music well-suited to its verbal content.

Thanks to Frans Steensma for additional information about this song

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