Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes'

A Dream in Ev'ry Home

Album: The Prodigal Stranger (1991), Procol Harum Live (DVD)

Authors: Brooker / Fisher / Reid

 Read the words

Performed: very seldom

Cover-versions: none

The music of this song is uncommonly 'gentle' for a Procol Harum record – so much so that one author of this screed, first hearing it in a car, did not identify it as Procol Harum at all. This is Adult-Oriented Rock, so-called for its undemanding sound; presumably this number is quite undemanding to play as well, having a verse built on two alternating major chords (the dominant A, and sub-dominant G). This two-chord compositional device is much in evidence on this album, as is the subsequent shift to more Procolian harmonies for the D major chorus.

Electric and acoustic pianos mix in the introduction, with a dash of organ: it sounds like a latter-day Fisher solo track, and reputedly started life as a Fisher demo, to which Reid wrote the words. The band's demo version differs in having a pizzicato introduction, using the sort of bright synth voicing beloved of pop song arrangers ... cp Madonna's Papa Don't Preach. The demo ['A Dream Without a Home': tiny mp3 here] also has a dose of the "white man's reggae" on the organ, the sort of syncopation heard on Gary Brooker's Lead Me to the Water: this gets washed out on the released version, save maybe a hint around the "kiss and tell" episode. The solo break comes from some dreamy, melodic guitar, and the backing chorus is represented only by a solo Brooker line. Matthew Fisher said in 1992 to Mike Ober: ‘Two of the songs Gary, Keith and I demoed in 1989 were totally re-recorded.’ [A Dream Without A Home and Learn To Fly].

'It has a touch of loneliness about it,' Gary told Henry Scott-Irvine in March 1992, … 'and the music had tried to be quite sparse and soloist.' However the arrangement certainly doesn't sound 'sparse' in the way some of Home does: the fully-realized song makes use of treated female backing voices, a bubbling bass line, and a Bruce Hornsby-style scalar piano break, all diversifying the traditional Procol sound, and there's an unusual Latino-flavoured percussion set, over and above the radio-friendly walloping snare back-beat: do we even hear a clap-box in there? This exotic percussion was not present on the 1989 demo when it was A Dream Without A Home, but some of it featured on the Carson TV version (see below).

This song was released in the States in December 1991 as the second promo single (Zoo / BMG ZP17051-2) from The Prodigal Stranger. It contained two versions: the familiar album version (4:01) and a radio edit (3:44) available now on the triple CD of A and B sides; it was never released as a bona fide single. It was premičred live on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show (13 December 1991), incidentally also the first live appearance of Geoff Whitehorn with Procol Harum (he puts in a nice solo). As with other rarely-performed songs (cf Learn To Fly), Gary made slight mistakes with the words: instead of 'The moment that the arrow pierced' he sings: 'The arrow…. …. …. pierced', for 'To really come alive' he repeats 'The only one who cared'. In the background are appealing girl singers on backing vocals and (well-amplified) percussion: it would be interesting to know if these are Stevie Lange and Miriam Stockley (Maggie Ryder it ain’t, and one really looks like Stevie Lange). Otherwise it has not been performed live except at the 1997 Redhill reunion, some say at the request of Franky Brooker, and then on certain 2001 tour dates

Thanks to Frans Steensma for additional information about this song

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