Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes'

One More Time

Album: The Prodigal Stranger (1991), One More Time (2000)

Authors: Brooker / Fisher / Reid

Read the words

Performed: frequently at first

Cover-versions: none

The engaging drum opening and Hammond flourish usher in 'kind of a blues shuffle in more or less in G minor' as Gary Brooker has called this song in concert. Despite its adoption album title-track, this may actually be one of the most un-Procol Harum like offerings by the band. Its blues-derivative form is neither classically leavened, nor imitative of the delta variety unlike earlier pastiches such as Juicy John Pink: in some senses it harks right back to the experimental nature of the early Alpha – a song Brooker and Reid abandoned for 28 years!

Its apparent simplicity – and ingenuous 6/8 rhythm – belies some ingenious harmonic construction: after conventioanal explorations of the home key, with a suitably funky major/minor seventh on the dominant, the verse sets about climbing stepwise from C minor towards an expected climax in B flat, the related major key. This is cunningly subverted by a dive to a B flat minor (the vocal pitching the fourth of that chord!), while the ensuing chord sequence implies a resolution in D flat (the most distant key from G minor) that never comes! The end-of-verse harmonic climb is extended by one tone in the final verse so that the final chorus (and playout) are a tone higher than we've earlier heard them. None of this would be easy for an inexperienced vocalist to pitch, yet it sounds very natural in performance.

Drama is inserted by the heavily anticipated accents at the ends of lines in the verses ('and take a look'), and by Trower's guitar soaring over the rest of the ensemble. The guitar takes a solo in his classic style, despite a sprinkle of string harmonics that one would not have expected on the early albums. Less Procolian altogether are the AOR wailing male and female vocals, the abrupt fade just as Brooker starts to let rip, and of course the words themselves which are hung together with facile end-of-line rhymes and little semblance of allusion, symbolism or wider resonance.

The surface 'old flame' reading of the song might be taken, as with Brooker's Give Me Something To Remember You By, as a request for one last act of sexual congress before the erstwhile lovers part forever. The phrase 'one more time' is common in song titles and texts (in the chorus of no less a smash than Britney Spears's Hit Me Baby in fact) but it is not in common conversational usage ... though 'one more time' does occur as a sardonic spoken aside in George Harrison's Piggies (incidentally featuring harspichord from Chris Thomas) on the Beatles' White Album.

The CD booklet credits one Darroll Gustamachio as additional mixer for One More Time only; Gustamachio worked on albums by Freddie Jackson and Whitney Houston, and on a Debbie Gibson dance mix (see here and here): may we conclude that he was specifically brought in to impart some chart funkiness here, rather than simply being employed in a jobbing capacity? The song was released (same version as on the album) in the States early 1992 as the third promo single (Zoo / BMG ZP17170-2) from The Prodigal Stranger. 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] The other two [One More Time and The Truth Won’t Fade Away] were slightly improved. Tim Renwick played most of the guitar on the demos with Henry Spinetti on drums.’ This could mean that the line-up on the demo is with Renwick on guitar, though live versions Renwick played during Procol’s Stateside tour (called The Prodigal Stranger Tour) in 1991, reveal a distinctively different style to that on both demo and album. Suggestions have been made it was either Jerry Stevenson (Be Sharp) or Bob Mayo on the demo. Maybe Henry Spinetti or Matthew Fisher will be able to solve this conundrum … The official press release about Trower unable to appear on tour (16 September 1991) has Gary Brooker saying that 'Tim Renwick played on The Prodigal Stranger'. It's a pity for us he doesn’t specify which tracks his playing can be heard on. It's interesting to note that the four tracks mentioned above were originally destined for Gary Brooker's fourth solo album.

One More Time was performed regularly during the 1991–92 promotional gigs, though less frequently since and certainly not since 1995. The live version on the album of the same name seems to be a faithful copy of the studio arrangement, thought a few minor word changes occur: "I'm feeling kinda different now, I remember how you were."

Title: One More Time was adopted in 2000 as the title of Procol Harum's 1992 live album; like 1995's The Long Goodbye it has a retrospective flavour, as if ironically apologising for continued recycling of old songs in the absence of new materiel. The phrase 'one more time' is also featured in (You Can't) Turn Back the Page, the song that precedes this one on the album. 

 Thanks to Frans Steensma for additional information about this song

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