Procol Harum

By Procol Harum I have as stand-alones their 1st 1967; Shine on Brightly 1968; as mp3: A Salty Dog 1969: Home 1970; Broken Barricades 1971; With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra 1972; Grand Hotel 1973 (Christine Legrand). Hits compilations: Best of A&M 1972; Chrysalis Years 73-77 1989. And solo works: Robin Trower: Bridge of Sighs 1974: Gary Brooker: No More Fear of Flying 1979. I have had some of their later work but it didn’t resonate enough for me to keep it.

I remember the power of first hearing Whiter Shade of Pale. Keith Reid’s ornate lyrics (very T.S Eliot) were matched by the ornate organ work. It was, & still is, the epitome of prog-rock. I loved the Beardsley cover art which reflected perfectly the structured, decadent music within. Lush without strings, dense without feeling leadened. Classical without being apologetic. Gary Brooker sings as if he wrote these lyrics himself.

Over the albums guitar became more prominent & at times they were as riff heavy as Led Zeppelin. The organ/piano combination inspired many groups including The Band. I remained a fan & was disappointed when the group ‘retired’ after many changes in members. When they regrouped decades later I give them a listen but although the sound was still solid I found in uninspired.

Each album has tracks love. As whole I love Shines On Brightly with is mystic side 2 that takes that mysticism where even the Moody Blues never went. Simple Sister is another favourite, The Devil Came From Kansas, Michelle Legrand (of Swingle Singers) is amazing on Grand Hotel.

The engineering on the lps is amazing – so much so that the Live Edmonton recording suffers. The addition of the orchestra adds nothing to their sound & the spoken portions are nearly impossible to make out. MP3 doesn’t improve the sound quality either. My least favourite of the lps that I have. Procol was adult rock that accidentally was radio friendly.

I also have some of their solo projects. Robin Trower’s Hendrix heavy guitar work dominates his solo albums, to good effect. I love Bridge of Sighs though it does veer into Bad Company territory.  Brooker’s Flying lp is dense, interesting enough, but I can’t name a track on it off the top of my head – something for Harum completest.

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