Greetings, fellow Procol Harum fans,
As we look back at Procol Harum’s first decade in the present century, it’s amazing to think how many people they’ve played to, and how many new fans they’ve created.
Judging by the setlists archived at ‘Beyond the Pale’ the band played a gig roughly once every three weeks on average during the decade: one show in each of Austria, Estonia and Monaco; two shows in Sweden; three each in France, Japan and Switzerland; four in Finland; five each in Canada, Poland and Russia; eight in Norway; eleven in the Netherlands; fourteen each in Italy and in the UK; twenty in Denmark; twenty-eight in Germany and twenty-nine in the USA.
With a brilliant line-up, whose onstage chemistry is both visible and audible, Procol have during a very busy 2010 played to rave reviews on the East and West Coasts of America, as well as rejoining the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for a second reunion, and playing with an American orchestra for the first time since 1973. Gary Brooker continues to pull surprises out from the back catalogue (In Held was a nice surprise at an East Coast show, as an encore item!) and it’s good to hear him in such fine voice after recovering from his injury in Finland in 2009.
The last decade also saw the birth of a new distribution channel for Procol Harum music: online downloads. It started with One Eye to the Future, released in 2008, based on live recordings from Italy in 2007. Last year saw the follow-up, Spirit of Nøkken, with recordings from various summer and autumn concerts of 2009. Both albums were released with several months of exclusive access for BtP visitors, but are now generally available through online music stores on the net. We have also been treated to an exclusive download version of the live recordings from Procol Harum’s 2006 orchestral concert in Ledreborg: a soundtrack featuring all Gary Brooker’s between-song chat.
Spirit of Nøkken earns its name from a sculpture outside one concert venue (in Drammen, Norway) Procol Harum played in October 2009. And from that sculpture you could hear the sounds of Nøkken (a legendary Norwegian sea monster) as reproduced by Procol Harum in their version of Kaleidoscope played that night.
Procol Harum have continued to be characteristically genial with fans, generous with their time in mixing with us before and after playing. And it’s been excellent to have so many occasions to get together in different countries with fellow-fans and share comradeship that extends well beyond the mutual love of the music that has brought us together.
This can also be seen in the online forums: as well as the ongoing Beanstalk conversations, 2,939 people get their Procol news from BtP's 'Fresh Fruit' mailing list and 1,576 people belong to the BtP-led Procol Facebook group.
And people continue to visit the 6,000+ pages of 'Beyond the Pale' – with its diet of daily news, so much of which is provided by our generous fan-contributors. Last year more than a million visits were recorded, visiting over four million pages.
2010 also saw the return of the much-missed No Stiletto Shoes' Christmas gigs: this time there were three, one in Ewhurst and two in the traditional Club Riga at Southend. BtP hosted a lunch in Sunday for Palers and some of the Shoes themselves. A great time for all, with Gary and Franky in their usual friendly mood, while Frank Mead taught us all how to play the spoons.
2011 sees the renaissance of The Palers’ Project, in hibernation since opening for Gary in London, July 2007: work on the next 2CD of ‘revisits and reinventions’ opens afresh in the New Year and submissions are warmly invited.
2011 looks highly promising for Procol Harum, and
their farsighted manager Chris Cooke, as they kick off with a
highly-publicised, sell-out tour in Denmark
(also with choir and orchestra). A well-produced,
budget-price sampler album comes out in February, by which Salvo Records
– who have served the band so well with their remastered reissues series –
hope to introduce Procol music to a new, wider audience. And of course we
keep our fingers crossed that the band members – in among their many
commitments to other projects and ensembles – will find time to get together
and record new music.
So ... Happy New Decade to all our readers and contributors!
Jens and Roland
Kristiansand / Bristol