Procol Harum

the Pale 

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The Crowd Called Out For More

'Celebs' writer Mark Voger, 11 May 2003

The Daily Record, Morris County, New Jersey (the accompanying photo was "Brooker performs in Asbury Park in 1972" ... the Sunshine Inn gig!)

The legacy of Procol Harum is vast and formidable. Whiter Shade of Pale, anyone?

But founding keyboardist Gary Brooker says the newer members of the band weren't shaking in their boots while recording The Wells' On Fire (Eagle), Procol's first studio album in 12 years. "When it came to recording a new record," Brooker says, "nobody had to think, 'Well, hang on what was Procol like before?' Or try and sort of fit into somebody's shoes."

That's because this line-up of the 36-year-old British art-rockers has been in place for a decade.

"In fact," Brooker says, before we started recording, on the first day, I said, 'Look, you've done a great job up 'til now. We've been playing Procol songs and they've come out well. But now, we're us. So you just play these new songs that we're gonna do. Just give it what you feel it needs.'

"And because of a certain sort of mentality by then, they didn't go off on something that wouldn't fit. On the other hand, it's kind of different. It's kind of Procol-y, but its up to date."

Brooker and his fellow Procol long-timers - organist Matthew Fisher and lyricist Keith Reid - have been working with the current line-up, which includes guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, since 1993.

"The thing is we have been playing all that time," Brooker, 57, tells CELEBS. "We've been doing live concerts. We hadn't played the United States since '95, but we have been playing in Europe since then. So we kind of have our chops together and really molded in well as a band.

So the important thing about the band as it stands at the moment is that we've all had vast experience. I mean I've obviously had 35 years' experience with Procol, and Matthew's done that much as well with a break. But we have been faithfully playing our repertoire. Everybody's become a Procol player."

Yes, there was a lag between studio albums, but Procol did not over-prepare for The Well's on Fire.

"We booked up a studio and went in, wrote the stuff either in a week before or while we were in there so that we had something nice and fresh and current and exciting for us," Brooker says.

"On our new album, we also played live. We've kind of, if you like, gone back to (Procol's 1967 song) Whiter Shade Of Pale with this recording, except we've used state-of-the-art technology in the actual recording of it. It's very much like Whiter Shade Of Pale.

In preparation for its current US tour, the band dusted off the rarely performed 1971 classic Simple Sister.

"We played it with a huge amount of respect for the earlier version," Brooker says, "but as Procol today, It's 'Simple Sister '03'"

Meanwhile, Brooker has been nourished by his forays outside of Procol, such as solo gigs and tours supporting Ringo Starr.

"I find it very refreshing playing with Ringo, or Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings or Eric Clapton," Brooker says. "Each one is a different kind of thing. Ringo is all over. You're playing your own songs; you're also playing Pete Frampton or Jack Bruce or Ringo or The Beatles. It gives you a broad outlook.

"It's nice to be up there with the kingpins, delivering and really enjoying it. But, you know, it's a lot harder. (The Beatles') Yellow Submarine is easier than (Procol's) Whaling Stories," Brooker adds with a laugh.

Note: Procol Harum is scheduled to perform at 6 tonight at the Bottom Line, 15 West 4th St., New York. Sold Out.

Thanks, Carol Fisher, for typing and sending

More Procol Harum history at BtP

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