Procol Harum

the Pale

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Grand Hotel

Reviewed by R David in the French-Canadian Pop Jeunesse • 7 April 1973

We suspect M David's effusive piece fell victim to the sub-editor's razor, since two excellent tracks get no published mention.
What a shame the said editor's attention didn't extend to spelling the band's name correctly!

Here's a translation, into English, with comments, Peter Bourne, April 2017

Procul [sic] Harum have changed to a new record label, at least as far as North America is concerned. The have left A&M, their home for nearly eight years for Warner Brothers-Atlantic, distributors for Chrysalis Records.

The album has been presented with class, the class of a grand Hotel with a menu inside [the jacket], tuxedos, champagne, etc. It’s been humorously carried off well, and I’d go so far as to say wonderfully … but naturally, it’s the music within that interests us most, and it’s there we’ve been spoiled. The band and above all Gary Brooker have recaptured a fearsome confidence that hasn’t been obvious of late. Indeed, the album with the Edmonton orchestra has given them a bit of an ego-boost! All in all, it’s their best album since In Held The was In I [sic – the misnomer also appears later; the writer seems convinced this was the title of Shine On Brightly] and that’s saying the least.

The album opens with Grand Hotel, a very very classic piece, as Brooker likes them with a big choir, it’s beautiful like a symphony! Brooker drives the melody with a voice that stands up to anything, one could say that he’s found it again and he throws us everything he’s about, up in your face, kind of a slap.

The second song Toujours l’Amour brings us back to rock Procul Harum-style, reminiscent of the Broken Barricades  era. Except this time the song is more attractive than all the songs from that album. Toujours l’Amour marks the debut of Mick Grabham as soloist [sic - there’s actually a short solo in Grand Hotel]. We have to pause here for a bit of analysis of Mick: at first he plays exactly [sic] like Robin Trower to the point of checking the album credits to see if Robin was mentioned. In any event, no, Mick plays that way naturally with the same ease as Robin. He is definitely better than Dave Ball who one senses was never comfortable as a member of Harum. All the same, Mick shows a very imaginative style, his solos are something we look forward to with some impatience throughout the album.

A Rum Tale is another typical Procul Harum song with waltz-y piano and with the ballad style as only Gary can sing it. The side ends with TV Cesar [sic – a misspelling of a misspelling!]. A big symphonic [sic] work with lines we might have found on Side B of In Held ‘Twas In I. It’s the type of song that bears repeated listening with special pleasure. Gary uses a full orchestral section that he conducts [does he?] with masterly precision, undoubtedly one of the great moments of the album. Again, note the solo by Mick, which is absolutely incredible.

Side 2 begins in ‘Western’ style [actually skiffle/music hall, of which the writer may not have been aware] with an acoustic guitar [and two banjos] on A Souvenir Of London. It’s a little disorienting, after the symphonic stylings of Side 1. But once again, we’re dealing with a pretty little song not unlike something McCartney might have done for the Beatles’ 'White Album' (that’s a personal impression).

Bringing Home The Bacon is a typical Procul Harum rock song, it was heard elsewhere at the recent concert in Pierrefonds [that’s a Montreal suburb]. Chris Copping, “silent organist” [sic – I thinks he means “rarely heard” – he maybe was being ironic] uses a new sound here, which is most special, sounding like bells at times. Mick does another Robin Trower-ish solo here and, as usual, it’s fascinating, I think he uses that style better than its inventor. It remains to be seen if he plays this way 'live' as well ... if so, I'll be floored!.

Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) brings us Christiane Legrand, better known as the principal singer with The Swingle Singers. It’s very 'classic' and also very beautiful. I think Gary realised a dream here by using the Swingle Singers’ sound for one of their songs. He’s known for a long time that he couldn’t duplicate that Dadadadada sound with his voice that Christiane had been doing for years. To say the least, it’s a spectacular blend of one of rock’s best composers with one of the best 'classic' singers.

It wouldn’t be fair to gloss over the lyrical efforts of Keith Reid, the group’s wordsmith since the beginning. Keith’s wordplay provides significance and resonance.

The more I listen to this record the more I like it, and that’s a bit strange since normally Harum hits us like lightning right away; after twenty listens we forget it and move on to other things. But this time the opposite happens and I’m looking forward to how I’m going to hear Grand Hotel in two weeks. Harum lovers will be very very happy with Hotel and for those (if there are any [sic]) who don’t yet know Harum, this is the ideal LP to start with. We mustn’t forget that it was Brooker who invented the 'classic-rock' style [I think he meant classical-or symphonic-rock], a style later used by Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and hundreds of others. I’m happy to report that in this vein Gary is still the 'boss', that 'classic-rock' is what he does best and with Grand Hotel he has done something very special.

Thanks, Paul Wolfe

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