A Whiter Shade of Pale was only the tip of the iceberg. Half a century after that iconic song became a defining audio-landmark of the Summer of Love, Procol Harum soldiers on undaunted by genre, unaffected by industry trends, and still the most classic of classic rockers. Integrity isn’t a word often associated with rock and roll, but here’s a band that – in the face of punk, disco, and rap – never caved in to the pressure to conform or to compromise their own musical integrity. With ‘Commander’ Gary Brooker anchoring the ship in solid songwriting and powering the sails with that amazing voice, the good ship Procol still remains afloat, looking back on a wake of solid musical performances. Still There’ll Be More, then, not only looks at the band’s legacy but takes us right up to their current strong studio album, Novum. At last, here’s a logical compendium, offering selections from all of Procol Harum’s official recordings – a boxed set worthy of the legendary band that always gave us the best they had, and continue to do so even today.
Presenting a capsule version of a fifty-year legacy is no easy task. Certainly, in the hands of different people the results would vary, but I think that any follower of Procol Harum will be happy playing through the three discs that represent each album from the officially-released canon. Along with the ubiquitous Procol staples ( A Whiter Shade of Pale, Conquistador, Repent Walpurgis, Homburg, A Salty Dog, Pandora’s Box, Nothing but the Truth, etc.) we get too-often overlooked gems like Pilgrim’s Progress, Barnyard Story, Luskus Delph, The Thin End of the Wedge, The Unquiet Zone, Skating on Thin Ice, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and so many more – not everyone’s favorites made the cut, but what a wonderful cornucopia of music to please the faithful and to astound the uninitiated!
The misconception made by the casual music fan that only knows of Procol Harum from a distance is that they’re a one-trick pony group that specialises in some classical/prog-rock hybrid. This collection succeeds in showing that Procol Harum is so very much more than that. This is a band that creates stunning, melodic, beautifully-textured music one moment, then rocks relentlessly the next. Of course, there’s always been a mix of profundity and sardonic wit in the lyrics – and don’t worry about always trying to figure out what they mean since that’s not always the point (but it is part of the game)… Enjoy the trip through the decades and hear a band that never went in or out of style because they’ve always defied categorisation. Go ahead – try to tell me what genre Beyond the Pale or Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) or Broken Barricades fits into…
Long-time fans will be happy to finally have a ‘clean’ copy of Procol’s 1973 live performance at The Hollywood Bowl (with orchestra and choir) on disc four, without radio edits and ‘King Biscuit’ voice-overs. Likewise, disc five offers a real treat – the band in fine form in 1976, live at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens – a lively show with a nicely-varied set list.
The three video discs offer appearances as early as the Beat-Club performances, dating back to 1967, ‘68 and ‘69, and the extended set from ’71 from the ‘Beat-Club Workshop,’ featuring David Ball on guitar. The Disc seven DVD features the band, now with Mick Grabham on guitar, on the ‘Musikladen’ broadcast done for German TV in 1973. The final DVD features Pandora’s Box from the BBC’s Top of the Pops in ’75, then the eleven-song ‘Sight and Sound in Concert’ performance at The Hippodrome, March ’77. I certainly wish there could have been some live concert footage of the current touring band – Gary Brooker, Geoff Whitehorn, Geoff Dunn, Matt Pegg, and Josh Phillips. I know, I’m being greedy.
What? Not enough? How about we throw in a concert poster reproduction for you to put up on your wall while you listen to the music, watch the videos, and page through the book?
The songs from the albums sound wonderful, by the way – very clean, and with a deep bass-end that creates a warm, solid, rich listening experience. Hearing the band evolve from inspired but untested young musicians to masters of the studio is a fascinating journey. Flash forward to today's reliable, road-tested purveyors of that unique entertainment known as Procol Harum – there’s still no concise way to describe what they do… but if they come to your city, go and see them play. The music will stir you, move you, and certainly rock you.
Obviously, this review is not meant to dissect the songs created over these past five decades (you can visit www.procolharum.com for that) but to simply say that if you never bought a Procol Harum album, then this is an excellent place to start. If you already have every Procol Harum album, well …you’ve most-likely already pre-ordered this. You’ll be glad you did. You might even be happy enough to skip the light fandango.