Procol Harum

the Pale 

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... Some Long Road ...

Procol Harum live album • Recorded on tours, 2012–2013

This is the fourth, and best-ever sounding, download-only album from Procol Harum.

To download it from the Spinshop just click this 'Buy Now' link

Tracks available through (not from)  'Beyond the Pale' are encoded at 320 mbps; this is twice the bitrate of standard iTunes downloads.

There will be no physical CD of this live set: the download is the only version. But some of its tracks feature on the 2CD collection, InsideOutside

... Some Long Road ...
11 tracks recorded on tour 2012/2013

Mixed by Dennis Weinreich
Produced by Dennis Weinreich and Chris Cooke
Executive Producer
Gary Brooker

Photography and liner note by Bert Saraco
Vocals and keyboards – Gary Brooker
Drums – Geoff Dunn                   
Bass and backing vocals – Matt Pegg
Hammond organ and synthesiser – Josh Phillips              
Guitar and backing vocals – Geoff Whitehorn
Words – Keith Reid

Sinfonie Orchester Wuppertal dir. David Firman
arranged arrangement adapted from Gary Brooker’s original orchestration

Wall Street Blues (Brooker / Reid)

Pandora's Box
(Brooker / Reid)

(Brooker / Reid) / Goodnight Irene

Simple Sister 
(Brooker / Reid)

Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of)
(Brooker / Reid)

Missing Person
(Brooker / Sutherland)

An Old English Dream 
(Brooker / Reid)

A Salty Dog
(Brooker / Reid)

A Whiter Shade of Pale
 (Brooker / Reid / Fisher)  (guitar solo)

(Brooker / Reid)

Whisky Train
(Trower / Reid)

12 songs altogether: 2 From Procol Harum   from Shine on Brightly
1 From A Salty Dog 1 From Home 1 from Broken Barricades
  From Grand Hotel   From Exotic Birds and Fruit 1 from Procol's Ninth
  From Something Magic   From The Prodigal Stranger 2 from The Well's on Fire
2 non-album tracks 1 Gary Brooker solo item 1 Non-original

To download it just click this 'Buy Now' link

Some Long Road …

We’re Procol Harum, from England. We’ve been here before – we’ll be here again ...”

Gary Brooker’s concise words, following the blistering version of Wall Street Blues, immediately conjure up countless memories for the fiercely loyal fans in attendance, while jogging the collective unconscious of the rest: mostly members of a generation indelibly marked by the legacy of the band with the mysterious but familiar name.

The idea of the ‘live album’ has always had an equal share of enthusiasts and naysayers. There are those that think the definitive version of a song has already been created in the studio, with every advantage technology has at its disposal, so why bother? Of course, there are others that know that something magic is possible when a group of musicians assemble on a stage in front of an audience, balancing on a high-wire of unpredictability where, moment to moment, anything can happen.

It takes a special kind of band to create that magic. It takes a band like Procol Harum. That magic is on display in the form of this new collection of live tracks … Some Long Road ...

Procol Harum, in its various incarnations, has been going out on the road for decades, each tour tantalizing an international fan-base with the prospect of once again hearing those wonderful songs infused with the creative energy and invention that only a live performance can bring. The current line-up, Geoff Whitehorn (guitar), Matt Pegg (bass), Josh Phillips (organ) and Geoff Dunn (drums), all under the watchful eye of Gary Brooker (voice, piano), carries on the tradition of taking the music of Procol Harum to concert venues the world over – on this particular collection, a sampling from several of them.

So here we have Procol Harum, soldiering on in 2012 and 2013. The band is a seasoned, tight, cohesive unit despite the fact that most of this set tour closely followed the unfortunate episode in South Africa that nearly took Gary Brooker down that last long road that we all will take some day (a good Google at will tell the tale of The Commander's near-fatal encounter).  Fortunately, Gary and the boys are back still full of surprises, like the performance here of Missing Person, from Brooker’s Echoes In The Night solo project, and (at the proverbial drop of a hat – no doubt a homburg) the playful tossing off of the old standard, Good Night Irene. The musical legacy of Procol Harum is in very good hands, as you’re about to hear.

At any given show Gary Brooker’s vocal phrasing alone is worth the price of admission, making every inspired variation shine like a precious jewel. His phrasing of the two simple words ‘twisted path’ on the version of A Salty Dog on this recording reveals compositional choices as valid and beautiful as on the original. Of course, Brooker’s piano work remains both functional and delightfully deft, capable of disarmingly beautiful moments and, when such is called for, raucous barrelhouse rock and roll or low-down blues.

Whitehorn likewise challenges himself with every solo, creating lines of sweeping beauty alongside blistering salvos of blues-based passion. The resulting tidal wave of notes somehow emerges musically sound – the show-stopping Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of ) testifies to that quite effectively.

Supporting from ‘underneath’ is Matt Pegg, possibly the most accomplished bass player the band has ever had, creating articulate, melodic bass lines, solid as a rock and always as tasty as he wants to be. Whether rocking out on Whisky Train or creating memorably passionate bass lines on An Old English Dream, Pegg navigates not just the bottom-end but contributes to the whole as a vital musical component.

Josh Phillips at the organ and/or synth, whether soloing or playing chordal counterpart to ‘Commander’ Brooker, provides the perfect complement to the piano, bringing a sometimes playful, sometimes Gothic, but always effective texture to the Procol Harum sound. His soloing on songs like Pandora’s Box and Wall Street Blues shows Philips as a vital element of this powerful five-piece group.

Under it all is the powerhouse percussion of Geoff Dunn, keeping faithful to the catalog while contributing his particularly tight and robust stick-work, a musical experience all on its own. Aside from the appropriately locomotive, textured solo on Whisky Train, Geoff’s ensemble playing makes for stand-out headphone listening on songs like Pandora’s Box, with its delightfully funky tag-ending.

The collection of performances on ...Some Long Road... is a veritable Procol Harum primer, containing the band’s most well-known signature pieces. Along with the aforementioned Wall Street Blues, Pandora’s Box, Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of), Missing Person, An Old English Dream, A Salty Dog, and Whisky Train, we’re treated to a fine rendition of the previously hinted-at Homburg, a rousing Simple Sister (with Gary crying, ‘oh, no’ on the fade as if he’d just realized the ominous implications of the lyric), a convincing Conquistador with the Sinfonie Orchester Wuppertal, and of course, A Whiter Shade of Pale, with Gary’s elegant piano-only introduction falling into tempo as the band joins in. As the words ‘we skipped the light fandango’ are sung, the crowd registers its recognition and appreciation, and are ready to call out for more.

So why do we need a live Procol Harum album? For one thing, this is a band that isn’t concerned about slavishly replicating the original studio performance. For these musicians, being out on the road is about mining the rich soil of the songs night after night. This configuration of Procol Harum has proven to be particularly reliable, as you’ll hear on this recording. The camaraderie between the members translates into a joy of playing that comes through every note, in every performance. These are not rock and roll poseurs, flipping their hair extensions, buoyed by off-stage back-up players and pre-recorded tracks. There’s no trickery or pyrotechnics – and certainly none of the pretentiousness that some rock bands indulge in. These are five men who come to play – and they do that very, very well. Luckily, we get to hear these performances in all of their unvarnished glory, gathered from various venues and offered for your enjoyment. I think you’ll find the sound to be rich and vivid, mixed to perfection and welcoming of repeated listening.

Of course, none of this would matter if it wasn’t for the fact that the songs are wonderful. It might be argued by future rock historians exactly how much Procol Harum influenced and even helped to create the prog scene, but Gary’s music is actually more rooted in traditional song-writing. The songs of Procol Harum are about melody and form. Brooker writes songs that are free from excessive ornamentation yet still manage to surprise and then to lodge deep inside of you. The melodies are substantial enough to hold their own even while being explored, navigated, and taken to the limit by the likes of Brooker, Whitehorn, Phillips, Pegg and Dunn.

And so it was (as the song goes) that Procol Harum came to town, inspiring standing ovations from audiences that had never heard their powerful live sound before, getting that ‘ohhhhh’ of recognition from those who didn’t realize just how many Procol songs they actually did know, and of course thrilling the rest of us who went because we knew what to expect. We came to hear the songs. We came to experience those golden nuggets of inspiration. We came to be the crowd that would call out for more.

They’re often known as the band that first combined rock and classical music but at the core, Procol Harum is just as much about blues and soul. Are they perhaps a soul band? Certainly, Brooker’s vocals are soulful, if the meaning of soul is more about expression and less about the mindless vocal riffing of televised reality ‘talent’ competitions – and the band can (as evidenced by this very album) produce a very visceral sound. But for me, at least, it comes back to the engaging lyrics and the elegant melodies – and somehow these melodies, brought to fullness by Procol Harum, give meaning to Keith Reid’s mysterious words – a meaning that’s felt rather than understood because, after all, Brooker himself makes no claim to understand what it all means.

But we do.

It’s Procol Harum. It’s … Some Long Road ... that goes nowhere, to quote the lyrics from Shine on Brightly.

Nowhere, that is, but to the soul.

Bert Saraco


More Procol Harum albums | Reviews of this album | Liner note

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