Procol Harum

Beyond the Pale 

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Taking Turns in Trying to Pass it On

Reviewed for BtP by Bert Saraco

Bert Saraco – who won this album as his first choice in our Christmas competition – writes to BtP:
'I realise that you didn't ask for this, but someone on the Procol list did – keep shining!'

One Eye On the Mailbox …
It was the winter of my discontent … well, not exactly – but it was winter. My post-holiday malaise was broken one afternoon when I checked my mailbox and found what I had been waiting for – The Palers’ Band (note proper placement of the apostrophe) Taking Turns in Trying to Pass it On 2CD (aha! A problem, Watson! When referring to the CD by the Palers' Band ... does one punctuate it thusly?: ‘The Palers’ Band’s CD.’ [Yes {Ed.}] But I digress ... ) ! Since I’ve been receiving a multitude of requests to submit a review (all right – one request!) I opened the package and determined to listen to this loving tribute to Procol Harum as many times as possible while working and making my appointed rounds.

Crucifiction Lane ...
The problem: how to review this CD without being ... well ... crucified?! I opened it with trepidation ... what if I had to issue a ... less than enthusiastic review? What if this sounded like a bunch of fans getting together to play songs by their favorite group? What if — hey, wait a minute! This is a bunch of fans getting together to play songs by their favorite group!! A tribute. A loving tribute. Obviously, the usual rules of review go out the window. I choose to basically go by the old adage that we’ve all heard at one time or another: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.’

The end … 

No, no, no!! I’m just kidding – put down your rocks and torches. Thankfully, there’s much good to be said about this CD. I am going to concentrate on the good aspects of the Palers’ Band CD (and there are many), remembering that this was not a ‘live concert’ recording but a recording of the celebration of a community with a common focus – the music of Procol Harum. We are all, to some extent, pale(!) reflections of those that we admire – we try, with varying degrees of success, to emulate those we admire; to please those that we love. Perhaps the true measure of this recorded event is that it shows how much ‘we’ (the vicarious hordes of Procoldom that were there in spirit, as well as those that were there in the flesh) love this musical institution known as Procol Harum.

Something that I didn’t know ...
I have a handicap and a blessing in this ‘review.’ My copy arrived with no cover art or liner notes. To slightly mis-quote an old American TV show: "The names have been left out to protect the innocent." Thankfully, I don’t know who did what, although I have a few guesses – I intentionally have avoided re-reading any online information about the performance. This is a good thing since there’s too much between us to’ve been objective otherwise. Feel free to fill in the blanks. We, who are about to die, salute you.

The CD sounds like what it was: a very informal recording. The sound-quality varies, but certainly is listenable and seems to give one a good idea of what went on. Occasionally a vocal gets buried in the mix only to emerge before the song is through. There are a good number of surprises and fine moments.

Paling Well ...
First, a word about the bass playing, since Procol bass players usually get the least attention of any band member. The bass playing is solid throughout – never flashy, always providing a nice foundation. Good job ________, whoever you were.

Photo by Hermann Braunschmidt

I suspect that the piano & organ were mostly played by the same pair through the bulk of these tracks, if not each and every one. Excellent job! One of the enjoyable things about the keyboards here is that the players were bold enough to venture into new territory within the framework of the familiar material. ‘To boldly go where neither Matthew nor Gary have gone before’ is a daunting task and, for the most part, was done successfully. A particularly good moment is on the outro of Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone), where ________ incorporates a key melody from Skating On Thin Ice into the end of the song. Intelligent, capable piano-playing and exciting, first-rate Hammond work throughout! ________ frequently ‘nails’ the Fisher solos but isn’t hesitant about adding his own sound to the proceedings. Shine on, indeed!

Photo by Hermann Braunschmidt

Guitar giants. How do you try to fill the shoes of a Trower, Ball, Grabham or Whitehorn? How do you try to do this in a just-formed band with hardly any rehearsal time? Throughout the whole project there are occasional stumbles, of course – but the guitar work is perhaps the most daunting aspect of all, having to play before a sea of air-guitarists who have, many times on their own, grimaced and contorted through each memory-ingrained guitar-lick. Most of the time, the guitar work is quite faithful to the original guitar ‘sound’ and the solo itself. It’s actually quite amazing listening to Whaling Stories and hearing how carefully ________ reproduces the guitar work throughout the whole song – no small task! The same can be said of Bringing Home The Bacon – played at a pretty good pace here, by the way. Grabham’s approach is preserved here to an amazing degree! This is what tributes are about, in one way – imitation is one of the sincerest forms of flattery, isn’t it? Juicy John Pink and the interesting new arrangement of Crucifiction Lane afford some room to stretch out a bit and reveals some nice, original guitar lines – in fact, the short soloing on Lane is very tasty, indeed!

A badge of courage and ten points right off the bat go to any and all who would dare to try vocals in this context. Anyone who has ever tried singing any Procol Harum songs comes away with a new appreciation of what a gifted vocalist Gary is. Again – I have no idea who’s who, but ________ certainly holds her own on Wish Me Well and Brickyard Blues, while ________ does a charming vocal on a personal favorite of mine: Barnyard Story.

Photo by Hermann Braunschmidt

Playing in the Octopus’s garden ...
Drink a toast to those brave enough to sit behind the drums! We all know that BJ cannot be replicated, reproduced, duplicated – whatever! The drummer(s) here (obviously great fans of BJ, and understanding that they’d have to go their own way) do a fine job, however, carrying on in his spirit. The finesse and restraint of Magdalene and the manic, fast-paced, daunting attack of Bacon (I salute you, ________, mystery drummer!) were carried off with equal success. I say to you, ‘wow!’.

Still in closing, let me say ... (miscellaneous notes)

Last note …
Whoever played on Pilgrim’s Playout did OK. Maybe ________ should get together and perform on a regular basis.

(I know, I know! ... )

Thanks, Bert (of Bert & Carina)

Palers' Convention: index page

Taking Turns in Trying to Pass it On: order 2CD online

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