Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum : Bach'n'roll

John McFerrin reviews Live in Edmonton

Best song: Conquistador

Wow, this is, like, the very definition of the 'good, but ...' live album. See, the thing is, this album is by no means whatsoever bad (even if the bonus track, a live version of Luskus Delph, bores me as much as before) to the contrary, the performances are flawless, and the orchestra and choirs don't detract from the song material at all. Besides, it's friggin' Procol Harum I didn't give this band the tagline 'Bach'n'Roll' for nothing.

But see, the problem is that this album, in retrospect, is waaaaay too cautious for such a supposedly groundbreaking experience. See, while so much of the band's catalogue to this point was suited well to an orchestra, this live album only contains five tracks, one of which is a totally rote copy of In Held 'Twas In I, which I never really loved in retrospect. It sounds OK, but then again, to me the original just sounded OK; in other words, the 'revelatory' nature of this performance is virtually nil. Similarly, A Salty Dog is done on side one, and it sounds perfectly beautiful ... but the original was already completely orchestrated. So while it was probably cathartic to the max for those who were actually there, here it's just like, 'Well, ok, now I just have to remember if I just listened to the live or studio version, oh, wait, there's applause, I guess it's the live version.'

The other three choices are less obvious, fortunately, but even these vary in quality. All This and More has always been decent, but just that I mean, it'd be a hell of a lot neater if they could have included, say, Simple Sister or whatever, and I don't see what this version adds to the previous one at all. However, the first two tracks of the album are easily worth the cost. Conquistador totally blows away the already great original, with the orchestra providing a bunch of counterpart riffs to the main melody, and the way they sound during the 'And though I hoped for something to find ...' part is total symphonic-rock majesty. Likewise, Whaling Stories is much better, though in this case the change is from 'ehn' to 'wow' as opposed to the 'wow' to 'WOW' change of Conquistador. Put another way, I actually notice the various atmospheric nooks and crannies I couldn't be enticed to notice before, and this is the one place on the album where I feel like my music exposure has been widened significantly.

So yeah, it's an alright album. I doubt anybody but a diehard would want or need it, though.

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Reproduced by kind permission from John's website


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