Procol Harum

the Pale

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In defence of The Prodigal Stranger

Pam Miller Chwedyk on John McFerrin's review

I'm one of those folks who is usually feels that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but John McFerrin's recent review of The Prodigal Stranger was so infuriatingly off the mark that I just had to sound off.

Come on, John, don't be such a crab. Granted, TPS is a disappointing album in many respects, and some of the weakest tracks (eg the banal Can't Turn Back the Page and the plodding Learn to Fly, despite that great crescendo) do indeed represent a new artistic low for our Grand Old Band. But to say there are NO songs of value on this CD is simply not true.

What about the great Man with a Mission? That's classic PH, and a real barnstormer to boot. Listen to the way Matthew Fisher makes the Hammond growl in the opening bars and to Gary Brooker's trademark "Hey!" after the middle break: the vintage Procol magic is alive and well. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The King of Hearts, A Dream in Ev'ry Home and Perpetual Motion the last with some of the most gorgeously soulful GB vocalizing and MF organ-playing ever committed to vinyl, or whatever CDs are made of are all excellent songs and perfectly decent additions to the overall Procol catalog.

Furthermore, the 1992 concert album One More Time (on GB's Gazza label) proves that even some of the weaker songs on TPS sound a helluva lot better live than in the studio versions, once our boys are able to shake off the AOR production quality and apply a little of that hard-rockin' PH elbow grease that we all know and love. All Our Dreams Our Sold and One More Time (the song) may have sounded wimpy on TPS, but on this live set they absolutely smoke. In particular, Brooker's incendiary blues piano solo on the latter song shows the full potential of how strong this track could have been if TPS had been recorded with a producer who actually knew how to rock.

What's next, your scathing review of The Well's on Fire, just because it's not as good as Grand Hotel?! That would really be fighting words!

 The McFerrin review alluded to above

Reviews of Procol Harum albums

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