'Nothing But The Sea Between Us'
Official Double CD souvenir of the Palers' Band at Guildford
CD1 : Real Audio clips: Homburg, Kaleidoscope, Lime Street Blues, Toujours l'Amour, The Thin End of the Wedge, Salad Days (Are Here Again), Too Much Between Us, Barnyard Story, Wreck of the Hesperus, Ghost Train, Mr Krupp, A Salty Dog, Nothing But the Truth
CD2 : Real Audio clips: A Rum Tale*, Fires (Which Burnt Brightly), Conquistador, Boredom, The Dead Man's Dream, A Christmas Camel, Long Gone Geek, Pandora's Box, Still There'll be More, Grand Hotel, This Old Dog, A Whiter Shade of Pale
Up to scratch …
And so it was at the 2000 ‘Beyond the Pale’ Convention, when a multilingual throng of Procol Harum lovers, foregathered on the eve of the Millennium Concert, beguiled the time with these two sets from the enthusiasts who came to be known as The Palers’ Band.
e-Volunteers came streaming in from mid-July, when BtP floated the idea of a scratch ensemble: in the end we had to draw the line at twenty. There seemed no point in playing safe, so we decided to tackle a reckless mix of standards, cobwebbed classics, and real finger-twisters (some ‘conned with cruel pain’!), augmenting the five-piece core with acoustic guitar, female voice, violin, trumpet, recorders, even a kosher bosun’s whistle, so as to counterfeit some favourite moments – some never heard live before – from Procol records.
Rôles were apportioned on the basis of each musician’s self-assessment, then we focused our best x-ray ears on the original arrangements and it was ‘every man look o’er his part’ for the intervening weeks, until that stormy Friday evening when our Bristolian equipment-van (defying the petrol strike!) rolled up at the Jarvis Hotel, ‘a marvellous convenient place for our rehearsal’. With a handshake, strangers in space became partners in crime. We had players enough to start assembling a few songs that night (a thrilling business!), extending our repertoire with each jet-lagged arrival next morning. Yet there were still gaps at the afternoon’s soundcheck (our drummers’ first glimpse of the kit), and the evening’s brave performance featured players who had missed all the preliminaries, and a couple of numbers that had never been communally glanced at.
This audience-recording was unplanned, but everyone involved has kindly consented to its release as a souvenir of Guildford: it must, of course, be ‘listened to in the spirit in which it was made’, since nothing has been edited at all. The various clams and clangers, which added to the drama and excitement at the time, would probably have succumbed to another rehearsal, even another soundcheck. Still, ‘Never excuse!’: it was all tremendous fun, and had its share of fine playing, not least from Dave Ball, a genuine Procoler whose jovial talents were an inspiration to all concerned.
From a convener’s perspective, the warm humour and mutual respect that marked our potentially-hubristic endeavours was a relief and a delight. Having introduced the Palers’ Band with a hopeful quotation from Shakespeare’s Duke, ‘Never anything can be amiss / When simpleness and duty tender it’, it struck me all the more Dream-worthy when Gary Brooker made his unexpected entrance at the Convention, and, Duke-like, played musical match-maker to Richard and Donna … who ‘shall eternally be knit’. In an astonishing and memorable reversal, he then became our audience for a clutch of Harum songs, and Franky reports that he was 'touched to tears' by our offerings.
We’re most grateful for permission to include Gary’s A Rum Tale (sung with the whole congregation) in this memento of a wondrous event that already seems ‘like far-off mountains turnèd into clouds’. For a fleeting weekend six decades of Procol fans, representing well over a dozen nations, convened for a frolic on the fringes of a great music, then revelled in the great music itself. The distances travelled by the Palers’ Band alone would ‘put a girdle round about the earth’ almost three times: yet a bond was forged in those brief hours that mere mileage would be hard-put to dissolve. I think we can all agree that, thanks to Procol Harum, there truly is Nothing But The Sea Between Us.
Recorded live to DAT on 16 September 2000 at The County Suite, Guildford Civic Hall, Surrey: production by Hermann Braunschmidt; copyright control by GEMA; graphic design by Anne Maren Ravnaas; composite band-picture by Richard Beck from images by Peter Christian, Fritz Friedl, Beverly Peyton, Donna Roberds and Jonas Söderström; liner note by Roland Clare.
The Palers’ Band: Dave Ball, UK; Robert Barnes, UK; Richard Beck, USA; Stefano Bottacchi, Italy; Sam Cameron, UK; Jane Clare, Linda Clare, Peter Clare, Roland Clare, UK; Antonio Costa Barbé, Italy; Wilfried van Damme, Netherlands; Tito Davila, USA; Fritz Friedl, Germany; Malène Lemoine, Crete; Sev Lewkowicz, UK; Wolfgang Lieke, Germany; Greg Panfile, USA; Larry Pennisi, USA; Jens Anders Ravnaas, Norway; Stephen Wallace, Australia.
Kindest thanks to Gary Brooker; hats off to Tom Ashworth, Roscoe Chubb, Alex Feest, Dave Massingham, Treblerock Music and Ben Wiles for gear-loan; and a 21-gun salute to our tireless technical titan, Dave Godfrey.