Procol Harum

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'Trotsky' reviews 'The Prodigal Stranger'

Any Procol Harum fan will get a cheap thrill upon hearing Gary Brooker sing "I wandered through my playing cards" during The King of Hearts, but in the end this reunion album is just a nod to the past. When Brooker, lyricist Keith Reid, guitarist Robin Trower and organist Matthew Fisher got together to cut this 1991, they brought together some of the crucial ingredients that made the Procol Harum stew magical. There was Gary's voice, the double keyboard attack, Reid's cycnical [sic] little stories and Robin's guitar. But for all the sentimentality, the hunger and the magic wasn't there.

Maybe it was the fact that drummer BJ Wilson wasn't around (sadly he passed away before this project was realised). Maybe it was the big 90s production, given a special sheen by the session musicians employed here. Maybe it was the lack of ambition. Maybe it was just the passage of time. What we have here is just a walk down memory lane ... it's not as painful as some other reunion albums, but there is scarcely anything progressive about this collection of decent, but often half-baked songs.

Almost every song is hummable, but even the best cuts here, the maudlin ones (You Can't) Turn Back the Page, Perpetual Motion and The King of Hearts, and the upbeat All Our Dreams are Sold and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (which sounds suspiciously like something Steve Winwood did in the 80s), don't come remotely close towards adding to the canon of great Procol Harum songs. Trower in particular seems to be just going through the motions, and he, Brooker and Fisher between them fail to produce a solo that makes me sigh. Now how can you call that Procol Harum?

This album, like the second comeback album, 2003 The Well's on Fire, is only of value to the hard-core Procol Harum fan brigade, and most us will admit that it's just for nostalgic purposes. ... 35% on the MPV scale

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