Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Trotsky' reviews 'Home'

3 stars

Coming after a trio of outstanding albums, Home is a pretty substantial disappointment. As a Matthew Fisher fan (don't forget he produced A Salty Dog and in fact started off producing this one, before it all went sour), I feel that there's a drop in quality and also the overall "progressiveness" of the band, with the absence of his classical organ lines quite noticable. The poor new man Chris Copping (actually a former bandmate of Gary Brooker, Robin Trower and BJ Wilson in the R&B group The Paramounts) filled in for both Fisher and departed bassist David Knights, and I think the task was too much for him. While the album kicks off with Whisky Train, one of Harum's hardest rockin' tunes that rides on Trower's muscular riff and Wilson's cow-bell rhythms, this is generally a very dark and melancholic album, even by Procol's grim standards. The depths are reached courtesy of the sombre, cinematic The Dead Man's Dream which is a piano/organ dirge with rotten corpses with eyes that are alive! It's a masterful, morbid song that PH were actually not allowed to play on John Peel's radio show!

Nothing That I Didn't Know is an outstanding acoustic song about a recently deceased girl (did you hear what happened to Jenny Drew?) which some nice organ and accordion touches, and an excellent eerie fade-out, while other highlights are the vicious About To Die (another showcase for Trower's restrained aggression) and the epic free-form Whaling Stories. This multi-facteted piece kicks off with piano and squealing electric guitar, becomes a little stomper of a tune, then rides an ascending riff which is built up by first piano, then guitar, then organ, then a howling Brooker before Trower drapes a powerful solo around it! To top it all off there's an epic chorale finale, and everything just manages to sound surprisingly chaotic.

Unfortunately not every piece is as inventive. Barnyard Story is another relatively forgettable piano/organ vocal piece, as is Piggy Pig Pig which despite a reasonable build up sounds more boring than depressing. On the other side of the coin there's Still There'll Be More a lighter, upbeat rocker that's as close to AOR as the great Procol Harum could get.

Thankfully, Your Own Choice is a short, almost joyous conclusion to a real downer of an album. Right from it's [sic] false start to the dancing harmonica solo that gives the piece a Lindisfarne feel, this upbeat piece is a much belated attempt to lighten the mood.

I know a number of people who rate Home quite highly, and I won't deny that there are some essential PH tracks on the album. Nonetheless, it always comes as a brutal shock to me, probably because I worship the preceeding album A Salty Dog. ... 64% on the MPV scale

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