Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum reviews online

'Trotsky' reviews 'Broken Barricades'

In a way, this was an album that Procol Harum simply had to make. With guitarist Robin Trower champing at the bit, they let the keyboards take a back seat and made their most guitar-dominated of all. Despite a couple of notable songs, the end result is a disjointed, often dull affair.

The folly of the post Salty Dog move of replacing organist Matthew Fisher and bass player Dave Knights with Chris Copping who played both instruments is revealed by the lack of variation on this album. Not that Copping is weak on either instrument ... in fact he proved to be quite a competent organist in later albums like Exotic Birds and Fruit and Procol's Ninth and he was arguably the most talented of Procol Harum's three bassists. But, even though it was surely was possible to double up on both instruments in the studio setting, the organ is almost non-existent on this album. And that's a real shame.

Of course, it's not all bad. The opening track Simple Sister is a killer riffer of a tune. With potent brass and ominous lyrics and one of Trower's best performances, this is an all time Procol classic. There's also the totally un-Procol like cut Song for a Dreamer, on which Trower gets to indulge all his Jimi Hendrix fantasies, with some ethereal spoken stoner lyrics, and phased guitar leads. As a big fan of Procol's drummer BJ Wilson it was also a real treat for me to hear the drum solo during Power Failure.

Unfortunately a string of unspectacular melancholy ruminations (the title track and Luskus Delph) and mediocre blues rockers (Memorial Drive, Playmate of the Mouth and Poor Mohammed) really weigh this album down. While Trower's playing stands out, and every one else is solid, the songwriting cupboard seemed to have been quite bare for this one.

I'd have to say that this one only very narrowly escapes the unwanted tag of being Procol Harum's worst studio album during the band's original run. It's a shade better than 1977's Something Magic, but weaker than all the others. ... 53% on the MPV scale.

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