Procol Harum

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'Trotsky' reviews 'Grand Hotel'

Grand Hotel was recorded with a new line-up featuring Plastic Penny's Mick Grabham on guitar and bassist Alan Cartwright alongside vocalist/pianist Gary Brooker, stalwart drummer BJ Wilson and Chris Copping who by now was concentrating exclusively on the organ. At the time of its creation, the band was experiencing something of a surprising renaissance thanks to the hit single Conquistador and rave reviews of the Live in Edmonton album. They responded with a classy album that extended the middle finger firmly in the direction of the band's many detractors.

There are many highlights on what is a very consistent album. The powerful title track is an opulent orchestral work-out similar in style to (although just not quite as good as) the classic track A Salty Dog. There's a lovely waltz [?] break, and some Gothic choral vocals that give the piece real character. Toujours L'Amour is a powerful rocker with a lovely emotive guitar solo from Grabham. Bringing Home the Bacon is probably even better, with has some sizzling organ sounds and the odd piano run ... I love the solos on this one. A Rum Tale and For Liquorice John are quintessial [sic] melancholic PH piano rambles, and while I've never been totally convinced by the TV Ceasar chorus, it does have some very nice moments.

There's also A Souvenir of London which is a light-hearted tale of venereal disease, with a rather un-Procol sound ... loads of mandolin and ukelele [sic] if I'm not mistaken, with a bit of a skiffle beat. While I'm not fond of the lounge, almost bossa nova feel of Robert's Box (the only track here I don't like), Fires (Which Burn Brightly) is another underrated classic PH tune, that concludes with some spectacular vocal acrobactics [sic] from guest chanteuse Christiane Legrand.

Overall, Grand Hotel an indication that, unlike many other prog bands, Procol Harum had got its second wind. The new line-up would also go on to produce Exotic Birds And Fruit (an even better album in my opinion) and Procol's Ninth, which has some great songs. The band would never quite return to the sheer astounding heights of the late 60s, but this album is ample proof that PH were still well worth listening to. ... 70% on the MPV scale

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