Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Trotsky' reviews 'Procol's Ninth'

Actually Procol Harum's eight [sic] studio album (the title takes into account the live album Live in Edmonton), Procol's Ninth was recorded under unusual circumstances. Essentially Procol main men Gary Brooker and Keith Reid were big fans of veteran American rock producers/songwriter Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and record company politics made it possible for the band to hook up with their idols. Unfortunately Lieber and Stoller were under the impression that PH wanted to make an album of their material! While this misunderstanding was cleared up, the resulting album is a curiousity [sic] in that it is the only Procol Harum to feature cover material (the liberal borrowing from the classical and blues masters excepted of course!).

Despite the initial problems, Procol's Ninth has some superb songs on it. The track that opens this album is absolutely outstanding. Marimba, dancing flute, searing organ and mystic lyrics, Pandora's Box has all the sense of mystery that one expects from a great PH song. The high standards continue with the accusatory Fool's Gold and the vicious riffing of The Unquiet Zone, a sizzling piece with guitarist Mick Grabham and drummer BJ Wilson to the fore, each of them inflicting heavy damage with every blow thrown.

There's also The Final Thrust which is part march, part reggae. It's one of those pieces that many might dismiss as lightweight, but I simply love. The Piper's Tune is another maudlin anthem, of the sort that PH dished out with frightening regularity. This is a beautiful, beautiful song, with bagpipe melodies and a heavy heart shining through. The lyrical themes of the bluesy Taking the Time, Without a Doubt (another tune with a splash of reggae!) and Typewriter Torment may reflect Keith Reid's struggle to find inspiration, but there are some real bona fide PH classics here.

As for the cover songs, well the result are rather different. The Lieber-Stoller composition I Keep Forgettin' enjoys new life in the hands of Brooker and co. After all, the man's got a voice made for quality soul, and even the lyrics are clever enough to fit Procol. It turns out to be an excellent happy accident. Sadly the cover of The Beatles' Eight Days a Week is rather less inspired. I should point out that while I really enjoy this album a lot, this is probably the least progressive album of the nine studio releases that PH put out during its initial eleven year run, which might explain its relatively mediocre rating. ... 61% on the MPV scale

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