Procol Harum

the Pale

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Broken Barricades

Contemporary album advertisement

John Mendelssohn was not well-served by the clumsy typesetters – nor the art-director – of this Broken Barricades advertisement, which appeared as a full-page Melody Maker advertisement in 1971. The article is unmistakably anti-Hammond, which is strange for a Procol Harum fan, yet it resonates with  his comments about Matthew Fisher thirty-three years later in his  fictionalised Kate Bush biography.

Procol Harum – Broken Barricades – Released June 11th

They began, for better or worse, as superheroes at the most superheroic of rock and roll moments. At Monterey ten thousand portable radios filled the electric June air with A Whiter Shade of Pale while four million around the globe skipped the light fandango.

It was soon discovered that they were not flamboyant by nature, that they spoke quietly, dressed not at all like rainbows, and were very serious about their work. No sooner had Homburg faded from the airwaves than all save a fortunately devoted hundred thousand or so proceeded to forget about them with all undue haste.

No matter. Nothing, neither critical miscomprehension nor mass neglect nor the fickle permutations of musical fashion were to deflect them from the pursuit of their musical vision.

While their contemporaries bellowed Mah bay-bee left me in third-hand deltaese they shone on brightly with an astonishingly ambitious seventeen-minutes stroll through the mystical/spiritual galleries. In held 'twas in they, and nothing, being better left unsaid, was left unsaid.

Keith Reid went out rowing and returned with a pack of Brechtian words about weeping sailors lost amidst a stormy sea which his fellows set to appropriately symphonic music, while the devil, having come from Kansas, made pilgrim’s progress down crucifiction lane to an entire panorama of musical styles on the soundtrack. How many moons and many Junes have passed since we made love [sic]? Keith asked.

David Knights, reticent bass-player, and Matthew Fisher, organist, departed, the latter taking with him, to the relief of many, the omnipresent liturgical organ that had inspired some to accuse them of knowing but one song.

Joyously, Trower, playing the most expressive lead guitar in all the rock cosmos, stepped forward and Brooker sang with increased passion, the two combining to simulate a musical Learjet ride on whisky train.

Reid wrote an alubm [sic] about death. Draw your own conclusions.

On tour to provoke interest in Home they demonstrated themselves, made their audiences feel more exhilaratingly alive than ever before, in spite of the premature obituaries yawned by a devotedly condescending press. Draw your own conclusions.

They’ve been unnecessarily elusive at times, and always they’ve failed to stack success on success, owing both to what until now has been consitently [sic] cretinous management and to an instinctiveness [sic] wariness of superstardom. They’ve made musical mistakes too, sublimating Trower for too long, setting themselves right up for occasionally reasonable accusations of narrowness by allowing Fisher’s organ to turn many songs into junior whiter shades of pale.

Still, they’ve made some of the most beautiful music of our times, and, as I write this, with the utterly devastating Broken Barricades streaming in from the living room, I'm convinced, as I have been for at least a fortnight following their very local performance or my first encounter with their every latest album, that there are no more than three finer rock bands in the universe than Procol Harum.

Rest in peace hereafter.

John Ned Mendelsohn [sic]

Thanks, Jill, for the typing

Same album: some reviews

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