Procol Harum

the Pale

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Broken Barricades: contemporary album review

John Shea in The Heights, Vol 51, No. 30, 24 May 1971, Boston College

Not The Kinks, but...

Procol Harum has been one of the few groups who release consistently good albums, the most recent appearing as Broken Barricades (A&M SP 4294). As was the case with Home, the cover to this album is unfortunate – silver and blue. (Those who ignore the aesthetics of record covers undoubtedly miss something of the contents. Equality among the arts, you know. Besides, the packaging of an album can color how one receives it (eg Sticky Fingers).)

The album opens with Simple Sister in which (as in Cerdes from the first album) instruments and vocals are laid on a simple theme initiated by the bass [sic] which — after a guitar solo — re-emerges on the piano. This is joined by instruments individually: balalaikas [sic], guitars, strings, and horns then climb to the vocal.

The title cut is distinguished chiefly by an inane violin [sic] repeating a tune suitable for leading a pig to market or a dancing bear to his début. Luskus Delph contains some of Keith Reid's more amusing lyrics combined with a quiet vocal and strings. The final two stanzas are as follows: ‘Peach preserve, your simmering jewel / Hid away like orphans gruel / Help me find the widow's crack / Hope I stick like sealing wax / Almond eyes, my Turkish pearl / Burn me up sweet oyster girl / Shove me in your steaming vat / Make me split like chicken fat. 

Opening the second side is Power Failure, containing a percussion solo reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Several rhythms interact and at the climax an orchestra [sic] plays the melody as an audience applauds frantically. Following is Song for a Dreamer, a strange track with an echoing vocal and a guitar very similar to that on Electric Ladyland. Occasional vocals float to the surface until a guitar returns as from behind a veil and the song disappears.

Playmate of the Mouth is not only memorable for titular reasons, but also for a raunchy brass section which drags itself in at the end of every few bars. There is a piano solo [sic] by Gary Brooker – not one of his best. Poor Mohammed ends the album; sung by Robin Trower (in strange voice) and backed with a slide rhythm like Ron Wood's, it ranks with Whiskey [sic] Train as a great rocker. Punctuated by a cowbell, grunts and a lead guitar as mean as the vocals, it races frantically for a climax and fades – unsatisfied.

As was Home, Broken Barricades is a thematic album; here the theme is violence. Keith Reid views sex as did Nathaniel [sic] West: as a form of violence. Whether on a cosmic (Memorial Drive) a social (Power Failure) or a personal (Luskus Delph) level, violence is the condition and subject of each song. This is true even of Song for a Dreamer — a preoperational haze within what has become a fine tradition (eg Sister Morphine and DOA). The organ of the earlier albums is less noticeable on this. As was true of the last.

Robin Trower appears to be gaining control of the group. Elements from A Whiter Shade of Pale but what was a very different good band has become simply one of the best rock bands about. This is both good and bad. (Choose one depending on taste – or both.) At any rate, this is one of the finest albums in quite some time, so become a Patron of the Arts and purchase it. 

Same album: more reviews

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