RECORDING OF SPECIAL MERIT: PROCOL HARUM: Exotic Birds and Fruit.
Procol Harum (vocals and instrumentals).
Nothing but the Truth; Beyond the Pale; As Strong as Samson; The Idol; and four others.
CHRYSALIS CHT 1058 $6.98.
I would have nominated this for a Best of the Month, but on reflection Iíve decided that when I did so with Procolís last album I somewhat overrated it, and so Iím going to hedge a little on this one. I really like it, you see, but it strikes me as perhaps the least accessible record theyíve made, and if three weeks from now I decide that it isnít really all that good, Iíll have covered myself.
That bit of critical candor aside, I can report that Exotic Birds and Fruit is probably the most straight-ahead rock-and-roll album theyíve done since their début effort, and in many ways itís equally impressive. As usual, BJ Wilsonís drumming continues to defy belief, Brookerís singing is marvelous, and the band overall is very strong. Another plus is the production by Chris Thomas, which is simply splendid, perhaps the best the band has ever been afforded. Thereís little of the overripe pomposity that marred Grand Hotel Ė no orchestras or celestial choirs, just a lot of sizzling playing recorded in such a way as to make the greatest impact.
The songs themselves, however, seem strangely uninvolving (although I felt the same way initially about A Salty Dog), and Keith Reidís lyrics strike me, for the first time ever, as downright uninspired (notable exception: Fresh Fruit, a hilarious paean to the delights of "the finest food on earth," which should be pulled as a single and quickly). But Iím beginning to get glimmers from things like the luscious fade-out to New Lamps for Old, so like I said, Iím going to hedge. Buy it anyway Ė Procol Harum is a remarkable band, and even when theyíre operating at less than their best, theyíre still worth hearing.
(thanks, Jill, for typing)