Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum - Live (DVD)

Reviewed by Jem Jedrzejewski

Thanks to Jem for permission to quote this review, which you may read in its original setting here at the Hairless Heart Herald – a website that fans of prog. in particular will certainly enjoy exploring.

If you were asked to name some prog bands that were around in the 60s the chances are that the band, Procol Harum, would be overlooked by most. Perhaps this is because most prog fans are in the 35 to 45 age range and are more likely to recall their teenage years – the 70s. Procol Harum is widely associated with the hit single Whiter Shade of Pale, a ballad that makes more than a casual nod in the direction of Bach in-between verses (though it isn’t actually a Bach piece if you’ve ever wondered), and countless appearances on Top of the Pops in 1967. The writing partnership of Gary Brooker (vocals, piano) and Keith Reid was to create an altogether new genre of music – classical (as in classical music) rock that in itself has to be included under the ever reaching progressive umbrella. Delve into Procol Harum’s back catalogue, a great selection of which is included on this Live DVD recorded in December 2001, and any idea you may have had of them being ‘just a pop group’ will be discarded immediately.

Less than a minute into the first track, Bringing Home The Bacon, the instrumentals are definitely prog though the vocals are bluesy which with the addition of a heavy rock sub-level makes for an enjoyable and interesting mix. But prog is always there. One of my favourite tracks, Pandora’s Box, is another good example of this with Tull-like heavy guitar (Geoff Whithorn [sic]) accompanied by deep tonal organ (Mathew [sic] Fisher) the clunk, clunk, clunk of stick on bamboo (Mark Brezicki [sic], drums) filling the pauses and reserve Tull and Fairport bassist, Matt Pegg (son of ‘honest’ Dave Pegg) holding it all together. Homburg even shares a common theme with an excerpt from the latter part of Dark Side Of The Moon (I wonder who copied who {!}, or did they both borrow it from elsewhere?). I can imagine the late, great Ian Dury complete with Blockheads covering Beyond the Pale.

Running time for the concert is 100 minutes (but see Package Features below).

Gary Brooker has worn remarkably well considering his career spans over 40 years. OK, his white hair and beard help him bear more than a passing resemblance to Burl Ives, but we are talking of a very young Burl Ives. Naturally, Procol Harum has had many line-ups over the years, all well documented in the ‘family tree', one of this DVD’s special features. Also included is Procol Harum: Uninhibited which features the band in rehearsal in their studio trying out various tracks including a few not performed at the Copenhagen gig, and comments from Gary and the band. This particular feature lasts for approximately 40 minutes and is as enjoyable as the concert.

Technical Aspects
Picture and sound quality are A1 as should be the case today. The concert was originally filmed for Danish TV and the camera work and editing is gimmick free, i.e. thankfully no swooping, no excessive zooming, no fit-inducing cutting from camera to camera and no nauseating special effects.

Package features
The DVD has a fully animated menu from which can be accessed the band’s family tree, discography, the rehearsal footage and current band members' biographies. The DVD sleeve provides full track listings of both the featured gig and the rehearsal footage. The DVD is multi-region PAL format, 4:3 screen ratio, with Dolby© Digital 5.1 and selectable PCM stereo. The total running time including extras is 150 minutes.

I was a mere youngster aged nine when A Whiter Shade Of Pale hit the airwaves in 1967 and apart from an odd sighting of A Salty Dog in record shops, I’d all but forgotten the band. So it was a bit of a surprise when watching this DVD that I recognised all but a handful of the tracks performed. Not only that but I hadn’t realised how subliminally heavy Procol Harum actually is. Yes, there are a couple of non-proggy ballads and more than a sniff of blues but even if that’s not your ticket it is all very enjoyable. Indeed, on the basis of the DVD they are on my ‘want to see’ gig list.

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