Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum in Concert with the Danish National Concert Orchestra and Choir

'Princes of Denmark' The DVD recording, reviewed by Richard Solly

The bell on my door rang Monday morning. From the kitchen I called who's that there? Imagine my surprise ... the Procol DVD had arrived already.

Nice booklet and a DVD which is easy to navigate. Once in glowing Surround Sound with all 5 speakers at the ready, I settled back for a little slice of Nirvana. One of my criticisms about the audio CD was that sometimes the delicacy of the strings loses out to the 'little band'. With DTS the balance is largely addressed. The odd bit of indistinct orchestra and some solos being a little too low in the mix cannot disguise the fact that this is a first-class performance.

I'd heard the comment "Why start with a slowie like Grand Hotel?". Well, shipmates, GH always whisks me into another world and I think you'll all agree is a great curtain raiser to this gig.

The tracks additional to the CD are superb. Butterfly Boys doesn't get played enough. One of Exotic Birds' superb dance numbers holds up well to the orchestral treatment. More rocking than the version on the Symphonic Works CD. Never a huge fan of the orchestral version of Simple Sister I have to say it won me over here. Gary Brooker once said it had 'no tune to it'. Well that may be, but there's an awful lot going on here. Brilliant stuff in fact. I took me some time to warm to The VIP Room when it first came out, but live it's fabulous. As is An Old English Dream ... Auden's updated words are so so true. These latter two give the 'backing band' time for a quick fag, and should prove to all those millions of people who don't know they are fans yet that this band can play straight with the full treatment and, in the next breath, do first-class rock songs. This is Procol all over. Don't forget they followed A Salty Dog and Grand Hotel with stripped-down LPs Home and Exotic Birds when they were first released. A magic carpet ride of little dreams.

What can I say about A Salty Dog? They give it everything.

The Brooker classic Symphathy for the Hard of Hearing leaves the band elated, exhausted and tapping at the doors of the Elysian Fields. There are some truly astounding songs on these Brooker solo albums. All the guys had played brilliantly. Such fine, fine musicians. Excellent rhythm section of Matt and Mark as well as guitar and organ from Geoff and Josh respectively.

They toddled off (presumably to replenish the oceans of sweat with some form of famous Scandinavian refreshment) before toddling back again. This would be no light-hearted encore. Just when you think your emotions can take no more they launch into the wonderful ghost train ride of Whaling Stories.

How fitting for the Hamlet-inspired AWSoP to sound so majestic here in Denmark. Princes of Denmark, certainly, but this was no tragedy. Superb in Surround Sound. Conquistador ended the show at a frantic pace. The band love it, the orchestra, choir and conductor loved it, the audience loved ... you'll love it.

Gary Brooker is a master at getting the balance right between a serious performance and having some fun. A lot of time and care has gone in to little band/big band, slowies/up-tempo pounders. An all-round sparkling day ... Something Magic indeed. His announcements, which range from 'Thank you very much' to all-too-brief but tongue-in-cheek comments are great. The gentle teasing of the Danes goes down well with the audience, it seems to me. What a breath of fresh air in these days of stifling political correctness. An excellent performance.

What would you do after a concert like that ... right, go for a curry!. The bonus tracks from 1974 do indeed look as though Procol are in the corner of The Tandoori in our village! Don't be put off by the sound. After the Surround Sound these are a bit muffled and not nearly loud enough. But ho-hum. Anyone who had been lucky enough to see the band in the 70s knows how they rocked. What a joy to hear Toujours l'Amour and Butterfly Boys. Mick Grabham's playing is so different from Geoff's breakneck virtuosity. Very dirty and dramatic. Good to see Alan Cartwright on the bass ... an unsung hero. Chris Copping seems to be at the bar getting another round of Cobra Lagers in for most of the time. Gary is having a real good time. And finally a word for BJ Wilson. Salty Dog played live is usually dedicated to him and those departed. It is an absolute joy seeing the 'octopus in the bathtub' at work here. I started seeing Procol live from 1973. It was a privilege to hear him.

We must get this band a higher profile. A half page in Record Collector and the odd ad aren't enough. Are any national newspapers listening? Er ... hello!

Another brief note from Good Captain Claptrap

Other Procol Harum recordings | Procol Harum record reviews | This concert on audio CD | More of this concert on DVD | Concert reviews from Richard Solly

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