Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum All This and More 

Salvo Box Set reviewed by Richard Solly

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Procol Harum – a 4-disc compendium

A box set of Procol Harum is something to be treasured and this is very good on a number of levels. There are just a couple of disappointing aspects (largely confined to the DVD).

A nice box and a very well-done booklet. Lots of interesting information and photos. There is a wonderful picture of PH with Leiber and Stoller and some poor guy right in the middle of page where the glue is ... just a hand telling you he's there. Very well put together, it offers a fascinating insight into all things Procol and even answers a few questions. So it wasn't Larry Adler on Home (for example!)

The discs, possibly realising they were in for a hammering, were quite reluctant to come out of the box ... where is my scallop knife? But out they came and impressive they were.

The CDs are intelligently arranged with some interesting inclusions. Procol's Ninth has got a nice high profile for example and most albums are generously showcased.

Man With a Mission has a lot more guts than when it appeared on One More Time.  It would be nice to see this album remastered: the original recording just seemed a little flat to me [now available remastered as a download here]. Here you can hear the bass banging away. Excellent. It just gets better with The Blue Danube. Dexterous, light of touch, accomplished and extremely powerful. A vast improvement on the Repertoire recording.

CD3 is just great. Some of the tracks have appeared before in bootleg copies but here you can hear them in all their glory. Last Train To Niagara has a new vocal [sic] pasted to it and romps along. You lose some of Ian Wallace's almost disco drummery but this is just fabulous. After the clean-up operation to Into the Flood from the 1992 Edmonton reunion (Secrets of the Hive) I was hoping we'd get more from this wonderful gig ... sadly not ... but a BIG hint for the future, please!

Instead some King Biscuit tracks turn up, the lovely Broken Barricades and rousing TV Ceasar. None of the irritating announcer that plagued the radio recording ... don't you just hate him? Shame Christmas Camel and Toujours l'Amour didn't pop up but this would end up a 500-disc set if I had my way, I suppose! Souvenir of London: excellent to have this on board.

I found the recordings from the download One Eye to the Future CD strangely disappointing. The vocals seemed to swamp the instrumentation, rendering songs like One Eye on the Future and (especially) Learn to Fly a bit dull. On balance though, a very good recording.

And now the DVD. A compilation (or compendium) should do what it says on the box. A 'Harum Head' must expect to have most of the recordings already. This was what you get with most CDs and the same would also apply for a DVD. But to have almost half of this from a DVD that came out a few months ago is taking the biscuit. Those Isle of Wight tracks are brilliant. A little more Isle of Wight and little less Ledreborg would have been nice. Having said that, this is a showcase box set and it's good to have the available DVDs represented. The choice of songs is very good.

There are a couple of things which point (dare I say it) to the product being badly put together. The tracks don't run in the same order as those listed on the box and for some unforgivable reason you can't tune this to 5.1 surround sound, even though most of the original recordings you could.

Naturally no mention of this release in the Observer Music Magazine ... dismal!

Even with a few flaws this is a very welcome release which, given the right publicity, should attract new listeners. No other band can rock along and on the other hand play so well with an orchestra. Interesting that a lot more acts are tinkering with orchestras these days, but these guys are the King Biscuits and rest are a bunch of macaroons!

thanks, Richard!

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