Steve Ray Murphy in Boston Evening Globe • 17 April 1972
Procol Harum, the eclectic English rock group, brought its own special sound to town Friday night and swept all before it.
They played a fast, well-paced set that included songs the group has done through the years as well as newer numbers. A capacity crowd at the Aquarius loved it.
The group has been one of the most consistent in rock, without being static. The musicians have gotten stronger and bolder in concept and the sound has become richer. In its quest for thicker textures, the group is being supplemented in its latest album by a 52-piece symphony and a 25-voice chorus.
The group has always tended toward the European. It’s [sic] first big single, A Whiter Shade of Pale, was based on a Bach cantata.
The set opened smartly on Friday with a fast-paced Shine on Brightly, Simple Sister, then Whaling Stories, all from earlier albums.
The sound was loud and clear and together, in contrast to the group’s appearance in Boston last summer on the Common when the sound was terrible.
The inspiration for the group comes out of the teeming and febrile mind of poet Keith Reid who writes the lyrics. Singer and arranger Gary Brooker then develop [sic] them with the band. They almost defy duplication by other groups.
The lyrics by Reid are apt to be full of cloudy symbolism. The song Whaling Stories, for example, has a grandly morbid Poe-like theme of death and disintegration.
It starts out: ‘Pailing well after sixteen days a mammoth task was set. Sack the town, and rob the tower, and steal the alphabet. Close the door and bar the gates, but keep the windows clean. God’s alive inside a movie! Watch the silver screen!’
The music by Brooker is intricate. His piano plays against the organ. The two guitars lay down a solid sound across that, and the drum is very strong. Eventually it all works, and the sound wails and sings through the Reid lyrics.
At first blush, the material seems too cerebral, or even a little weird, but it was enthusiastically received by the audience, which apparently knew the records.
For a full appreciation, to the records first, just to you probably need to listen catch the lyrics. But the group has a first-rate sound. [sic, passim]
Pianist Gary Brooker is a strong vocalist with the proper bite to his voice that snaps words across.
Brooker and Barrie Wilson on percussion have been with Procol Harum from the start. Chris Copping on organ is a two-year veteran. The two guitarists, Dave Ball and Alan Cartwright, joined last year.
On the bill with Procol Harum was Spirit, a hard rock group from the West Coast. The group had changed recently, with two brothers – Al and John Staehely – playing guitar and singing.
They do very well, but the real strength of the group continues in the writing and piano playing of John Locke and the drumming of veteran Ed Cassidy.
The group is an exciting one, and it rated a standing ovation.
Procol concert reviews