Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Drink deep from the Well

Reviewed by Richard Solly

The ceiling flew away last night as 16 vestal amazons delivered The Well's On Fire. Here are the initial ramblings.

There is always a temptation to judge a new album by its predecessor. This would do The Prodigal Stranger a disservice. Someone once wrote that Procol albums were made up of a huge song which the others use as a crutch. A little unfair. Grand Hotel (for example) is Yin to the Yang of those songs with an element of danger, ie Souvenir of London, For Liquorice John, Robert's Box. My criticism of The Prodigal Stranger was the emergence of some songs which would be bland enough to appear on a Phil Collins album. This was compounded by the over-production. There were however enough glimpses of Nirvana but the balance wasn't quite there.

I have no such misgivings with the Well.

I was lucky enough to hear '10,000 Souls' at Croydon. Now it's An Old English Dream it's polished up and kicks the album off in fine style.

Shadow Boxed is annoyingly catchy though I suspect it'll be difficult to sing live with its machine-gun lyrics coming at you.

It's good to hear A Robe of Silk at last. It could have come off the first album but doesn't sound odd and out-of-place. In fact I was caught singing the thing at work today.

The world has changed since September 11 and The Blink of An Eye captures the mood. Over the years Keith has come up with some poignant lyrics (As Strong As Samson/Holding On) but it's a testament to Gary's genius that A Robe of Silk and The Blink of An Eye can exist side-by-side without sounding absurd.

 The VIP Room I'm sure will become a concert fave: a pounder, make no mistake.

Matthew's The Question is a boppy number that reminds me of something ... but what!

Another slab of realism is fantastically captured with This World is Rich. Very African. It sticks in your mind this one.

Fellow Travellers, Matt's collaboration with Handel (he must be getting on a bit), is wonderful and is going to get a lot of playing.

I love Wall Street Blues. It sort of reminds me of All Our Dreams Are Sold: powerful number this.

The Emperor's New Clothes took a bit of time. It starts like something from a Lloyd Webber musical but you'll soon love it.

I've always liked So Far Behind and can't stop playing it.

I want to turn the CD player up full blast for Every Dog Will Have His Day. It could have come off a Gary Brooker solo album but Matt makes it pure Procol. Great stuff.

Weisselklenzenacht is going to be huge. The first note is AWSoP but, yes, it does build up la Grand Finale. We are going up the marbled stair, through the clouds into the dawning of a new day. There's even a glimpse of The Thin End of the Wedge in there. This is what makes this CD so good, those flashes of Exotic Birds here, Echoes in the Night there. I must confess I started singing 'Wise men say, only fools rush in' to this ... sorry.

I can't think of any bummer on The Well. It's Procol's most complete album for ages.

The musicianship is superb. Gary and Matt work so well together. Mark has made the drum sound his own and together with Matt has produced a very powerful rhythm. I can't wait to hear these songs live.

Geoff's guitar is so dramatic on these numbers and so effective. I just wish it was a bit higher in the mix.

Finally Keith's words are timeless. Today's issues give Procol Harum's music a 21st Century relevance made flesh by the excellent music and vocals of Gary Brooker.

I'm actually listening to the CD for the third time whilst I'm writing this and I have to say that some lines are sinking in very quickly. I got into this album far quicker than any other. There are little mirror images of past songs and albums past glories revisited with the mood created as the good ship Procol glides with one eye on the future and one on the past.

See you the next time they play!

Richard Solly

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