Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Exotic Birds and Fruit

The Record Collector review by Steve Burniston

Seventh album provides a Procol peak [five stars]

This 1974 album is one of Procol Harumís greatest achievements. It was characteristic of their confidence to open with the thunderous Nothing but the Truth, shaped by the bandís focused energy: the effect is exhilarating. Punctuated by excited shouts, the thrilling middle section increases the intensity before the band land back in the next verse with figure-skatersí poise.

Such was Procolís formidable creative depth, including Gary Brookerís piano playing and Mick Grabhamís fluent guitar.

As Roland Clareís excellent sleeve-notes discuss, Keith Reidís lyrics were written in the context of the eraís social conflicts, and there are moments here that evoke those strange days. This includes As Strong as Samson, with its beautiful melody enriched by organist Chris Copping and BJ Wilsonís masterful drumming. Reidís sombre picture of a damaged social fabric is forthright, though there is a defiant optimism in the concluding choral harmonies. Brookerís compositional gifts provide Reidís lyrics with a complementary sound spectrum, such as on The Idolís pounding edginess or the taut complexity of Beyond the Pale. From left-field, Fresh Fruit is a rhythmic strut flavoured with whistles, marimbas, even barking.

The album is enduring quality is conclusively sealed by the yearning masterpiece New Lamps for Old; a moving finale shining with dignified emotional power. Esotericís re-issue is nicely garnished by two contemporaneous live concerts that showcase the band to find effect. As a bonus, the non-album B-side Drunk Again is a raucous delight, and thereís even a poster. However, itís the original, magnificent album that deserves our fullest attention.

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