Procol Harum

the Pale 

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

Procol Harum • Salvo

The first 2009 reissue reviewed online by Dmitry M Epstein

 Order from Amazon UK here or immediately from The BtP Store

A cornerstone of art rock, still fresh and shining brightly

One may wonder whether Procol Harum really understood the grandiosity of their début single - one of the most impressive débuts ever - when they followed A Whiter Shade of Pale with the similarly hued Homburg, both on this reissue, and whether they felt a challenge to rise to, but the boldness with which the quintet unleashed their self-titled album is amazing even now as the record didn't date a little bit - even in mono. Still, there's no hubris at all, and this might be the reason why there's sympathy in the opening Conquistador and why the paean to the quixotic vanity of glory packs a punch with only a hint of celestial solemnity that's spared for Matthew Fisher's instrumental magnum opus, Repent Walpurgis, that closes the record and quotes Bach directly. The winning formula, then, lies not in the combination of Gary Brooker's piano and Fisher's organ sprinkled with Robin Trower's economic riffing but in the contrast of the earthiness of Brooker's voice and the irreality of music coupled with Keith Reid's strange, if alluring, lyrics.

Without such enigma, the foxtrot of She Wandered Through the Garden Fence wouldn't be as catchy as it is, all the more so for employing of the Hammond's churchy roar for such an easy-going subject as a little sexual exploit. But there's enough overt vaudeville in the brisky, glass-clanking Mabel and Good Captain Clack, while the guitar on the slouchy Cerdes (Outside The Gates of) and the mournful A Christmas Camel which hangs on infectious piano motif are where the psychedelia blooms gloomily. Organ-awashed Salad Days (are Here Again) only serves to strengthen the impression of a multicolored celebration of decadence wrapped in black velvet, what with Bobby Harrison's almost samba drumming over the boogie-woogie of B-side, Lime Street Blues. From there, there was not much space to progress, yet Il Tuo Diamante, the early, Italian version of the majestic Shine on Brightly, Procol's next album's title track, and the instrumental run of the sly Pandora's Box that the band would return to eight years later show the ensemble sensed no boundaries. With vibrant, Tony Visconti-orchestrated ballad Understandably Blue demoed for Dusty Springfield and thus un-Harumlike, appearing on this re-issue for the first time, a document of the group's soft side, Procol Harum still sounds vivacious and vital.


 More from Salvo records | More Salvo reviews

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home