Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum • A Salty Dog 

Salvo reissue No 3, reviewed by Richard Solly

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Another day another Procol release. What a year this is!

Living in Australia in the late 60s and early 70s I'd missed out on a lot of Procol. Up until 1971 I only recall ever hearing AWSoP. In 1971/2 there was a surge of interest in Procol. They had just switched labels with Broken Barricades being advertised and talk of up-and-coming live concerts with orchestras. Cube records retaliated with their 'Toofa' series. Procol's albums 1 and 2, and also 3 and 4, were reissued as double albums. I had four albums to sift through from scratch ... and have never recovered.

A lot of column inches appeared in Sounds, NME and Melody Maker (note* I still have the cuttings! But as they were sellotaped into scrapbooks and would be difficult to read if scanned). The critics didn't know what to make of the A Salty Dog LP. Ranging from 'masterpiece' , 'finest hour' to 'patchy'. I listened avidly. The prominence of three singers/songwriters gave fuel to the claim of inconsistency. But this is unfair.

The first thing I noticed about the 40th anniversary version was that the annoying sticker which had threatened to be stuck virtually in the middle of the cover wasn't there.

The recording itself is truly memorable. The original of A Salty Dog (the song) is more atmospheric than any subsequent version. You can feel the spray on your face. The digital remasters here are top quality. Taken as a whole a wonderful sea voyage. The sea theme keeps popping up, especially in the stormy turmoil of the Wagnerian Wreck of the Hesperus. This album is more consistent than some critics give credit for. Such brilliant songs as The Milk of Human Kindness, All This and More and Pilgrims Progress lovingly restored. Long Gone Geek is there too, tidied up but regrettably mono: always loved this song.

The buried treasure on this re-issue is the collection of sea shanties performed live in 1969. Breathtaking. Robin Trower's blistering work left me wishing I'd seen them live during that period. Trower is the only major Procol I haven't seen live. The quality of the recordings is astounding. Very loud, very distinct. The blues weaves itself in and out of Procol songs ...especially here. They have fun on Goin Down Sloooowww. Even Picasso had his blues period. Let's hope there are some more live outings in the vaults. These ones are fantastic.

We finish our voyage (mind the step madam) with the raw track of Milk of Human Kindness. Another one to add to the 'Gary-oke' collection. Crystal clear and loud. I'm glad PH aren't resorting to inferior 'alternate takes', 'false starts' etc.

The liner notes mention the 'scrapping' of some songs during initial recording. There is bootleg version of Stoke Poges in circulartion: shame a cleaner studio version hasn't surfaced yet.

This is a truly majestic album, diverse but certainly not inconsistent and an excellent remaster. You'll still be getting the salt and sand out of your system for many months ... but will you want to?!

Avast behind Captain Claptrap: I see Home approaching!

 More from Salvo records | More Salvo reviews | More from this author | NME 1969 review of the album

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