“Gary Brooker and Keith Reid of Procol Harum are the only people we
could ever compare ourselves to!” – Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Procol Harum’s fourth album, Home, was released in June 1970
and was a much darker offering than what had gone before. This is depite
the band perhaps being at their most optimistic and upbeat during the
recording, buzzing off a new lease of life as a four-piece and the
formation of their own music publishing company. Nevertheless, maybe the
fact they’d never found the album success they truly deserved was
playing on the minds of Gary Brooker and Keith Reid when the songs for
Home were written.
This blacker shade of dark manifests from
the off, with the uptempo rocker Whisky Train, an ode to giving
up the demon booze, followed immediately by the horror movie imagery of
Dead Man’s Dream, a song reminiscent of The Crazy World of Arthur
Brown in places, and one that John Peel found to be so disturbing, he
asked them not to play it during one of his Radio 1 sessions in 1970.
The terrifically misanthropic Still There’ll be More contains the
immortal line: “… I’ll blacken your Christmas and piss on your
door…”, before things slow right down for the moving lament that is
Nothing that I didn’t Know, regarding the unspecified death of
26-year old Jenny Droe.
This theme of death continues with About to Die and
Barnyard Story (“… I was living in a graveyard, maybe death will
be my cure …”) before the rousing Piggy Pig Pig leads us to
the album’s undoubted highlight, the epic Whaling Stories.
Returning to the nautical theme touched upon on the previous album, the
wonderful A Salty Dog, Whaling Stories is an unheralded,
progressive masterpiece, impossible to pin down to any particular style
as it changes to something else with each verse, shifting seemlesly [sic]
towards the operatic, choir-sung finale, over the course of its eight
minutes. Your Own Choice rounds the album off nicely on a much
lighter note than what has passed before and features a whimsical blast
of harmonica from the mouth-organ maestro himself, Larry Adler
error comes from the
liner-note, not the reviewer].
The Fly Records reissue features only two bonus tracks this time
around – all that the band would agree to – which are raw backing tracks
of Still There’ll be More and Whaling Stories, taken from
early on during both songs’ recording sessions. The booklet is once
again a peerless feast of photos and info, including interviews with the
band members. Worth a look is the photo of a Dutch Procol Harum
compilation from 1970, which blatantly rips off The Beatles’ cover for
Let it Be.
Home runs A Salty Dog close for best Procol Harum
album and bears a thoroughly deserved Head Full of Snow recommendation
for its undoubted, and dark, magnitude. Sadly it’s also the last of
Fly’s reissue collaborations with Salvo records, with Strongman Records
taking up the mantle for the remaining albums. Hopefully they’ll
maintain the standards in presentation and sound quality that has
already been set.