Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol's Ninth

The ninth reissue reviewed online by Matthew R. Perrine

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Procol Harum (the A Whiter Shade of Pale group) readies reissues
UK-based reissues specialist Union Square Music ( is reissuing expanded digital versions of Procol Harum’s classic albums Grand Hotel, Exotic Birds and Fruit, Procol’s Ninth and Something Magic on 1 November 2010 allowing fans of sophisticated music the chance to re-evaluate one of rock’s most consistently innovative bands. Careful remastering has brought out hitherto elusive nuances; judiciously-selected bonus tracks offer a unique insight into the compositions of Gary Brooker (music), Keith Reid (words) and their less-frequent collaborators, and into Procol Harum’s studio methodology.

Procol’s Ninth

When a top band has been on the road for some years, with a catalogue of successful recordings behind them, it is sometimes helpful to bring in fresh blood in the pursuit of new horizons. When Procol Harum came to record their 1975 album Procol’s Ninth, they decided on a drastic change of policy. The result was an unexpected collaboration between Procol and one of America’s top producer/songwriter teams, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Since the 1950s the duo had written a vast number of hits for the likes of Elvis Presley, Ben E. King and The Coasters. Gary Brooker had grown up listening to these hits and when he discovered that they were in Britain producing the debut album for Stealer’s Wheel, he asked them to work with Procol and was thrilled when they agreed. “The album was named after Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it was in fact our ninth album. As it turned out there was a huge difference between this one and our previous albums,” says Gary.

While there were a few tussles about material, with the producers trying to persuade Gary and co. to record songs they’d recently written for Peggy Lee (Procol eventually recorded their tune I Keep Forgetting, a hit for Chuck Jackson the previous decade) Leiber and Stoller made a significant difference to the band’s sound, which had greater clarity in the ‘mix’. This was immediately apparent on Pandora’s Box, the somewhat mysterious, Latin-tinged opening cut, which took Procol back into the singles charts, reaching No. 16 in the UK, and led to three appearances on Top of the Pops.

Other album highlights include Fool’s Gold, with excellent work by Mick Grabham on guitar and pounding chords from the twin keyboards of Chris Copping (organ) and Brooker (piano); Taking the Time, on which the piano and guitar are augmented by vintage brass riffs that make the band sound like Duke Ellington’s Orchestra; and The Unquiet Zone, which takes a left turn into what can quite easily be described as Latin funk territory, with diverse rhythms and nifty cowbell from the always exciting drummer BJ Wilson.

Procol’s Ninth reached Number 52 in the US chart. The album also made a little piece of history when it became one of the very first by a serious rock group to be released in Poland. Procol were also the first group to visit the country, since a Rolling Stones concert in the 60s, which led to a ban on all ‘decadent’ western rock music.

The digital release is augmented by three previously unreleased bonus tracks selected by Gary and Keith from the session tapes – raw versions of The Unquiet Zone, Taking the Time and Fool’s Gold.

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