Procol Harum

the Pale

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3 Reviews of The Prodigal Stranger

Originally at the classical music review website

You Can't Turn Back the Page
No, you cannot. But, you can listen and think about the music and lyrics. The aforementioned song is the most haunting since Too Much Between Us. Every track tells a story: some positive and upbeat, others painful and reflective. Life is like that. The songs are a remembrance, a graceful reminder of the thirty-three years since A Whiter Shade of Pale sent us looking for ruined cathedrals and faded copies of The Canterbury Tales just to see if Chaucer really wrote The Miller's Tale. That is what makes this album a must for every Procol Harum enthusiast. When I first discovered it in 1991, it received very limited airplay; then, it was gone. Its obscurity intrigued me: I had to have it, and was not disappointed. There is not a bad track on the CD. This is perfect for long freeway commutes. My personal favorites are Perpetual Motion, The Truth won't Fade Away, and Holding On. Gary Brooker fans will be amazed. All the band members are in fine form. Hip, Hip Hooray for the Harum! 5 stars

Procol reunion can't turn back the page, but pretty decent
Procol Harum's first new album in 15 years reunited Gary Brooker (vocals/piano), Matthew Fisher (organ), Robin Trower (guitar), and Keith Reid (lyrics). Instead of Procol's old blend of blues-rock with a touch of prog, The Prodigal Stranger has a big, Album-Oriented-Radio sound, a little too bombastic and glossy, that would be better suited to Bryan Adams or Don Henley (maybe it was a desperate bid for some VH1 airplay). The only song that sounds remotely like old Procol is the moody closer The Pursuit of Happiness. Maybe that's why it's my favorite song on the CD.

If you can get past that (and a lot of people won't be able to), there's plenty to like about this album. The songs are all fairly catchy, and they're played well. There are big rockers like The Truth Won't Fade Away, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and the consumer culture put-down All Our Dreams Are Sold. You also get shuffle beats on One More Time and Perpetual Motion, some nice African touches on Holding On, and even a Whiter Shade quote on The King of Hearts, where Brooker again wanders through his playing cards. No one gets to do much soloing. This album isn't going to send anyone back in time, but it's a solid effort. 3 stars

The Re-Birth Of Procol Harum
1991's The Prodigal Stranger marked the most-welcome return of Procol Harum, 14 years after their last album, 1977's Something Magic. Back in the band are veteran members Gary Brooker on piano and vocals, Matthew Fisher on organ, Robin Trower on guitar, and lyricist Keith Reid. The Prodigal Stranger is a magnificent album, the band sounding so re-vitalized on these masterful, melodic songs. Not a bad tune among them. High points include the passionate The Truth won't Fade Away, the great rockers Man With A Mission, One More Time, All Are [sic] Dreams Are Sold and Learn To Fly, the wonderfully catchy Hand That Rocks The Cradle, and the beautiful A Dream In Every Home, King Of Hearts (with a clever nod to Whiter Shade Of Pale in its lyrics), and the finale, The Pursuit Of Happiness. Gary Brooker's voice is still as strong as ever, as are the band's solid musicianship and songwriting. The Prodigal Stranger is one of Procol Harum's greatest albums, and a true welcome return of one of rock's greatest bands. 5 stars

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