Prompted by discussion on Bill Hammell's e-mail list about the triple boxed 'Anniversary' set of Procol re-releases, 'Beyond the Pale' spoke to Westside's Bob Fisher about the company's continuing involvement with the Procol Harum repertoire.
1997: it seems that the Procol Box has sold 12,000 copies so far, enormously outstripping the 5,000 sales that had been anticipated. This may partly have been due to the publicity it received: it was extensively reviewed, not only by the music press but also in the UK nationals: The Times recommended it as a Christmas present. It may also have been due to the fact that it was very good value-for-money and contained absolutely brilliant music. By comparison, the Westside boxed set of re-releases from The Move sold about 8,000, and the Pirates double-CD set sold 4,000.
Many fans have been wondering how it is possible that, for instance, Homburg should suddenly emerge in stereo after all these monophonic years. The answer lies in dogged tracking of original master-tapes: this one (and the stereo AWSoP master) was discovered on a reel among Joe Cocker and Move tracks at a studio called Hatch Farm. It seems that recorded material belonging to the Cube / Westminster / Straight Ahead organisation was widely dispersed when David Platz fell out with his partner: these stereo master-takes were removed to Hatch Farm where they have simply been languishing, ignored for thirty years. Regarding the mono / stereo conundrum, Bob Fisher remarked that Westside did not have to do anything to render those gems back into stereo: the recordings were made in stereo, and it just happens that they were mastered in 1967 in mono.
Following this unexpected success of the Procol triple box, Westside embarked on a project to release each of the first four Procol Harum albums on the thirtieth anniversary of its original appearance. This schedule has already fallen by the wayside, interrupted, I understand, by the continuing discovery of alternate takes and better masters.
Westside tell me that they have not acquired the rights to anything recorded during the Chrysalis years, so the circulating rumour that we will eventually be treated to all the post-Home albums, remastered, does not appear to have any immediate truth. Gary Brooker and the band themselves are not involved in the exhumation and restoration of all these Procol products: the guiding force is Henry Scott-Irvine, who will also be responsible for the liner notes on each album as it comes out.
It must be a source of continuing regret and annoyance to fans that the piecemeal re-release of this early material is involving us in continual financial outlay, and apparently needless duplication. But Westside assure me that there will be material on the forthcoming releases that was not to hand when the triple set was compiled, and they emphasise their commitment to keeping the prices of the individual CDs down. It seems likely that the sound quality on these individual albums, when they eventually come out, will be even better than that which has been widely applauded on the triple box. We can look forward to the release of Procol Harum ... Plus in May or June of this year: more details the minute we get them!
And finally ... prompted by specific enquiries on the procolorg list, I asked Westside if they were planning to release the rarities collection from the triple boxed set on its own at any stage. They had not thought of doing so, they told me, but they noted the interest, and would certainly be prepared to consider doing so once sales of the triple set appeared to have died down. So, Hani So ... the answer seems to be, 'watch this space'.
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