Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's NME coverage ...

8, 15, 22, 29 April; 6 May 1972

These excerpts from New Musical Express, kindly selected for 'Beyond the Pale' by Yan Friis, show a re-released AWSoP prospering in the singles charts while the Live album attracts marvellous reviews.

NME, April 8, 1972

Front page headlines:

COCKER EXPRESS (big pic and story)

New hope for all-night rock (story)

Faces, Donovan for festival (small pic of Rod Stewart and story)


NME Top 5:

1 (1) Without You, Nilsson
2 (2) Beg Steal Or Borrow, New Seekers
3 (3) Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan
4 (6) Hold Your Head Up, Argent
5 (4) American Pie, Don McLean

British Albums
1 (5) Fog On The Tyne, Lindisfarne
2 (3) Harvest, Neil Young
3 (2) Nilsson Schmilsson, Nilsson
4 (4) Himself, Gilbert O'Sullivan
5 (10) Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel

Interview (with pic)

The new rock classics by PROCOL HARUM
By Tony Stewart
Journalists near on wet themselves in Edmonton, Canada, last November when the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra joined Procol Harum for a concert that was to fuse the classics and rock into a firmer foundation than ever before.

I heard a second-hand version of the concert up at Chrysalis Records last week and this rock-classics merger certainly is worth the praise it had received.

As the strains of Conquistador smacked me between the eyes and felt an aura that suggested the Live At Edmonton album will be a biggie here.

"The concert was great on the night," understated thoughtful pianist / singer Gary Brooker. "But even so, the actual recording could have been a disaster. We half expected that. But it's turned out ... not just all right, it's really captured something."

Cool as a cucumber, and as detached, Brooker drank some more of his lager.

Playing with a big orchestra appeals to Brooker.

"It's really incredible to sit in front and play songs we've played many times, then suddenly have this great expanse of sound.

"It's like seeing something of an eight millimetre film an suddenly seeing it on 70 millimetre panavision, with stereo sound and all that.


"Exciting, really exciting - especially with the choir. I don't know if I'd enjoy playing with only an orchestra," he muses, "but a choir, really. Maybe it's because I sing as well, but I really like choirs."

This album marks the first recorded appearance with Procol's new men (I THINK that still applies) - guitarist Dave Ball and bass man Alan Cartwright. The latter instrument is returning after some years of absence.

Explained Brooker: "Going without the bass came about because Chris Copping can play organ and bass. So we had him playing both and thought we'd get by. We did, but we were very glad to have the thickness of the bass permanently back again.

"We had a year or two with Chris playing keyboards bass and it was inadequate."

So the two new guys have influenced the music, even if just slightly at the moment.

Explained Brooker: "Since they've joined we've only just started playing some new songs. Until recently we were doing all our older numbers.

So their influence should show more on the new stuff."

"A Whiter Shade Of Pale or A Salty Dog are still done basically the same as ever, although I think both the new guys made it a fuller sound."

But this added scope has not altered Brooker's writing, which is done separate from Keith Reid's lyrics.

"I've never headed in any direction. I just try to write a good song. If you've got more scope within the group than maybe the actual performance of the song on the record will benefit. But as far as the writing is concerned I just write as always.

On Procol's last album, ex-member Robin Trower (guitar) was writing quite a lot. Now, with no-one else taking over, it seems Brooker is the main musical creator.

Brooker doesn't mind: "It doesn't help matters with somebody else writing. Keith was having to write words for everyone - it was Reid and Brooker, Trower and Reid, Reid and Fisher.

"That places too great a demand on the lyric writer.

"If one of us wrote good words AND good music there wouldn't be any problem. It's not a question of me wanting to write everything."

So it was a case of not overworking a competent, at times sensational, lyricist, and never compromising and taking second best. It was a question of maintaining a level, which Brooker defines as "a good, reasonable acceptable standard."

He says: "I started this group and I care about what music we play and I don't like to see us playing music I don't personally like.

"The music has to come out a certain way. If it's an Atomic Rooster-type song, then it's not for us, it's not the type of music we play. And I wouldn't want it to be on an album."

Certainly much of Procol's strength has been in the writing. And Brooker sincerely believes an orchestra brings out more in that writing than does the normal group format.

He said: "It shows more what the songs are - although that only applies to certain numbers. Some you just couldn't do with an orchestra.

"The ones on the LP (Live) work with an orchestra. But with Power Failure (Broken Barricades) there's really no point. However on the song Barricades you can have an orchestra in somewhere."

"A Salty Dog had a couple of tracks with an orchestra, and Broken Barricades did. We played a concert with an orchestra and choir in 1969, but we've just done it occasionally."

But the influences of the classics don't seem visible in Brooker.

"I've never listened to much classical music - not at all in fact.

"I know the theme from 2001, Sugar Plum Fairy and a couple of Bach [sic] things - Moonlight Sonata, but that's about as far as my knowledge goes."

Amalgamation of orchestra and rock band have not always been entirely successful. Deep Purple are a classic example. However, along with the Nice (Five Bridges), Procol have had a degree of success. Brooker points out that it is a more disciplined format.

"You're restricted when you play with an orchestra.

"When we play on our own we can develop things and explore to a greater degree, because we're just five people. There's only got to be a nod or a change in the bass line for us all to go off in a different direction. But we all know what we're doing.

"Whereas with an orchestra it's written down; and that's the way it has to go."

The result of Procol's Edmonton fusion can be heard on all five tracks on this live set recorded: Conquistador, Whaling Stories, A Salty Dog, All This And More and the track on the second side, In Held 'Twas In I - the usual Brooker-Reid partnership helped by ex-member Matthew Fisher.

The album should let people know Procol Harum are still around.

"I think it will help," Brooker comments, "We've had a bad time as far as Press goes, and we split up two weeks after our first record. I've spoken to people and they thought we'd broken up for good years ago."

There's a new studio album due from the band, probably in September, which follows what seems like a million trips to the States (they're huge there).

"To us," said Brooker, "the forthcoming one is more important than the Live set. But whether it will mean more ... you never can tell."

Main single reviews by Danny Holloway:
Rocket Man, Elton John
Woman, Mike McGear
A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done, Sonny & Cher

Main album reviews:
United Artists' Legendary Masters series featuring albums by Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran and Ricky Nelson.
Inner Mounting Flame, Mahavisnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin

NME, April 15, 1972

Front page headlines:


Tour continues: full dates (big pic and story)

T.REX 'Deborah' row: Bolan hits out

Festival SLY


NME Top 5:

1 (1) Without You, Nilsson
2 (12) Amazing Grace, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Pipes, Drums and Band
3 (9) Sweet Talkin' Guy, Chiffons
4 (4) Hold Your Head Up, Argent
5 (2) Beg Steal Or Borrow, New Seekers

British Albums
1 (2) Harvest, Neil Young
2 (1) Fog On The Tyne, Lindisfarne
3 (4) Himself, Gilbert O'Sullivan
4 (3) Nilsson Schmilsson, Nilsson
5 (6) Paul Simon, Paul Simon

News pages:

Procol Harum and Ten Years After, currently undertaking separate tours of America, are to team up early next month for three major concerts in Japan. They arrive in Tokyo on May 1, direct from the States, and appear in major stadiums in that city and Osaka.

Main single reviews by Danny Holloway
Tumbling Dice, The Rolling Stones
Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, Paul Simon
I Saw The Light, Todd Rundgren
Don't Go Down To Reno, Tony Christie

Main albums reviewed:
All Together Now, Argent
Let's Stay Together, Al Green
Something/Anything?, Todd Rundgren

And four re-releases reviewed by Tony Stewart:

Cocker, Procol, Move, Rex double oldies


PROCOL HARUM: Whiter Shade Of Pale / Salty Dog (Fly).

In 1967 it was painfully obvious that Procol Harum had not found a direction of their own. Whiter Shade of Pale, the title track of the first album, was a gem. But that album above all illustrated the band's total lack of direction.

At times they had a blues influence, but more importantly they were influenced by the music around at the time - and that was Traffic. Examples: Cerdes, A Christmas Carol [sic].

But Procol also tried hard to utilise the Pale hit sound, as on She Wandered Through The Garden Fence with the organ used to great extent.

Salty Dog was obviously the turning point for the band in the same way that Days Of Future Passed was for the Moodies. Procol moved to blues.

But they continued with beauty in their compositions and arrangements, demonstrated by tracks like Too Much Between Us.

Salty Dog was the pointer and artistic stimulus which guided the band to what they are doing now.

My comment:

Bollocks. Traffic's first album was released in November 1967, exactly at the same time as the first Procol-album. And the Procol LP was of course available already in August in the US. A Whiter Shade of Pale had already been out a month when Traffic's first single, Paper Sun, entered the charts.

Either Stewart claims that the whole of Procol's first album was inspired by the Paper Sun 45, which is nonsense, or he just does a lot of stupid guessing.

May journalism like this rest in peace.


A survey of cut-price albums


FLY RECORDS have a cheap series of progressive music, called Big Ones. Included are albums by JOE COCKER, PROCOL HARUM, THE MOVE and T.REX. They contain some excellent dips back into British rock.

Fly are shortly releasing a new series called Double-Backs - which will be two-album sets selling for the price of one. They should be well worth watching out for ...

NME, April 22, 1972

Front page headlines:




Albert Hall ban Sweat, Havens, Sha Na Na

NME Top 5:

1. ( 2) Amazing Grace, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Pipes, Drums & Band
2. ( 1) Without You, Nilsson
3. ( 3) Sweet Talkin' Guy, Chiffons
3. (10) Back Off Boogaloo, Ringo Starr
5. ( 4) Hold Your Head Up, Argent

British Albums

1. ( 1) Harvest, Neil Young
2. ( 2) Fog On The Tyne, Lindisfarne
3. (12) Machine Head, Deep Purple
4. ( 5) Paul Simon, Paul Simon
5. ( 6) We'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, New Seekers

Half page ad for Procol Harum In Concert on page 11.

Main single reviews by Danny Holloway:
California Man, Move
Look What You Done For Me, Al Green
The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack
Here It Comes, Strawbs
Iko Iko, Dr. John
One More Saturday Night, Grateful Dead with Bobby Ace
Isn't Life Strange, The Moody Blues

Main album reviews:
Oh How We Danced, Jim Capaldi
Revolution Of The Mind, James Brown
Jo Jo Gunne, Jo Jo Gunne
Vintage Dead & Historic Dead, Grateful Dead

And of course:

PROCOL HARUM: "Live" (Chrysalis).

The front cover of this set just about sums up the appeal of the concert, recorded at Edmonton, Canada, last year, with Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Da Camera Singers. On the left we have a straight, on the right a head. Bringing two diverse audiences together.

The music is some of the finest I've heard. As soon as Conquistador begins it's obvious that every musician is on form. Most of all, Procol.

I much prefer them in this grand context to the way they came over on the Broken Barricades album, mainly because the material, including Whaling Stories, A Salty Dog, All This And More and an epic In Held 'Twas I [sic] (a collation of four themes) lends itself to the treatment.

Gary Brooker is heavily featured as lead vocalist and pianist, and does a marvellous job. His voice projected to an outstanding height when with the choir on Whaling Stories - an exciting piece greatly enhanced by the string and brass.

BJ Wilson proves a more than capable drummer on all tracks. He builds the music, eases it down, and guides it through some highly electric passages.

Unfortunately it is organist Chris Copping who loses out most, with the orchestra more or less taking over his part. This does suggest a weakness in the arrangements. But Copping manages some solo work during All This And More, then more dynamically on In The Autumn Of My Madness - part of the 19-minute plus second side.

Overall, this is a breathtaking beauty of an album. I feel, although Brooker doesn't agree, that it will put them high in the esteem of the British public.

Tony Stewart.

Gasbag (the readers letters column)


Thanks for your recent article on Procol Harum. It gladdened my heart to see something mentioned about one of the most original groups around. Keith Reid is an excellent lyricist and only recently since I've listened to my Procol albums have I realized how good he is.

E. Roberts, Coningsby.

NME, April 29, 1972:

(If Procol Harum is not mentioned anywhere else in the papers, I just stick to showing the singles and LP charts as long as they are featured there.)

NME Top 5:
1. ( 1) Amazing Grace, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Pipes, Drums & Band
2. ( 3) Back Off Boogaloo, Ringo Starr
3. ( 2) Without You, Nilsson
4. ( 3) Sweet Talkin' Guy, Chiffons
5. ( 8) Run Run Run, Jo Jo Gunne
28. ( -) A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Procol Harum

British Albums:
1. ( 1) Harvest, Neil Young
2. ( 3) Machine Head, Deep Purple
3. ( 2) Fog On The Tyne, Lindisfarne
4. ( 6) Nilsson Schmilsson, Nilsson
5. ( 7) Himself, Gilbert O'Sullivan

NME, May 6, 1972

NME Top 5:
1. ( 1) Amazing Grace, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
2. ( 6) Come What May, Vicky Leandros
3. ( 4) Sweet Talkin' Guy, Chiffons
4. ( 2) Back Off Boogaloo, Ringo Starr
5. ( 5) Run Run Run, Jo Jo Gunne
27. (28) A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Procol Harum

British Albums
1. ( 2) Machine Head, Deep Purple
2. ( 1) Harvest, Neil Young
3. (11) Prophets, Seers & Sages / My People Were Fair, Tyrannosaurus Rex
4. ( 3) Fog On The Tyne, Lindisfarne
5. ( 8) Paul Simon, Paul Simon

NME, May 14, 1972:

NME Top 5:
1. ( 1) Amazing Grace, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Pipes, Drums & Band
2. ( 2) Come What May, Vicky Leandros
3. ( 8) Could It Be Forever, David Cassidy
4. ( 6) A Thing Called Love, Johnny Cash
28. (27) A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Procol Harum

British Albums
1. ( 1) Machine Head, Deep Purple
2. ( 2) Harvest, Neil Young
3. ( 4) Fog On The Tyne, Lindisfarne
4. ( 3) Prophets, Seers & Sages / My People Were Fair, Tyrannosaurus Rex
5. (11) Farewell To The Greys, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Pipes, Drums & Band

The NME prints "The Decade's Top Hundred" in this week's issue; the top selling singles of 10 years, between 1962-71, compiled by Tony Blackburn and BBC researchers for use on Blackburn's Radio One breakfast show. The survey only includes records which topped the charts, so it does have some flaws. It is not stated very clearly, but I think this survey is based on actual sales.

The Top 5:
1. She Loves You, The Beatles (1963)
2. I Want To Hold Your Hand, The Beatles (1963)
3. Tears, Ken Dodd (1965)
4. Can't Buy Me Love, The Beatles (1964)
5. I Feel Fine, The Beatles (1964)

The Beatles have five records in the Top 6, 15 in the Top 100 and dominate the field completely.

Procol Harum, then?

46. A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Procol Harum (1967).

If you are disappointed by this low showing, don't be. Apart from 10 Beatles-singles there are not many rock classics above Procol. Most of the stuff is mommy & daddy pop or soft pop - like Frank Ifield, Engelbert Humperdinck, Cilla Black, Seekers etc.

There are only two Rolling Stones-singles ahead of Procol Harum: The Last Time (No. 31) and Satisfaction (No. 45), and A Whiter Shade Of Pale is way ahead of Beatles-classics like Ticket To Ride, All You Need Is Love, Get Back, Yellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby and Paperback Writer.


The Mammoth Task: Yan's extracts from the first 52 weeks of Procol press in the NME

Swimming Against the Tide: Yan's extracts from the remaining ten years of Procol press in the NME

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home