Monday, May 29, 2006


September 14, 2001 concert at the Hell Blues Festival, Norway.

Only two men remained from the original 1967 band. You see them here, in photos from the Hell concert. Singer/pianist Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher are now locked in a legal dispute over Fisher's uncredited contribution of the famous organ solo that opens "Whiter Shade of Pale."

Procol's muscular rock music was in contrast to the ill lyrics of Keith Reid, whose Dylan-influenced words self-admittedly "wallowed in a morass" that darkly verged on pretentiousness. Their few chart hits involved a woman turning from ghostly to a "A Whiter shade of Pale" (dead) and the grim philosophizing over the corpse of a "Conquistador." Focused on destruction, torment and painful self-consciousness with mere glimpses toward nirvana, Procol's hardest rocking songs bubble in a cauldron of bile ("Piggy Pig Pig" and "Bringing Home the Bacon") and are steaming with wretched excess ("Whiskey Train") or angry angst ("Typewriter Torment"). Their prettiest songs tend to be eerie ("Salty Dog"), decadent ("Grand Hotel") or filled with semi-disguised put-downs ("Homburg"). There's not a song in this set that does not have an undercurrent of pessimism, anger or despair.

Any band critically praised for a blend of classical music, eclectic lyrics and R&B blues is bound to suffer, especially one with an intellectual name (Latin for "Beyond these Things") so Procol Harum remains beyond fame, often written off as a one-hit (or two-hit, counting "Conquistador") wonder. Concert Note: This is one of those times when The Commodore chooses to sing the "extra verse" omitted from the original "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Morbid Note: the band pronounces its last name "Horrum," closer to horror than a harem.

Procol Harum Live Concert? Go to... OH, it's HELL, Folks!

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