Procol Harum: Reissues

Southend salts’ third and fourth.

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Somewhat unfairly, Procol Harum are as exclusively associated with a single hit as Lieutenant Pigeon are with Mouldy Old Dough. These reissues, both of which garnered a reasonable audience in their own day, tell the story of what happened in the wake of the massive-selling Whiter Shade Of Pale, which looms, melancholic and cathedral-like, over their career.

A Salty Dog (610) has a fairly clear nautical theme, with the sea as a metaphor for the drift of human relationships, around which the songs, primarily written by Gary Booker and Keith Reid, plot a sombre course. ‘Too much sea between us,’ bemoans Brooker on Too Much Between Us, perhaps the prettiest piece here, being faintly reminiscent of Nick Drake.

Although the album was made in 1969, sound-wise it feels very much of its time, like a rock Cortina, compared with all that was breaking out around it. Robin Trower plays, but feels a little restive, as if wishing the pace would pick up.

1970’s Home (610) as the title suggests, is a return of sorts to the original line-up of the Paramounts, the group who preceded Harum. Organist Matthew Fisher had quit by this point and Whiskey Train sees Trower come a little more into his own, while Whaling Stories has a bit of R&B Led Zeppelin heft about it.

Still, it remains largely about the Brooker/Reid songwriting partnership, and the slightly laboured, cryptic lyrical progressions of songs like Barnyard Story. Despite all their craft, it’s understandable why they were raced past by others in the 70s.

Classic Rock 215: Reissues

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David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.