Procol Harum – live in Stockholm – recorded at Folkets Husset, Stockholm, Sweden – Sveriges Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
A buck here – a buck there – it adds up: Become a Patron!
Procol Harum this weekend. In concert from Stockholm, recorded on October 16, 1971 by Sveriges Radio and broadcast sometime after.
A few words about the band from their website, in case you’re just discovering them – or need some reminding:
The History Of Procol Harum – By Ronald Smith (excerpt)
The oddly-named band had arrived out of nowhere with a #1 hit. To add to the thrill and confusion, the song was enigmatic (many to this day aren’t exactly sure what it’s about), the group was already fractured by changes in personnel, and by the time people learned what the band’s name meant (even if to this day they rarely seem to spell it right), the group’s stunning #1 reign was over. The #1 hit was like a massive earthquake; unforgettable but unrepeatable. Over the next decade, there were plenty of songs that could have been #1 hits. For fans, every new album became a classic, filled with memorable and moving songs. And while rock critics argued whether the next lp should be ‘more rock’ or ‘more classical,’ and whether singles like ‘Homburg’ and ‘Conquistador’ were as good as the legendary ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale,’ and indeed, amid the confusing disappearance of various band members, all fans hoped was that ‘still there’ll be more.’
If you’re new to the band, this ‘history’ of the band might help you find your way through the years. If you’re an old friend and fan, maybe you’ll find some glimpses of nirvana in recalling with me the memories that still shine on brightly. Gary Brooker (vocals, piano) Robin Trower (guitar) and B.J. Wilson (drums) joined forces in the early 60’s. Their band was THE PARAMOUNTS influenced, as were so many British bands, by American R&B. Their first single, released in 1963, was a cover of The Coasters’ ‘Poison Ivy.’ (They also did a wicked version of ‘Bad Blood,’ and a few originals co-written by the team of Brooker/Trower). The Beatles had chart hits with old Chuck Berry tunes, The Animals adapted ‘House of the Rising Sun,’ but these and other bands soon found their own voices via original material. Their new music and lyrics led to the historic ‘British Invasion’ that dominated the charts worldwide. THE PARAMOUNTS’ bluesy cover versions were appreciated by their contemporaries but ‘Top of the Pops’ success wasn’t theirs. ‘I became disillusioned,’ Brooker recalled – but then seriously ‘started writing my own songs.’ His lyricist? Keith Reid. As they say, ‘the rest is history.’ THE PARAMOUNTS were gone in 1966, but a year later there was a new group and that July single: ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale.’
Their subsequent singles were compared to it and hopes for more million-sellers led to frustration. At the time, the idea of an ‘album band’ was just becoming a reality; record companies still were obsessed with the ‘hit single.’ As the 60’s ended and the 70’s began, the band went five years without a ‘hit.’ But they produced consistently rewarding albums. Nobody was like this band, although critics groped for comparisons and named everyone from The Band to The Moody Blues. PROCOL HARUM remains unchallenged as having created the most unique and enduring fusion between gothic classicism and hard rock. As each new record appeared, listeners could at once feel alienation, derive strength and find a kindred spirit in the words of Keith Reid, the tormented yet soaring vocals of Gary Brooker, the infinte beating of Barrie Wilson’s drums, and at various times the profound melancholia and majesty of Matthew Fisher at the organ and the shrieks and moody rumblings of Robin Trower’s lead guitar. The line-up for the first album included THE PARAMOUNTS’ core: Brooker, Trower and Wilson, along with the most important addition, organist Matthew Fisher. ‘I thought all the songs on the first album were fantastic,’ Keith Reid said. ‘It was the worst recorded album, but I like the excitement of it.’ Despite its hollow sound, ‘Procol Harum’ remains a sentimental favorite for many fans. Fisher’s classical organ work dominates, but ‘A Christmas Camel’ demonstrates Brooker’s pounding piano and his howling-at-the-moon’ ability to drive high into the upper register and yet maintain power and dignity. Most of the songs are portraits of youthful insecurity, mortality fears and depression – subjects befitting band members whose average age was 18 [sic]. Reid’s lyrics were studied with the same awe as the writings of Bob Dylan and John Lennon. The album was recorded quickly and sounded it, especially compared to its only contemporary rival in rock literacy, ‘Sgt. Pepper.’
Fans anxiously waited for the first ‘real’ studio album from PROCOL HARUM. ‘Shine on Brightly’ was recorded over a long period of time and with great care. Reid’s lyrics continued to dwell on the unseen, describing a level of optimism obtainable from acknowledging mystery and helplessness (‘my befuddled brain shines on brightly, quite insane’). Trower’s screaming guitar became a potent force while B.J. Wilson emerged as one of rock’s most imaginative drummers. ‘In Held Twas In I’ (title taken from the first word in the five inter-connecting songs) was an innovation for its time, a brilliant suite simmering with gothic bass, stinging guitar, smoldering organ, mystical recitation and even a smattering of sound effects. According to Gary, ‘All the ideas were there, but the suite wasn’t complete when recording started. We didn’t know what was going to happen. When it was finally finished we listened to it for the first time at night in the studio. It was tremendous.’ But, as Keith recalled, ”Shine on Brightly’ came out at a time when no one understood or appreciated it. Yet now I have people talking to me about it like we had just released it.’
‘A Salty Dog,’ the third album, turned out to be one of the group’s most accessible, best-selling efforts. The title cut came not from the sea, but from Cleveland. The inspiration was a wood carving in a bar with the words ‘Great God, Skipper, we done run aground.’ Like Bob Dylan, Reid has the habit of using an easy rhyme here and there. On ‘Salty Dog’ he actually rhymed ‘moon’ and ‘June’ and got away with it. That’s because this is one of the great PROCOL songs – a mood piece that transcends itself and takes the listener on a special journey ‘beyond these things,’ beyond sea, sky, shipwreck or resurrection. It swirls through emotions of despair and regret, reaching a searing crescendo that produces ‘tears of joy’ and then mysteriously ebbing into a kind of serenity and acceptance.
Crank it up and enjoy. BTW – It takes a few minutes to settle down and Gary Booker’s vocal mike drops in and out. But finally . . .