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YEStalk Discussion Forums • View topic - Procol Harum

Procol Harum



Procol Harum

Postby N2yes » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:33 am

Procol Harum was a British rock band, formed in the 1960s, who built an important foundation for what would become progressive rock, or perhaps more closely, symphonic rock. They are best known for their 1967 hit single "A Whiter Shade of Pale", which is not only a regular item on classic singles polls, but is also regarded as being a seminal track in the development of pop music and particularly progressive rock music. Procol Harum have had a devoted following throughout their career; their music, although being principally noted for its classical influence, also embraces the blues and pure pop music.

Procol Harum started from a live band, The Paramounts, led by Gary Brooker and Robin Trower. Based in Southend, England, they signed to Parlophone and scored a moderate British success with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "Poison Ivy" in 1964. They were unable to recreate this success, however, and the band fell apart in 1966.

Early years

In April 1967, Brooker began working as a singer/songwriter and formed Procol Harum with non-Paramounts Keith Reid (poet), Hammond organist Matthew Fisher, guitarist Ray Royer and bassist David Knights. The band name was chosen by its original manager Guy Stevens after a friend's Burmese cat,[2] and has been alleged to be Latin for "beyond these things", however the correct Latin translation of "beyond these things" is Procul His.[3] The name of the band is frequently misspelled; often with Procul, Harem, both, or other variations.

At Olympic Studios, with session drummer (and non-Paramount) Bill Eyden, producer Denny Cordell, and sound engineer Keith Grant, the group recorded "A Whiter Shade of Pale." The song was officially released on May 12, 1967. With the sudden success of this single and The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin", their label Deram Records became known as a premier progressive rock label.

With its Bach-like tonality, provided by Fisher's Hammond organ, Brooker's soulful vocals and Reid's mysterious, if not impenetrable, lyrics, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" reached #1 on the British charts and did almost as well in the United States, reaching #5. In the years since, it has become an enduring classic, placing on several polls of the best songs ever.

After "A Whiter Shade of Pale" became a hit, the band set out to consolidate their studio success by touring; their live debut was opening for Jimi Hendrix in 1967.

The group's follow-up single, "Homburg", with a lineup change of former Paramounts B.J. Wilson on drums and Robin Trower on guitar, was almost as successful in the UK as it reached #6, but the LP Procol Harum, was less successful (it was recorded soon between the two hit singles, but was held back until early 1968 and in mono and phony stereo, which was unusual by that time). A series of singles charted lowly in the US and UK, though rarely both at the same time. A Salty Dog (1969; see 1969 in music) was popular among fans, and was their first album to sell well in the UK; it is still regarded as one of their finest albums. The title track in particular gained a good deal of US FM radio airplay, with Reid's ominous lyrics in the forefront. However, Fisher, who produced this album, departed the band soon after its release.

The group would have many personnel changes [1], but their "classic" lineup for their first three albums was Gary Brooker (piano and lead vocals), Robin Trower (guitar and lead vocals), Matthew Fisher (organ and lead vocals), David Knights (bass), B.J. Wilson (drums), and Keith Reid (lyricist). Former Paramount Chris Copping joined on organ and bass in 1970, and from late 1972 till 1977, the group's guitarist was Mick Grabham, a very worthy successor to Trower.

Procol Harum produced a unique sound that emphasized Brooker's melancholy vocal style and an evocative mix of his eclectic piano, Fisher's elegant, church-like organ, Wilson's dramatic drumming and Trower's searing guitar, with frequent black humour and a penchant for experimentation. Musically, Procol Harum was split during all these years between Trower's guitar-driven blues rock style and Brooker's and Fisher's structured classical rock sound. The group often combined the two into a dynamic fusion, but by 1971 the disparities in style became too great; the end of an era was marked for Procol, with the release of their fifth album Broken Barricades, and subsequent departure of Trower to form his own power trio band; he would be replaced by Dave Ball.

Procol returned to success on the music charts in the following years with a distinctly symphonic rock sound, often backed by symphony orchestras. At this they were one of the first groups to achieve success; Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was a #5 gold album in the U.S. in 1972, as well as reaching #48 in Britain. "Conquistador" (a track from their first album, recharted for accompaniment by the Edmonton Symphony in 1971) was a hit single in 1972, getting to #16 in the U.S. with considerable additional FM radio airplay, while reaching #22 in the UK. Their follow-up album, Grand Hotel, did fairly well, reaching #21 on the U.S. Billboard Chart in 1973.

More personnel problems contributed to declining sales in the later part of the 1970s, with "Pandora's Box" being their final UK top 20 hit in 1975; the band finally broke up in 1977 (see 1977 in music). They reunited for a single performance five months later, when "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was named joint winner (along with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody") of the Best British Pop Single 1952-1977 at the BRIT Awards, part of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.

The band reformed in 1991 (see 1991 in music) with Brooker, Fisher, Trower and Reid (Wilson had died in 1990), and released The Prodigal Stranger, but sales were modest. After the album's release, a new incarnation of the band, with Brooker and Fisher but not Trower, toured the US and the world for a few years in the first half of the nineties.

In July 1997, fans arranged the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the success of "A Whiter Shade of Pale", and invited the then-inactive band to play. The concert, at Redhill, drew fans from all over the world. A direct result of the concert was the creation of the fan website "Beyond the Pale" in October 1997. Unusual for fan websites, 'Beyond the Pale' prides itself on being updated on a daily basis. Typical updates include the latest Procol Harum news, details of concerts from the 1970s and occasionally messages from the band.

The web site also made fans aware of each other, and thus catalysed and sparked a new interest in the band. This then led to The Palers' Project, in which the fans got together to record three double CD albums of Procol Harum songs in novel arrangements, which in turn financed the web site. A fourth and final double-album is in preparation (2007).

In late 1999, Gary Brooker promised that "Procol will play in 2000", and in September the band played an open-air gig with the New London Sinfonia in Guildford, UK.

Since 2001 the band [Brooker; Fisher; Geoff Whitehorn (also guitarist with Elkie Brooks), guitar; Matt Pegg, bass, Mark Brzezicki, drums] has made several tours of mostly Europe, but also Japan and the US. A 2001 concert in Copenhagen was released on DVD in 2002. In 2003, the band released the album The Well's on Fire. A December, 2003 London concert with much of the material from that record was released on DVD in 2004: Live at the Union Chapel. Fisher quit Procol Harum in 2004.

The band still tours, with Josh Phillips replacing Fisher on Hammond, leaving Gary Brooker as the only original performing member. In June 2006 they played at the Isle of Wight festival, the only act also to have played the original festival in 1969. In August 2006 Procol Harum played two outdoor concerts with the Danish Radio orchestra at Ledrebourg Castle in Denmark, which were tele-recorded. Later in 2006 they played in Switzerland, Norway and Denmark, but with Geoff Dunn replacing Mark Brzezicki on drums, reportedly [2] because the latter's other band Casbah Club was touring with The Who. However, Dunn ended up replacing Brzezicki on drums, for the band's European tours of 2007 (Italy, Germany, Netherlands). Procol Harum played an orchestral concert at the outdoor opera venue Dalhalla (near Rattvik) in Sweden on June 30th.

On 20 July and 21 July 2007, fans arranged the celebration of the 40-year anniversary of the success of "A Whiter Shade of Pale", and invited the band to play. This took the form of two concerts at St John's, Smith Square in London. 20 July saw Procol Harum play a mixture of songs from their early days through to the début of a couple of new songs, "Sister Mary" and "Missing Persons". The following night "Gary Brooker and Guests" performed a fixture of obscure songs by Brooker-Reid that had either never been recorded, never been performed live before or were significantly different from the version they recorded.

Proco Harum did fit the originality category quite well with their very distinctive sound. However, the unveiling of the super talent of Robin Trower and songs like. "Whisky Train" really showcased the band in my opinion. Soon, James Dewar and Reg Isidore would unite with Trower and major success would find him as a solo artist. With his Hendrix-like influence, Trower more than made his mark with Procol Harum and continues touring to this day.
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Re: Procol Harum

Postby N2yes » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:44 am

Now, if this one doesn't take you back, well.......



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Re: Procol Harum

Postby sound_chaser » Tue Apr 29, 2008 8:46 pm

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Re: Procol Harum

Postby N2yes » Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:00 pm

"Master of images-Songs cast a light on you"
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