Get this crazy baby off my head!


Procol Harum

Procol Harum - Home - 1970 - A&M

Regarded by many as Procol Harum's best album, this classic hard rocking recording has everything, - Superb vocalizing by Gary Brooker, a rock-hard rhythm section, with B.J. Wilson only a little less animated than Ginger Baker on some of the music, and brilliant high-powered guitar from Robin Trower. "Whaling Stories" showcases Trower's larger-than-life guitar sound, coming off here like King Crimson's Robert Fripp in one of his heavier moments. By this time, Procol Harum had a "split personality", playing pure rock & roll numbers like "Still There'll Be More" and "Whisky Train" with more sombre and dramatic tracks like "Nothing That I Didn't Know" and "Barnyard Story." Chris Copping doubles on organ, replacing Matthew Fishermore…, but the overall sound is that of a leaner Procol Harum. This album is well worth buying, as an example of the best of early seventies rock. There is info on Gary Brooker's excellent "Lead Me To The Water Album" @ G.BROOKER-LMTTW


"Whisky Train" (Robin Trower, Keith Reid)
"The Dead Man's Dream" (Gary Brooker, Reid)
"Still There'll Be More" (Brooker, Reid)
"Nothing That I Didn't Know" (Brooker, Reid)
"About to Die" (Trower, Reid)
"Barnyard Story" (Brooker, Reid)
"Piggy Pig Pig" (Brooker, Reid)
"Whaling Stories" (Brooker, Reid)
"Your Own Choice" (Brooker, Reid)


Chris Copping – organ, bass guitar
B.J. Wilson – drums
Robin Trower – guitar
Gary Brooker – piano and vocals
Keith Reid – lyrics


Procol Harum will forever be remembered for A Whiter Shade of Pale, its cryptic, dual-keyboard smash from the Summer of Love. But it is the band's fourth LP, released three years later, that stands not only as Procol's masterpiece but also as the definitive progressive-rock album. Preoccupied with nightmares, graveyards, and death (quite appropriate for an R2D4, no?), Keith Reid's lyrics are surreal and gothic, though often overshadowed by Gary Brooker's and Robin Trower's disarmingly cheery or churchy melodies. In addition to the eerie songs – in The Dead Man's Dream, for instance, the singer relates a most delirious and spooky deathbed vision, only to wake up and die – there's also a classic slice of down-and-dirty rock (Whiskey Train), and some of the most tasteful and inventive rock drumming of all time, courtesy the late BJ Wilson. [ © David Sokol in Stereophile, February 2001 ]

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been listening to an album by Procol Harum called Home. The more I play it, the harder it is to believe it. I’m really convinced that this album, the fourth by Procol, is just about as historic a landmark as Sgt. Pepper was. It’s definitely one of the finest albums produced in the past few years, and far and away the best that Procol has done. Home won’t be released for another couple of weeks, but when it is, I’m sure it will go straight home to No 1. The album is being issued to coincide with the group’s current tour of North America. Last week, the band played a gig before 38,000 (yes, folks, 38,000) kids at Montreal’s Man and His World. While they were there, I called Gary Brooker – the group’s singer-pianist-composer, to pass on congratulations. 'I wouldn’t say Home was like our last album A Salty Dog,' Gary said, 'but it is a natural LP after Dog, if you know what I mean. If you heard it, you’d immediately know it was Procol at it again.' The new album features one new member and a transition for an original member. Chris Copping is the new bass player (and you won’t believe the things he gets going with the drummer, Barrie Wilson) and resident poet, Keith Reid, is now playing organ. The group sound hasn’t changed noticeably, except that it is better and tighter than it ever was. 'The most influential thing about Procol is the songs,' Gary explained, 'everyone in the band works around that. Even if we had completely different musicians, I think we’d still sound like Procol Harum.' I think that Home is better than either of the two Band albums, and there is basis for comparison. Both utilize strange little quirks of harmony, complicated melodic structure, and tight backing. But emotionally, Procol comes off well in front. It is a great, great pity that so many English pop fans still look on Procol as the group that had A Whiter Shade Of Pale, and nothing else. As magnificent as Pale was, even it looks a little pale next to some of the new Procol things. If someone asked me who was the best group in the world right now, I’d have to say Procol Harum. And that’s no lighthearted endorsement. [ © Ritchie Yorke in NME, 11 July 1970 ]

Procol Harum has undergone some changes since its Whiter Shade, Repent Walpurgis, and Salty Dog days. Gone is Matthew Fisher, whose Brahms-ed and Bach-ed organ playing was the backbone of the Procol Harum sound from the outset. Throughout Harum's first three albums Fisher's role lessened more each time – on the last effort he even competed with strings and horns. Chris Copping has replaced him (Copping also replaces former bass guitarist Dave Knights), but the most important switch in Harum's sound is due to the fact that guitarist Robin Trower has stepped up and is truly playing a lead guitar. On their earlier albums Trower played nothing but endless drone and repetitive filler riffs – here he unleashes an atmospheric, Hendrix-style wailing, screeching assault that successfully replaces the vanished organist. Efforts such as the extended mini-epic Whaling Stories and Whisky Train are good examples of the transfusion of textures that Trower has brought to Harum's sound. On Whisky he even gets into the blues idiom with no harmful side effects. Gary Brooker hasn't lost any of his vocal charisma as he alternately sings and talks the lyrics in his emotional, mystical and oft-times buried fashion. Next to Trower it is Brooker's piano playing that is the crux of the Harum sound and it hasn't changed much – it's just as pounding, arpeggio-ridden [sic] and disturbingly melodic as ever. Offset against Trower's guitar the piano is magnified that much more and balances out the dimensionality [sic] of that Harum sound. And let's not forget Keith Reid, whose lyrics are just as fine as ever. True, his themes are still the graveyard, religion-ridden and netherworldly, but his depth and convoluted intensity at times are overwhelming. Highlights here include the violent Still There'll Be More, the muted Eleanor Rigbyish Nothing That I Didn't Know or down to the expansive, image-taut Whaling Stories that culminates wondrously in the last four lines, as the song shalimars onto a whole different level of meaning. Reid is the master of the compact line in pop music and we have multifarious examples of it here – from 'Watch the book, the page is turning' to 'Sack the town, and rob the tower / and steal the alphabet' his sense of reality conflicts not a notch with the classical / rock evocations of the instrumentation. But Reid still insists on rhyme and in some cases it is his downfall – Your Own Choice is too simplistic and unnatural. Maybe some free verse experimentation would be rewarding. And haven't we had enough of these pseudo-cerebral / Katzenjammer covers for this season? [ © Gary von Tersch in Rolling Stone, 3 September 1970 ]