Procol Harum - 'Novum'

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 19, 2017    
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This is good to be with and occasionally brilliant, probably what we might expect from such a disparate group.

It may be difficult to clear your mind of turning cartwheels and skipping the light fandango, but Procol Harum have produced thirteen albums over their fifty years of existence (with breaks, of course). Over that time, they've produced some intricate, beautiful and, latterly, downright commercial music that has followed the vagaries of the times.

To celebrate their 50th Anniversary (is it gold, that one?), they have produced their first album in aeons (they've been touring for years though) based around the honeyed and seasoned Gary Brooker but with the songs written by the whole band and lyrics mainly by the Cream (and others) pen-man Pete Brown. They say there's even elements of humour; yes, there are...

On occasion this album can sound like Chas & Dave. Maybe I should pause for a moment? When that is stated, it's a reference to the good time, laughing feel that the aforementioned act has, but sometimes they have a bit of an ordinary, pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap feel. Nothing wrong with that, but this is PH.

The opener is a stunner. 'I Told On You' starts with a single insistent Toto piano note, picking up a Bend Sinister feel and wheeling in an electric Joanna to shake hands with Steely Dan; a brilliant surprise. 'Image Of The Beast' carries on and is organ-soaked Blues and a Bar-room piano tickling Donald Fagen (SD). However, occasionally, they become pedestrian. 'Soldier' is a best forgotten, mawkish Reggae attempt, 'Last Chance Motel' grown up Country Rock, while 'Don't Get Caught' is safe with strings.

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At their best, these stories have a Kinks feel and Brooker has just the world weary voice to sell it beautifully. 'Can't Say That' is a seemingly anti manager rant akin to Queen's 'Death On Two Legs' and 'Businessman' has a laidback feel which backs the piquant lyrics.

It's all good to hear and a new Procol Harum album must be an event; the humour throughout this album might occasionally jar, but it does create an enjoyable atmosphere, never more apparent than the knees up of 'Neighbour', complete with a chuckle at the end. They play up a storm, so assured they can nail an essential groove at thirty paces.

This is good to be with and occasionally brilliant, probably what we might expect from such a disparate group. Cancel that cake, this party requires healthy lashings of pie and mash.

Steve Swift

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