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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Procol Harum

Live: In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

Review by Gary Hill

This new reissue includes the classic live Procol Harum disc with a number of bonus tracks and a cool booklet. Doing a show with an orchestra seems well suited to Procol Harum's music, and this works well enough to really uphold that assumption. There are at least a couple songs here that are the best versions I've ever heard of the particular track. I highly recommend this disc. It's just so good.

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Track by Track Review
The orchestra really brings some majesty to this live rendition of the classic song. The tune works so well in this live version. In fact, this might be the best version of the number I've ever heard. The guitar solo is purely on fire.
Whaling Stories
Again, this classic Procol Harum tune gets a powerful and inspired live performance. The orchestra really seems to help them up the ante in terms of intensity. This is another that might be the best performance of the piece I've heard. There is some serious bombast built into it, providing a stark contrast to the mellower parts. It seems that everyone is on top of his game here in the band. The track is complex and evocative. At over seven and a half minutes of music, it really is sort of a mini-epic piece.
A Salty Dog
Here we get another classic Procol Harum song. It starts in precisely the same piano and orchestra fashion one expects. As the voice joins, the evocative nature is captured so well. This is another that works exceptionally well here. It's a really powerful cut.
All This and More
Here we get another powerful and quite effective live Procol Harum number. I love the contrast between the more rocking and mellower stuff here. I dig the rocking section later in the number a lot. It has some great guitar work and really builds so well.
In Held 'Twas in I
The original album was closed with this epic (19 minutes plus) piece. The symphonic elements paint a backdrop for a spoken reading at the start. After that works through some orchestral bombast takes over for a time. It eventually resolves back to a mellower movement with the symphonic instrumentation serving as the icing on the cake. Chorale voices rise as it starts to build upward. After the two and a half minute mark we are brought back to a spoken section over a piano led movement. By around the five minute mark the cut shifts to sort of a musical theater treatment. It has some decidedly odd, but cool as well, music and changes. After that runs through, there is sort of a false ending. The cut powers out from there to more typical Procol Harum, this time on the louder, more rocking side of the equation. It gets more symphonic and tastefully odd as it builds outward from there. After another false ending some twisted and rocking guitar sound is accompanied by some organ. The cut starts to grow out as the guitar drops away by building in a psychedelic mode that makes me think of early Pink Floyd. As the guitar comes back in this is intense and tastefully strange. The orchestra rejoins intensifying the arrangement. After the 11 minute mark, it drops back to a mellow, slow moving motif for the next vocals. The cut intensifies with a mainstream Procol Harum sound after that first bit of vocals. It reaches another peak, and we're taken into another powerhouse jam before the 14 minute mark. They resolve that whole movement with a return of the vocals and then use some organ to take us to the next part of the piece. It works upward from there in a section that has a triumphant (yet still mellow) vibe. It gradually builds upward. The chorale vocals and orchestral instrumentation adds a lot to the arrangement as it continues to work forward. Some evocative guitar soloing comes over the top as things keep evolving. The whole piece builds to a powerful closing.
Bonus Tracks
Luskus Delph
B-Side of single released in 1972
Piano brings this into being. The vocals come over the top as drums and orchestral elements augment the arrangement. The cut continues to work outward from there as this continues.  This has a pretty trademark Procol Harum texture to it, but the orchestral element and particularly busy drum part make it stand out.
Taken from the Concert Rehearsals
Simple Sister

This rocker is one of my favorites from Procol Harum. This live take suffers a little in terms of the mix (particularly the vocal mix), but it is a powerhouse nonetheless. The orchestra really brings a lot to this.

Shine on Brightly
The mix on this one is better. The cut has a pretty trademark Procol Harum sound, but the orchestra does bring some extra magic to it. I dig the organ solo quite a bit.
A Salty Dog
Here we get an alternate take of the earlier track. This isn't as strong as that other one, but it's solid.
Luskus Delph
I think I prefer this to the version that wound up being released as a single. It's a powerful cut that works very well here.
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