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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Procol Harum

Procol's Ninth (Expanded Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

This newly released version of a classic Procol Harum song is a  three-CD set. The main album is included on the first disc, along with some bonus tracks (many of which are previously unreleased). The second discs are two concerts from 1975. Both of them are previously unreleased. This comes with a poster and a booklet. The album itself is quite strong. The two concerts are inspired and have great sound quality. All those things make this a "must have" for Procol Harum fans.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD-A
          
Procol's Ninth (Remastered)
               
Pandora's Box

Tuned percussion starts this. The group come in augmenting that and creating a magical and dramatic sonic tapestry. This tune is just so cool. It works through some intriguing changes and is one of my favorites from these guys. There is some impressive instrumental work here, but always in service of the song and not the other way around.

Fool's Gold
There is a definite blues rock basis to this number in a lot of ways. It's classic Procol Harum and another that's powerful. I love the guitar soloing on this piece. The whole track is just particularly effective, though.
Taking the Time
While this might not have the same impact as the first two cuts, the cool blues rock edge to it lends something interesting. It brings some variety and works pretty well. The old-school jazz break mid-track is a bit "novelty" in feel, but they pull it off somehow.
The Unquiet Zone
The opening section of this has some funk built into it, feeling just a bit like Stevie Wonder to me. As it drives forward that gets tempered with more traditional progressive rock stuff and some nods to things that feel like they would have been at home on The Beatles' "White Album." Again the guitar solo on this is particularly noteworthy.
The Final Thrust
There is a healthy helping of Ravel's "Bolero" built into this number. They create a powerful cut out of that basic element by lending some blues rock and classic Procol Harum to the mix.
I Keep Forgetting
There is a real soulful blues groove on this tune. Perhaps it's not the proggiest thing here, but it's quite evocative and powerful. It really rocks, too. The horns lend something special, too.
Without a Doubt
This cut has some intriguing changes. It also features some prominent piano at times. It's really trademark Procol Harum in a lot of ways.
The Piper's Tune
I like the moving vibe on this number. It seems to be steadily driving forward. There's definitely no mistaking this one for Procol Harum either. I can make out some Celtic elements at times on this number.
Typewriter Torment
I dig the rocking vibe on this thing. It has more of a real progressive rock element than some of the rest do. It's also energetic and manages to be catchy, too. I really like the organ work on this a lot.
Eight Days a Week
Here Procol Harum covers The Beatles. This is a cool rendition of the tune. They capture a lot of the fun and groove of it. Yet they also lend their own flavors. This rocks pretty well.
Bonus Tracks
       
Pandora's Box (Raw Instrumental Track) (Previously Unreleased)
You pretty much get what you would expect here. Somehow this format makes the song take on a cool menacing vibe, though. I like this quite a lot.
Fool's Gold (Raw Track)
While this is listed as a "raw track" it's actually quite good, and doesn't sound like a "throw away" at all.
Taking the Time (Raw Track)
I love the piano solo at the start of this. The arrangement on this feels more stripped back to me in a lot of ways. Still, it works well on this take, too.
The Unquiet Zone (Raw Track)
Somehow the groove here feels even more soulful to me. I dig the vocal performance on this take a lot.
The Final Thrust (Previously Unreleased)
Here we get an alternate version of the album track. There is more of a rock and roll vibe on this version. While it's a nice change, I don't like it as much I do the one on the album proper.
The Poet (Previously Unreleased)
A song that apparently didn't make the cut for the album, this has a classic Procol Harum sound and works well. I like it as well as almost anything that is included on the set.
The Piper's Tune (Previously Unreleased)
Another alternate version, I like this quite a bit. I'd say it's just as strong as the version on the main album.
Typewriter Torment (Previously Unreleased)
The closer of the first CD is another alternate take.  While I think I prefer the version from the album proper, this one is strong, too.
CD-B

       

Live in the USA
 
17th October 1975
               
Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
     
Shine on Brightly
They open this live set with a Procol Harum classic. The sound quality is good, and the performance is strong.
As Strong As Samson
Starting with keyboards, this is a classy tune that could be considered another classic from this band. They put in a strong performance of the number.
Conquistador
Another classic from the band, they put in a smoking hot live performance of this number. The guitar soloing on this is on fire.
Pandora's Box
I really love this song, as I mentioned on the review of the first CD. I think the guitar sound is a bit meaner on this live performance. They put in a smoking hot performance of the tune here.
The Unquiet Zone
I like this one pretty well. It's a cool rocker and works reasonably well here, but it's not as strong as the studio version, or a lot of the other stuff in this show. Still, it has some killer guitar and piano work.
A Salty Dog
Here is another of my favorites from Procol Harum. The cut is packed with emotion and power. I love this live version. It really does it justice.
A Souvenir of London
This cut has a shuffling kind of sound to it. While it's fun, I'm not really enthused about it.
Cerdes
Another classy rocker, this has "Procol Harum" written all over it. I like a lot of the instrumental elements of this a lot, particularly the piano and guitar work, but the whole song is strong. The guitar sound on this is great, too.
I Keep Forgetting
A bluesy rocking number, this is a classy tune. It's not one of my favorites here, but it is a strong performance.
Grand Hotel (Including the Blue Danube)
This number gets a strong live performance. It's another that bears the trademarks of Procol Harum. It's a dynamic one with a lot of different musical concepts and a wide range between the softer and louder movements. I do like the little wandering into the classical music zone on this. It really feels like we've made our way into an Oktoberfest celebration during part of this. They turn this into a nearly 13-and-a-half minute piece with all the extra stuff. They pull it back out to the song proper around the 12-minute mark to conclude things in style, but I think the extra-curriculars go on a bit long.
Power Failure
A big chunk of this performance is devoted to a drum solo. I'm not a big fan of drum solos, with very few exceptions, so this one leaves me a little less than enthused. Beyond that, it's a pretty run of the mill Procol Harum tune, so not really enough to elevate it beyond the drum workout. If you are into those things you will probably love this.
Simple Sister
The encore for the show, this was always another of my favorites from this band. As soon as that killer guitar riff starts, you know it's going to be magic. They deliver on the promise with a great performance, too.
CD-C
     
Live in the UK

    

29th November 1975
    
Leicester University
      
Shine on Brightly
There seems to be a bit more of a proggy edge on this version of the cut. It seems a bit less direct and rocking perhaps. It's a nice variant. The sound on this recording is also excellent.
Whaling Stories
Starting with keyboards, that element is one of the main factors of this number. Sure, as it continues we get other instruments, but the keys and vocals are the central points of this. This is one of the proggier pieces and has some intriguing shifts and turns, particularly in some of the more dramatic later portions of the tune. This is one of the tunes that wasn't included on the other live recording.
Conquistador
A repeat from the last show, this performance is another strong one of a classic Procol Harum.
Pandora's Box
This version of "Pandora's Box" seems more on the prog side than the one from the US show, too. It still manages the magic and power of the other versions, but it's definitely flavored a bit differently. That said, we do get some of that hard rocking edge, too.
The Piper's Tune
Here's another that wasn't performed in the other show. this is a strong live rendition. I like the proggy sort of angle that really comes out here.
Grand Hotel
I think I prefer this version because they don't take the "Blue Danube" detour, instead playing it straight. While I liked that diversion, it went on a bit long. It does still wander into some classical music and then some jazzy stuff mid'track, but this is less than half the length of the other version of the song. It benefits from that brevity.
Beyond the Pale
Here we get another one that's exclusive to this show on the set. I like the world music kind of vibe to this number. This is a short cut.
A Salty Dog
A percussion solo opens the version of this classic presented here. I like this rendition quite a bit. It has a lot of emotion packed into it.
I Keep Forgetting
The soulful groove is really enhanced on this live take. It's a killer version that might even elevate this beyond the studio version. I love the guitar soloing in here.
The Blue Danube
Here we get a separate piece of what made up the "Grand Hotel" version at the other show. If I felt it was bloated in the other take, this one is ten-minutes by itself. They bring it in as a full classical treatment, but then work out from there to the same kind of Oktoberfest approach. After a couple measures like that, they shift it downward and then bring it back up with sort of a hybrid approach. This rendition is more decidedly prog rock than the other one was. This has more energy, and despite the even longer playing time, seems to work better than the other version.
Be-Bop-A-Lula
Starting with an extended audience participation section, they do a fun rendition of this Gene Vincent rock and roller. It's just a good time and really works well.
Old Black Joe
Starting mostly acapella, this is a cover of an old-school song that was originally written by Stephen Foster. Jerry Lee Lewis did a rock and roll version, and this seems to draw on that as the reference point. That fits as this band seems well-suited to cover The Killer. This one is also fun and competent.
A Whiter Shade of Pale
I suppose it's an obvious choice, but I've always been a big fan of this tune. This live performance really does it justice and serves as a great closer to the set. It's almost like everything has been building to this point, and it's worthy.

 

 
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