Saturday Eye Candy: Procol Harum


Though not often cited in the list of great '60s British rock bands these days, Procol Harum was a major force in the late '60s/early '70s whose very first single, "A Whiter Shade of Pale," was Top Ten around the world and whose live debut was opening for Jimi Hendrix at the height of his popularity. A touch more bookish and ornate than many peers, Procol Harum instantly carved out their own piece of the rock landscape and has remained a fairly active group for over 40 years. The man at the helm for most of these years is pianist-singer-songwriter Gary Brooker, who turns 65 today. One the finest, most distinctive voices to emerge from the U.K., Brooker's intricate piano work and gift for subtle emotion in all aspects marks him as a true great.

We begin with an evocative, bittersweet "Repent Walpurgis" from 1971.

"Conquistador" shows off the jauntier side of colonial expansion!

Further shipboard living with one of the most striking songs ever written about seafaring.

"Christmas Camel" is one of several fine black holiday numbers in the Procol Harum catalogue.

Such a grand mix of ballsy swinging and literate wordplay!

"A Whiter Shade of Pale" takes us out with Brooker's extraordinary singing, Matthew Fisher's mesmerizing organ, and a lyric by Keith Reid that is as relevant and moving today as it was in 1967.

[Published on: 5/29/10]

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