At long last, Procol’s greatest triumph has been reissued on CD thanks to the good folks at Repertoire Records. For those not in the know, Procol Harum was among the “proto” progressive bands of the late 1960’s along with The Nice, Deep Purple and the first incarnation of King Crimson. "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was the band’s biggest hit single and it’s really too bad that they are generally only remembered for that hit. All of their albums from the debut through Procol Harum Live are very much worthy of investigation.
Procol Harum Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is a grand reminder at how remarkably moving this band was. "Conquistador"opens the album and the orchestra blends beautifully with the band. Gary Brooker’s wonderful soulful vocals ride above the tide of the music throughout "Conquistador" and indeed the entire CD. I’ve always felt that he was one of the most underrated singers in the business and Procol Harum Live only serves further proof of that. The band offers great renditions of the majestic "A Salty Dog" and the haunting "Whaling Stories". But the best is saved for last, excluding the nice bonus track "Luskus Delph", for "In Held ‘Twas in I". At nineteen minutes, the song originally took up all of side two of the original vinyl release. Many people will know this piece through Transatlantic’s version on their debut CD. While Transatlantic does an excellent job, for my money the performance captured here cannot be topped. The Grand Finale featuring orchestra and choir is so moving that it’s hard not to get emotional listening to this piece.
Procol Harum Live is an excellent introduction to the band, especially if one is curious about the more progressive side that they frequently exhibited. The remastering is superb and the packaging is really nice too; a booklet inside the digipack recounts the history of the night of the concert with reminiscences from Gary Brooker and a nice essay by the prog friendly British writer Chris Welch. I can’t recommend this one highly enough!