Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: Reissues of 'Procol Harum' and 'Shine on Brightly'


I doubt Procol Harum set out to found two new genres with their first two albums, but they did. On their eponymous debut, they married rock, soul, and Bach at his most funereal with Keith Reid’s death-obsessed lyrics and Goth rock was born. On the sophomore Shine On Brightly, they fused the length and suite-structure of The Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away”, the recording innovations and grandeur of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and their own tricky musicianship to make the first true prog rock record. Procol Harum and Shine on Brightly also contained the memorable songwriting and soulful execution that make them great albums regardless of any pioneering achievements. 

In 2009, Salvo Records rereleased Procol’s opening salvos with a slew of bonus tracks, informative liner notes by the band’s biographer Henry Scott Irvine, and pretty good remastered sound by Nick Robbins. However, “Conquistador” and “A Christmas Camel’ on the first album and everything on the second ran at the wrong speed, causing Gary Brooker to sound more like Alvin the Chipmunk than Ray Charles. Six years later, Procol Harum and Shine on Brightly have passed to Esoteric Recordings and remastered by Ben Wiseman from the original tapes. The speed errors have been corrected. Sections of “In Held Twas in I” are as much as nine seconds longer than their Salvo counterparts. Both albums also sound warmer and deeper than the Salvo ones. Shine on Brightly sounds particularly extraordinary.

The Esoteric releases are each available in two formats. Procol Harum arrives as a single disc edition in its original mono mix with four single sides as bonus tracks, and a double-disc version that includes the 1971 stereo remix and additional outtakes and BBC sessions. Shine on Brightly comes as a single disc edition with the original stereo mix and three single sides and a triple-disc edition with the original mono mix, BBC sessions, outtakes, and backing tracks. I received the austere single-disc editions to review, so I cannot provide any information about the bonus material, but judging from the sound quality on the single-disc ones, I’d guess that Procol’s fans will agree that Esoteric is doing right by one of Rock’s most influential yet underrated bands.

Get Procol Harum and Shine on Brightly on Amazon.com here:
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