Life at 33 1/3: Death and a twinkle in the eye

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Procul Harum: Home (Regal Zonophone)

Exactly one year after they had sort of fulfilled their potential as an album band with the glorious “A Salty Dog” (go buy it now!), and things would look desperate to the outsider.  Matthew Fisher, the Hammond-wizard, was gone.  And so was bass player Dave Knight.  Two of the original members from the “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” era.

Did Gary Brooker panic?  Not at all.  He replaced the duo with just one man, Chris Copping, who would cover both bass and organ.  And thus the original rhytm & blues-band The Paramounts was actually re-united.

These guys knew each other inside out from their hard gigging years on the British circuit during the period 1963-1966.  They were a highly respected combo with great potential, but never quite got there, ending up as Sandie Shaw’s backup band before they eventually called it a day.  Now they were back, under another name and within completely different musical frames.  But they had that gritty r&b in them, and as expected, a harder, more guitar-driven Procol Harum appeared, at least on some of the tracks.  Robin Trower gets a chance to shine and grabs it.

But overall, “Home” stays loyal to the original plan, although the organ plays a much more modest role.

It is a collection of songs that almost without exception have death as their main theme.  There are numbingly bleak moments, there are aggressive, hard hitting tracks like “Whisky Train” and “Piggy Pig Pig”, but also moments of heartbreaking beauty (check  out “Nothing That I Did not Know”) and everything leads to a magnificent payoff – fanfares, choir and all – in the epic “Whaling Stories “.

Even when digging into a topic as dark, bleak and depressive as death, they don’t lose their sense of humor.  When the final note of the brilliant finale of “Whailing Stories” dies out and peace descend, they go: “Hey! Don’t take it so serious!” and deliver, twinkle in the eye, the final cut: “Your Own Choice”, singing:

 

“My old dog is a good old dog

My old man ‘s a silly old sod

The human face is a terrible place

Choose your own examples”

 

A surprisingly strong sequel to “A Salty Dog” – especially considering that the band had lost the guy who in many people’s opinion represented a crucial part of their sound.  It is also interesting to know that Matthew Fisher actually was supposed to produce this album, some of it was even recorded with him at the helm.  The band was not happy with the results though, so they scrapped it, replaced Fisher with Chris Thomas and had another go.

Some hold “Home” as their favorite Procol Harum-LP.  It is not hard to understand why.

 

Released: June 1970

Produced by: Chris Thomas

(All songs written by Gary Brooker and Keith Reid except where noted)

 

Side One

1. “Whisky Train” (Robin Trower, Keith Reid) 4:31

2. “The Dead Man’s Dream”  4:46

3. “Still There’ll Be More”  4:53

4. “Nothing That I Didn’t Know”  3:38

5. “About to Die” (Trower, Reid) 3:35

 

Side Two

1. “Barnyard Story”  2:46

2. “Piggy Pig Pig”   4:47

3. “Whaling Stories”  7:06

4. “Your Own Choice” 3:13

 

Personnel:

Chris Copping – organ, bass guitar

B.J. Wilson – drums

Robin Trower – guitar

Gary Brooker – piano and vocals

Keith Reid – lyrics