Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Procol Harum - Live in Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1972) + Bonus Single

(U.K 1967 - 1977, 1991 - Present)

Recorded on 18th November 1971 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Canada, the album captured a truly magical performance by Gary Brooker (vocals, piano), B.J. Wilson (drums), Chris Copping (organ and harpsichord), Alan Cartwright (bass) and Dave Ball (guitar), the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Da Camera Singers. Classic Procol Harum material such as ‘Conquistador’, ‘Whaling Stories’, ‘A Salty Dog’ and the epic ‘In Held ‘Twas in I’ were beautifully arranged by Gary Brooker and the resulting album was one of Procol’s most successful and spawned a hit single in ‘Conquistador’. It remains one of the finest collaborations between a rock band, orchestra and choir. 

This release also includes an illustrated booklet featuring material from Gary Brooker’s personal archive and an essay by Procol Harum authority Roland Clare, as well as a bonus track "Luskus Delph" which was the B-Side of their "Conquistador" single.

Procol Harum 1972

This whole album was an afterthought -- Procol Harum had been invited to play a concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Da Camera Singers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in August of 1971, at the tail-end of their last tour with Robin Trower in the lineup. Amid all of the preparation -- including the writing of new orchestral arrangements by Gary Brooker and with a new lead guitarist, Dave Ball, just joining the lineup -- Brooker decided that it might be a good idea to preserve a professionally made tape of the show and suggested that A&M Records, to which they were signed, might want to record the performance; the label agreed with just a week to go until the concert. Even "Conquistador," the song on which the resulting album's commercial success was built, was added at the last minute, with no time for the orchestra to rehearse the arrangement that Brooker wrote on the flight from England. 

They did it coldly, opening the concert, and the eventual album featured a performance -- highlighted by the orchestra's brass in a Spanish mode, running scales on the strings, and B.J. Wilson's powerful drumming -- helped loft the single to number 16 in America. The group's second-biggest hit record (after "A Whiter Shade of Pale"), in turn, helped lift the album into the American Top Five. Ironically, the success of the LP also left Procol Harum's image slightly askew, with the presence of the orchestra and choir and the selection of songs, from the most ambitious part of the band's repertory, all combining to present the group as more of a progressive rock act than they actually were. 

"Conquistador" was the most accessible song on the album, and nothing else here matches it for sheer, bracing excitement, but the rest -- especially "Whaling Stories", "A Salty Dog" and the multi-part "In Held 'Twas I" -- were all opened up by the vast canvas provided by the orchestra, and the group didn't wimp out in their own performance; Wilson, Ball, Brooker, and company all played hard and heavy where the songs required it.

If anyone who wants to get into the music and history of Procol Harum, this is an excellent start to understand how much the band were ahead of their time and both Gary Brooker and Keith Reid were the Mount Rushmore of singer-songwriters in the realms of Lennon/McCartney. 

Concert Review
"In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Da Camera Singers"
Of all the rock-orchestral fusions this one really does work primarily because Procol have used the technique before, and because they use it with arrogance, assurance and don't set out to compromise.
From the very beginning when the guitar and strings play together on "Conquistador" with perfect balance, this is a success.

This album really brings home just how good Procol are on sea songs. "Whaling Stories" makes brilliant use of the orchestra to heighten the effect of a sea battle with a whale, working up from just string-backed vocals to a terrific crescendo.

"Salty Dog" is also impressive in its grandeur, complete with quadrophonic seagull noises. In contrast, "Twas Teatime At The Circus" from the long "In Held 'Twas I" on side two, captures all the rumbustious humph of the circus, and then plunges into the eerie thunder-opening of "In The Autumn Of My Madness" , a chilling number with good use of flute and organ.
A very complete and highly talented album which should help dispel this group's image of the the 1967 one-hit wonders. C.B

Chris Copping and B.J Wilson

Ripped from my vinyl, this post consists of FLACS and includes full album artwork for both CD and vinyl media, plus label scans.  I distinctly remember when this album was released in Australia.  A school mate of mine brought the LP to school one day, and we played side one on a brilliant sound system that was located in the school's Music Centre. The Director of Music at the time was rather impressed with our selection of music, although he wasn't as impressed several years later, when we played Sabbath Bloody Sabbath at full blast !

Track Listing
01. Conquistador
02. Whaling Stories
03. A Salty Dog
04. All This and More
05. In Held 'Twas in I
06. Luskus Delph (Bonus B-side single)

Procol Harum were:
Gary Brooker (vocals, piano)
B.J. Wilson (drums)
Chris Copping (organ and harpsichord)
Alan Cartwright (bass)
Dave Ball (guitar)  

Procol Harum Live Link (287Mb) New Link 05/09/2023

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