Procol Harum: Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra – album review

procul live

PROCOL HARUM

LIVE IN CONCERT WITH THE EDMONTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Esoteric Recordings

CD

Available now

All hands on deck for a remastered and expanded classic live album; plus an orchestra.

Ah… the London Palladium. Recent scene of a little run of rock band + orchestra events. Joining Steve Hackett and Hawkwind in treading the boards of the iconic venue with an expansive symphonic backing were fellow veterans Procol Harum.  A performance of this actual entire album with full orchestra and choir, replicating the performance from 1971; the record of which for many years lay in our collections as the single vinyl album of the same name.

An album too, that former manager Chris Wright  has gone on record as saying “completely regenerated their career.”  Indeed, although the American market was still working for them, in the UK, the Procul star was fading. Gary Brooker in PROG has talked about the gig simply as being one tagged on to the end of a tour but it led to the more orchestral sounds on Grand Hotel and kick started a new phase.  On the original album sleeve Gary Brooker’s notes acknowledge Chris & Wally who took care of the recording – “For what they are about to record, may the Lord be truly helpful”.

The wing and a prayer philosophy resulted in a  release then, that  possibly gave their  career the sort of  boost that rocketed Procol Harum into the public domain with A Whiter Shade Of Pale. In fact, the Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra became a significant seller certainly on the Billboard charts and pretty much an essential part of their catalogue rather  than a nice add on/contractual  obligation live album.

So, the two sided LP – including the epic second half treat of an orchestrated classic In Held ‘Twas In – gets embellished with five bonus tracks. One of which is a second  version of the classic Procol track, A Salty Dog and  the bonus of  the single b-side, Luskus Delph (that also comes in its ‘single’ form), both taken from rehearsals for the gig.

Simple Sister and Shine On Brightly make up a package that duly enhances the existing  release and once again, as with recent Procol reissues, Roland Clare adds and essay to the packaging  that also includes material from Gary Brooker’s personal archive.  But back to the music, as one of the early collaborations between rock band and orchestra where it often worked on a bit of a wing and a prayer situation but in this case turned out possibly better than anyone possibly imagined. Tracks such as the opening Conquistador evolving into something much grander that anyone may have anticipated as the orchesral arrangement add a grandeur and drama close enough to evoke a James Bond cinematic style. Of course, In Held ‘Twas In I was made for a majestic orchestral backing.  Brilliant cover art too although we’ll have to keep a hold of those album sleeves to appreciate it best.

 Listen to Conquistador from the album here:

 

Find Procol Harum online here

They are also on Facebook and Twitter

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All words by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive. He can be found on Facebook and is currently revamping his website…

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