Listen to this and understand why Procol Harum was so feted.
Daryl Easlea 2009-05-15
For a group that lived their life in the shadow of their debut single, Procol Harum released some music of remarkable quality. Originally released in November 1968, Shine On Brightly is regarded by many as the group's best album. It is certainly their most influential.
Although produced by Denny Cordell, it is clear that the young assistant producer, Tony Visconti and engineer Glyn Johns have their fingerprints all over it. Quite Rightly So and the title track (''And even my befuddled brain is shining brightly quite insane'') are masterpieces of organ-driven, symphonic rock.
Skip Softly (My Moonbeams) is very much a product of its era, but much better is Wish Me Well, one of the group's most explicit nods to their R & B roots. Rambling On sounds like a virtual blueprint for David Bowie's Hunky Dory.
The album is dominated by the side-long In Held Twas I. It encapsulates the period's hope and opulence. With Keith Reid's frequently impenetrable but deeply poetic words, it is something grand sounding even grander. Parts of it is extremely listenable (In The Autumn Of My Madness), some of it exceptionally dated (Twas Teatime At The Circus, anybody?). It is impossible, however, to deny its influence on the Who's Tommy and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
Gary Brooker's vocals are tremendous throughout, again making a case for him being one of the most underrated vocalists in the UK pop history. With Robin Trower's unobtrusive guitar and Matthew Fisher's organ, the Procol Harum sound is one of the most definable of the late 60s.
Given its largesse, it was a surprise that Shine On Brightly failed to make the UK charts. However, it reached the US Top 30 and cemented their popularity in the states. Now, it is part of their meticulously researched 40th Anniversary series and comes complete with 12 bonus tracks.
If you are unfamiliar with their oeuvre and had enough of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, listen to this and understand why Procol Harum was so feted.