Procol Harum has been around since the 1960’s and I have their first nine albums in my vinyl collection. I have to admit that I rarely listen to these albums but when I do it is always enjoyable. I think it is because while I find their music sophisticated, well crafted, and melodic; at the same time it does not have many real high points that keep my attention or consistently draw me back. They fall into the comfortable category as there is a sameness to their music. If you appreciate one of their releases the chances are you will like them all.
They are one of those groups that have split, become inactive, and reformed a number of times in the last twenty years or so. Today Gary Brooker is the only remaining original member, which is important as he is the vocalist, pianist, and co-writer of all of their material. Josh Phillips (organ), Geoff Whitehorn (guitar), Mark Brzezicki (drums), and Matt Pegg (bass) fill out today’s edition of the group.
In Concert with The Danish National Concert Orchestra & Choir finds Procol Harum producing a live album in a setting that enhances and changes their music in a positive way. They have always produced music that leaned in a classical direction. It was similar to Yes, but with tighter structures and contained none of the improvisation that made that group so unique. Here in this live setting they are able to stretch a bit as the orchestra allows them the freedom to experiment. The songs end up being significantly longer and include a number of surprises that show off the music in new ways.
For the most part they stick to their well known material. “Grand Hotel” sets the tone of the performance with the orchestra providing a background until taking over on the breaks between verses. “Homburg” is much more grandiose than the stripped down original. “A White Shade Of Pale” and “Conquistador” both benefit from the added instruments and chorus.
“Into The Flood” takes the group in a different direction. It finds the group in rock mode with the brass turned up. It is a nice counterpoint to the rest of the music and is a direction they should explore a bit more.
All in all, In Concert with The Danish National Concert Orchestra & Choir allows Procol Harum to bring their music into the 21st century is a positive and unique way. It is an album that I plan on listening to on a more regular basis.