Saturday, May 21, 2011

Procol Harum

The name comes from a former manager's Burmese cat. It's been said the words mean "beyond these things" in Latin. It doesn't. But it makes for a good story,anyway. Procol Harum has it's beginnings in a rock and roll band from Southend-on-Sea,Essex,U.K. called the Paramounts. In the band were vocalist-pianist Gary Brooker,guitarist Robin Trower, organist Chris Copping and drummer B.J. Wilson.
They had a moderate hit in 1964 with a cover of Lieber and Stoller's "Poison Ivy" (#34,U.K.) but being unable to produce a follow-up,they broke up in 1966. In April of 1967 Brooker formed a band with poet Keith Reid, Matthew Fisher on organ,bassist David
Knights and guitarist Rob Royer.

The group,along with session drummer Bill Eyden, recorded "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" at Olympic Studios in London. It featured a Baroque-like structure, a counter-melody based on Bach's Orchestral Suite #3 in D major ,Reid's mysterious lyrics and Brooker's soulful vocals. It was quite a stew. Released in May of 1967, it went to #1 in the U.K. and to #5 on the U.S. charts. A personnel change bringing in ex- Paramounts Robin Trower on guitar and drummer B.J. Wilson occurred just in time for the follow-up single "Homburg", which charted well in the U.K.(#6) but not at all in the U.S. Their epynomous first album came out in 1968, but it was their next album,A Salty Dog that gained wide spread FM airplay and popularity,particularly the title track. Matthew Fisher, who also produced this album
left the band shortly after it's release.

Another former Paramount, Chris Copping replaced Fisher in 1970. By 1971 Robin Trower, a rocker at heart, left to form his own power trio. He was relpaced by David Ball on guitar. The group would have success in the following years with a symphony-oriented rock sound, many times backed by an actual symphony orchestra. They were one of the first groups to achieve success in this manner, with the album, Procol Harum Live With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, going to #5 in the U.S. in 1972 and becoming a gold album. The follow-up album, Grand Hotel did moderately well,going to #21 in the U.S. The single "Conquistador" from the Edmonton album peaked at #16 U.S. Other singles
followed along with critical acclaim, as well as well-received albums such as Broken Barricades and Exotic Birds And Fruit. After playing a final night at The Rainbow Theater in london, the band broke up in 1975. Drummer B'J. Wilson died in 1990. He was one of
rock's most unique and innovative drummers.

The band reformed in 1991 and again in 2000. With numerous line-up changes and returning members Procol Harum, always with Gary Brooker at the helm, would tour on and off up to this day.

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