Procol Harum's proggy classics stand the test of time | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Procol Harum's proggy classics stand the test of time


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Formed in England in 1967, Procol Harum are probably best known for their massive debut single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” a chilling, Bach-inspired, organ-led beauty of a tune deemed by some the first progressive-rock song ever. But prog or not, it introduced the world to the baroque-rock grandeur Procol Harum came to specialize in, with its sweeping arrangements and epi, story-driven lyrics, double-keyboard interplay between singer and pianist Gary Brooker and organist Matthew Fisher, and complex, bluesy shredding by guitarist Robin Trower. Though the band’s lineup shifted a bit throughout the 70s, they released an excellent run of soulful, progressive symphonic rock before splitting up in 1977. But like many other bands of their generation, Procol Harum joined the reunion circuit in the early 90s. Though Brooker, Fisher, and Trower initially combined forces once again, it was only a matter of time before people started dropping out, which eventually left Brooker as the sole original member. In 2017, Brooker and a lineup of hired guns released Novum, the first Procol record since 2003. Obviously it’s not very good: the songs aren’t interesting and the whole thing has a bizarre adult-contemporary production sheen to it. But no one’s going to see Procol Harum in 2019 to hear new songs; fans want to hear the classics, and Brooker’s still got the pipes to bring them.   v

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