“We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor. I was feeling kinda seasick but the crowd called out for more. The room was humming harder as the ceiling flew away. When we called out for another drink the waiter brought a tray.”
The lyrics are about as familiar as any that have been written in the last 60 years of rock music. Whiter Shade Of Pale is one of the most covered songs in history. From The Box Tops to Joe Cocker. The list includes such bands as ASA, The Dells, Willie Nelson and reggae artist Marlene Webber. But the lyrics belong to Keith Reid, and the original version belongs to the band Procol Harum.
“She said, ‘I’m home on shore leave,’ though in truth we were at sea. So I took her by the looking glass and forced her to agree, saying, ‘You must be the mermaid who took Neptune for a ride.’ But she smiled at me so sadly that my anger straightway died.”
What most of you do not know is that there is a third and even a fourth verse to the song that never made it to the millions of singles and covers that fill our musical collections all over the world. The above verse you’ll get to hear played quite nicely if you decide to take a ride with Procol Harum in this new Blu-ray release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.
The band formed in 1967, which would be the release of Whiter Shade Of Pale. Gary Brooker would lead the band and provide the vocals and piano work. The band’s signature sound would be created with Matthew Fisher providing the unique sounds of the Hammond organ. The two keyboards would provide the solid basic sound for the band. Other founding members included Ray Royer on guitar, David Knights on bass, and BJ Wilson on drums. Of course, the lineup went through several changes over the years, with Brooker pretty much remaining the band’s familiar voice. The name is not an exact Latin translation, but rather came from someone’s cat’s name. It loosely translates to: “Beyond These Things”, but it’s not quite right.
This release features a particularly special concert. It was the final show of the band’s 2003 World Tour and would take place inside of a church, Union Chapel to be more precise. For most bands the venue would seem an odd choice, even bordering on sacrilegious. But for Procol Harum, the choice couldn’t appear more natural. The classical influences and organ tones of the band’s music appear right at home in the beautiful setting. The audience might have begged to differ as they enjoyed the concert from the ancient wooden pews. It didn’t appear to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, however. And, as the saying goes: A good time was had by all.
The lineup for this tour and performance would mix some old and new faces. Of course, there was Gary Brooker. Matthew Fisher would be there on organ. It’s a bittersweet affair, as the accomplished player left the band following the tour. To tell you the truth, he never really looked at all happy on stage and was somewhat of a distant personality. The band also included Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, Mark Brzezicicki on drums, and Matt Pegg, son of Jethro Tull veteran David Pegg, on bass. The music consisted of plenty of tunes from their most recent release The Well’s On Fire. Then there are those requisite classics that included Whiter Shade Of Pale and Salty Dog.
The performances are simplicity itself. The stage was quite conservative with only a few colored spotlights to provide some hot light. The band’s never been known for crazy stage antics, and you won’t find them starting here. Brooker attempts a few jokes that quite honestly fall somewhat flat. Still, it’s the music that you’ve come there for, and you won’t be disappointed. The performances are tight and the music enchanting enough to wash away almost three hours, and you’ll wonder where the heck it went. Plus there’s that extra verse on Pale.
The concert is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25-30 mbps. It’s a dark surrounding, and I can’t say there’s a ton of detail in the long shots. The close-ups are a different story altogether. Here you’ll see the sweat pouring down faces and make out individual hairs on Brooker’s face. The images are good enough to enjoy the unique setting and atmosphere of the show. But you didn’t come here for the image, now did you? Unfortunately, the image wasn’t quite sharp enough for me to make out who the doll is that is mounted on one of the drum-kit stands. Anybody know what that’s all about?
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is accompanied by a weaker LPCM stereo mix. You’ll find the fidelity here just as perfect as you want it to be. Separation is excellent, and you really might not have heard some of these songs sound this good. Lyrics come through with feeling. You’ll be able to appreciate every nuance of instrument and sound. The crowd is a bit reserved, so you won’t really get thundering applause. Who needs it?
All in Standard Definition.
Interview With Gary Brooker: (16:00) One of the best quotes I ever heard from a performer. Paraphrased here: “A musician plays because he wants to play. A performer plays on stage because someone else wants him to.”
Earlier In The Day Montage: (6:58) Quick shots of the band and crew getting ready for the show.
Comments From The Bar: (3:35) Audience testimonials.
For a band that has been around for that many years, you have to go through many changes and styles. This is one that while the lineup has indeed changed over the decades, the music has remained quite consistent. But, this was really the end of an era for the band. There hasn’t been a release of new music since, and one has to ask if there is anything coming down the proverbial pike. “Across the straits, around the Horn: how far can sailors fly? A twisted path, our tortured course, and no one left alive.”