When it was announced this year that Esoteric Recordings was going to reissue the first four Procol Harum albums this summer, I almost geeked out at the moment. I’ve been a fan of their music since 1996 after hearing songs on Classic Rock Radio including; Conquistador and their hit single, A Whiter Shade of Pale. I always love their R&B, Symphonic, and not to mention the early pioneers of Progressive Rock. When people think of their music, they think of just that song. But it wasn’t just that.
Henry Scott-Irvine’s book, The Ghosts of a Whiter Shade of Pale, released in 2012, is a must have book to read. Now for me, I must admit, I’m not a reader myself, but when I bought this, I jumped at the chance and I was completely blown away of the research Henry brought to the table on the history of the band. From their formation as The Paramounts in Southend, Essex which the Rolling Stones championed them, to the hit single in 1967, they were the band that were often overlooked in the history of the British Rock scene.
Psych-pop with the touch of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite in D Major, it got them recognition. Keith Reid and Gary Brooker were pioneers and a magnificent combination when it comes to instrumentalist and songwriter. Songs like; Homburg, Conquistador, A Salty Dog, Whaling Stories, Grand Hotel, Shine on Brightly, Fires (Which Burnt Brightly), & Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) to name a few, they would have given Lennon & McCartney a big run of their money on how they took the music into a beautiful structured landscape.
And also along with interviews with the band and former band members, Irvine himself is the Sherlock Holmes of Procol Harum’s history and its well done on what he wrote from start to finish. There’s also supporters including Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend in which he describes Shine On Brightly the inspiration for his 1969 classic Rock Opera, Tommy, and the foreword notes from both filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Sir Alan Parker on their love of the band’s music.
The hardcover book is a trip back in time of their history, to the court case of authorization that Matthew Fisher filed suit against Gary Brooker and his publishing company for co-credit on A Whiter Shade of Pale back in 2004. All in all, this is an excellent book for any fan of the Prog Rock genre and Procol Harum to delve into the history of the band’s music. And I’ll close off with a line; “And though it seems they smile with glee/I know in truth they envy me/and watch as my befuddled brain