Procol Harum Reissues Shine On Brightly

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Procol Harum/Shine On Brightly/A Salty Dog/Home
In A Word: Progtastic

One of British art-rock’s first, best and most durable bands, Procol Harum pioneered a unique blend of grandiosity and grit, matching expansive compositions and R&B roots while spotlighting Keith Reid’s colorful surrealist lyrics and Gary Brooker’s soulful lead vocals and elegant, earthy piano work.

The band’s first four albums, originally released between 1968 and 1970, have already been reissued on CD countless times, with varying degrees of care. But Esoteric’s well-executed new expanded editions are thorough enough to justify a repurchase. With three out of four expanded into two-CD sets, and Shine On Brightly stretching to three discs, they’re packed with outtakes, b-sides, live tracks, radio sessions and alternate versions that aren’t quite revelatory but nonetheless bolster the case for the group’s enduring artistry.

Procol Harum remains an audacious debut, and is stronger here for the addition of the iconic hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and its equally majestic followup “Homburg.” Shine On Brightly is even better, right down to the 17-minute “In Held ‘Twas In I.” This triple-CD edition encompasses complete stereo and mono mixes, plus an avalanche of ace studio outtakes and BBC sessions. A Salty Dog is Procol’s finest hour, and the relatively paltry dozen bonus tracks are fascinating enough to make one yearn for more. Home is an OK back-to-basics effort, but suffers from the absence of original organist Matthew Fisher and a dearth of fresh ideas, although soon-to-be-solo-star Robin Trower steps out impressively on the riff-rocking “Whisky Train.”

Scott Schinder

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