[Still languishing in the land of the Ignoble Frog, and given the Frankenstorm about to strike the Northeast and my beloved Hackensack NJ -- Paris of the Tri-State Metropolitan Area -- I have no idea when I may get home. So it seems like a good time to pontificate on a subject near and dear to my heart. Thanks for indulging me. -- S.S.]
Okay, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has finally nominated Procol Harum for inclusion.
As Dr. Livingstone should have said to Stanley: What took you so fucking long?
Seriously, it's not exactly a secret around here that I'm a fan of those guys; in fact, the first post of mine that ever went up here was a revisit to my retrospective gush about them that originally appeared in (and served as my audition to) STEREO REVIEW, back in 1972.
That said, when the subject of the nomination came up last week over at Sal's place, there was a lot of the usual pooh-poohing. Because, you know, they're just One Hit Wonders. You know -- like The Singing Dogs, Whispering Jack Smith, and whoever sang the theme from Dawson's Creek.
Which always gets up my nose because a) The (admittedly inferior to the studio version) live orchestral "Conquistador" was almost as big a world-wide hit as the ubiquitous "A Whiter Shade of Pale"; b) "A Salty Dog" has been an FM staple for decades; and c) at least three of Procol's albums are transplendent masterpieces, and another three or four are way better than just good.
So -- submitted for your approval, five Procol Harum songs that aren't "A Whiter Shade of Pale" or "Conquistador" or "A Salty Dog." Any or all of which should be grounds for inducting the band into the Hall several years ago.
5. The Devil Came From Kansas
Drummer B.J. Wilson -- the band's secret weapon -- gets to strut his amazing stuff here with (starting at the 2:46 mark) an over-before-you-know-it drum break (with hand claps) that's quite breathtaking in its concision. And the rest of the song and performance is pretty world class as well.
4. Salad Days (Are Here Again)
From their brilliant debut album -- then, as now, a perfect synthesis of Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and J.S. Bach. The interplay between Matthew Fischer's Hammond organ and Gary Brooker's piano -- especially on the solo section -- is the very definition of glorious.
3. Your Own Choice
A particularly droll Keith Reid lyric -- the hippie broads at my old college used to rewrite it as "There's too many Stevens and not enough smoke" -- mated to the catchiest tune imaginable, and an exquisitely melodic harmonica solo on the lengthy outro by the great jazz and classical mouth organ exponent Larry Adler (uncredited).
2. Quite Rightly So
Goose bumps from start to finish. That's all I'm gonna say about this one.
1. Ramblin' On
And have I mentioned that these guys had the most magnificent live sound imaginable? If I haven't, or if you can't imagine it, a listen to the above -- recorded by the original, classic five piece Procol lineup at the Fillmore West in 1969 -- should help to convince you.
BTW, I should add, and for the record, that I expect nothing I've said here is going to garner PH enough votes to get into the Hall this year.
So I'm blaming Jann Wenner in advance, even if he has nothing to do with it.
Fuck him -- he won't let The Monkees in either.