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Procol Harum: Live At The Union Chapel

Album Review

A proper British institution in sound and vision from 2003.

The venerable Procol were well past their 35th anniversary when this show by the latter-day line- up was filmed very nearly 10 years ago. It is but a number though, because by then the catalogue of these perennially undervalued British treasures had already passed into timelessness. This attractive package offers an hour-long, 11-track CD of highlights featuring all the staples, but really comes to life on the accompanying DVD of the full concert (21 songs over two hours).

The band were never much on showmanship – the height of spectacle being bassist Matt Pegg wearing a hat – but the consistent inventiveness of Gary Brooker’s melodies and the magnetic mystery of Keith Reid’s words more than hold the attention. 

Intricate pieces like A Salty Dog and Grand Hotel (both only on the DVD here) are their usual resplendent selves, and Conquistador is as charged as ever, even sans symphony orchestra. The group’s very early days are also acknowledged, down to a run through the fairground fun of Good Captain Clack. 

The unsurprising finale of A Whiter Shade Of Pale features Matthew Fisher, the creator of that deathless organ sound, and it’s great to see him back in the fold.

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