Procol Harum

30th Anniversary Anthology

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The best collection yet devoted to Procol Harum's classic early period ties together the many facets of their sound and their early history, including numerous outtakes and all of the music on four albums from 1967 through 1970. The clarity of the sound makes the first album -- which was roundly criticized, especially in England, for having been cut in mono in late 1967 -- seem a lot more muscular and progressive here than it did in its original release form. The producers have tampered with the song order on A Salty Dog, moving that record's title track in amongst disc three's single sides for time considerations while still leaving "Whiter Shade of Pale" and "Homburg" off of the first CD (the original commercial flaw with the debut album in England was the absence of either of those songs, and the seven-month-plus delay in getting it out). From the psychedelic/progressive blues stylings of Shine on Brightly to the self-consciously leaner, harder Home, this is the optimum way to hear the band. The collection also documents the change from somewhat light, optimistic psychedelia in 1967/1968 to the darker, edgier psychedelia of 1970 and beyond. The best part for collectors will be disc three, which, in addition to the group's hit singles and surprisingly fascinating B-sides from 1967-1970, also includes outtakes from unfinished early album sessions and alternate takes (with different personnel) of "Whiter Shade of Pale," "Homburg," and others, some in stereo. The notes are reasonably thorough, although they skimp a little in telling the story of the recording of "Whiter Shade of Pale" and the subsequent assembling of the permanent band.

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