Procol Harum

A Whiter Shade of Pale [A&M]

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Procol Harum's debut album is amazingly engaging, considering that it was rushed out to capitalize on the hit title track. The material was all already written (before the hit, in fact), but the group recorded the LP in just two days, simply to get a long-player out, and came up with one of the more pleasingly straightforward releases in their history. The range of sounds here is the widest ever heard on one of the group's albums -- "A Christmas Camel" isn't that far from the old Paramounts, the group tackling a sound inspired by Bob Dylan (and derived specifically from his "Ballad of a Thin Man"), while "Salad Days" and "Kaleidoscope" are hard-driven psychedelic rockers, stripped down to the basics, with no pretensions. "Conquistador" was the "lost" single off the album, finally released years later in its live orchestrated version, but much more intense in this original version, which has never gotten the respect it deserves. In between those are pub songs, novelty tunes, and one Matthew Fisher instrumental excursion, "Repent Walpurgis," that became the finale for the group's shows for years to come. Originally released under the title "Procol Harum," the British version of the LP didn't contain the hit. In 1997, Repertoire Records reissued this album -- retitled A Whiter Shade of Pale -- in remastered state of the art sound, with four bonus tracks, including a pair of harder blues-based numbers by the band from 1967.

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