Gary Brooker

No More Fear of Flying [Bonus Tracks]

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No More Fear of Flying [Bonus Tracks] Review

by William Ruhlmann

In Chris Welch's liner notes for the 1997 reissue of Gary Brooker's debut solo album No More Fear of Flying, Brooker says, "The album is a potpourri of sounds and it's a long way from Procol Harum!" Well, yes and no. Brooker had been the lead singer, pianist, and primary composer for Procol Harum until the group's breakup in 1977. Recording and releasing No More Fear of Flying in 1979, he seems to have taken some deliberate steps away from the band's sound, notably eschewing its piano/organ arrangements and, except for the lead-off song, "(No More) Fear of Flying," not collaborating with his usual lyric partner Keith Reid. (The reissue adds two bonus tracks, one of which is the previously unreleased "Fat Cats," another Brooker/Reid song.) But instead of teaming with Reid, he co-wrote five songs with his neighbor, Pete Sinfield, another of the small cadre of lyric writers collaborating with British rock musicians of the period. Sinfield usually worked with King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. For Brooker, he provided words that were less poetic and mysterious than Reid's; it's hard to imagine Reid writing anything as direct as the jocular "Get Up and Dance." But the music is still by Brooker, and the songs are still sung in his distinctive voice, so the overall sound still isn't really a long way from Procol Harum. Brooker does take some stylistic side trips, however. "Angelina," another of the Brooker/Sinfield songs, has an island feel, for example, and the closer, "Switchboard Susan," one of two covers of songs by Mickey Jupp, has a barrelhouse piano part supporting a pub rock arrangement. But "Savannah," credited to Moore/Kosta, easily could have been played by Procol Harum. The problem with No More Fear of Flying isn't really whether it sounded too much like Brooker's old band or not enough like it; it's that the record didn't sell. Certainly, it could have. Brooker's cover of Murray Head's "Say It Ain't so Joe," arranged and produced, like the rest of the LP, by George Martin, is an excellent performance of a song that should have been a hit for somebody, and could have been, for Head himself, for Roger Daltrey, who recorded it two years earlier, or for Brooker. In the new liner notes, Brooker reveals that he simply put the album out and waited to see whether it would sell before promoting it. "If the album had been a big seller I would have put a band together and gone out on the road," he says. One might counter that, if he had put a band together and gone out on the road, the album might have been a big seller, or a bigger one, anyway. As it was, it failed to chart in either the U.S. or the U.K., and Brooker's solo career foundered, though he managed another solo album in 1982. Procol Harum fans will welcome the reissue, especially with the inclusion of "Fat Cats" and the non-LP B-side "S.S. (Self-Sufficient) Blues," a rare Brooker solo composition that is a good blues workout.