Procol Harum scored big in 1967 with the plaintive "soundtrack for a generation" single "Whiter Shade of Pale." Not yet an actual "band," the group formed out of necessity and went on to release ten albums before calling it quits in 1977, reuniting unsuccessfully in the early '90s. Gary Brooker, whose vocals mirror the quiet, soulful side of Van Morrison, anchors these songs almost as much as the ever-present Hammond B-3, while wordsmith Keith Reid provides him with some of the least ingratiating prog rock lyrics of the era. German label Repertoire's 20-track Essential Collection contains all the hits: "Salty Dog," the aforementioned "Pale," and a "live" version of "Conquistador," as well as popular album tracks and single edits. Consumers looking for a concise overview of the band will find this a delight, while longtime fans would be better off with 1997's 52-track 30th Anniversary Anthology.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger