Procol Harem – In Concert w/Danish National Symphony Orch. & Choir
2009 Eagle Vision/Eagle Records
They did it the first time in 1972 with the release of Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (which became the band’s best-selling album) and even then, only few had dared to meld rock and roll with a real symphony orchestra – in the age of synthesizers and Mellotrons, so few really wanted to; it was really just these guys and their, at the time Deram label mates, The Moody Blues who founded the real basis for symphonic rock and now, Procol Harum is revisiting that past with a new performance alongside the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Choir.
Known for their mix of British blues, psychedelic rock, and proto-prog, the band melds it all again at this performance shot outside in daylight on the lawn of the historic Ledreborg Castle in Denmark. This concert featuring Gary Brooker on Vocals & Piano, Josh Phillips on Hammond B-3, Matt Pegg on bass, Mark Brzezicki on drums and Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, utilizes the orchestral arrangements to their fullest, where not only the orchestrations dance around the band, but also vice-versa, as the orchestra plays the main role at times, not to mention that the choir’s presence has great eminence amongst the melodies. The tunes performed range from “Butterfly Boys,” “Homburg,” “An Old English Dream,” “Into the Flood” and the infamous “A Whiter Shade of Pale” amongst others. Te atmosphere captured is festive (due to the outdoor/daytime/location), but the audience is seated throughout – making this seem like an exclusive event, but it’s certainly a vibe and surrounding that fits this band very well.
Also included is a six song performance from a 1974 Danish TV special which almost appears to be shot in a fancy hotel lounge – you gotta love that wallpaper in the background; the sound & mix on this is somewhat shotty, but it was mixed to play out of a small midrangy television speaker only to now be played out of larger stereo systems, so… Among the tracks performed are “Grand Hotel,” The Idol,” and “The Devil Came From Kansas.” The CD itself is much more stripped down, only one disc is present and you have only ten of the tracks on the CD as opposed to the fifteen performed on the DVD – yet it takes the best from two performances on the Ledreborg Castle grounds. The DVD has audio options in Stereo and both Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1 Surround
In Concert with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Choir stands as a testament to one of symphonic rock’s truly symphonic band’s. While groups such as Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were tweaking the sounds of the synthesizers, Procol Harem kept it down to piano, organ, bass, guitar, and drums – keeping it somewhat simple, yet utilizing a real orchestra when they wanted to branch out and flex musical might.