Sunday, 26 July 2015

"Shine On Brightly: 3CD Deluxe Edition" by PROCOL HARUM (2015 Esoteric Recordings Reissue/Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Tea Time At The Circus..." 

I diligently picked up the reissues of Procol Harum's 60s and 70s catalogue when they were reissued in sequence in 2009 by Salvo Records of the UK - and dug their natty gatefold card sleeves and half-decent remasters. But just as soon as they had arrived - they seemed to be quickly deleted and almost instantly started to attract unhealthy price hikes right across the board. So along comes England's Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red) in 2015 to rescue the British band's legacy and fan's wallets with a full on reissue campaign that practically doubles the preceding issues in size and scope (and in real style too). There is a lot on this chunky sucker so let’s to those glimpses of Nirvana (if you know what I mean)...

UK released 29 June 2015 (July 2015 in the USA) – "Shine On Brightly: 3CD Deluxe Edition" by PROCOL HARUM on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 32500 (Barcode 5013929460041) is a 3-Disc Remaster in a 5" Clamshell Mini Box Set of their classic 2nd album from 1968 on Regal Zonophone Records (A&M in the USA).

Newly Remastered on all counts (BEN WISEMAN and ROB KEYLOCH did the expert transfers) – Disc 1 is the Stereo Mix of the 11-track album plus three extras - Disc 2 features the 11-track 'MONO' Mix on CD for the first time - while Disc 3 gives us 20 more Bonus Tracks – 7 of which are Previously Unreleased 1968 BBC Sessions from John Peel's "Top Gear" Radio One Series. Inside the Clamshell Box are three postcards repro'ing American Concert Posters – one for the San Francisco International Pop Festival 1968 and two for the "Grand Ballroom" shows in Detroit in May and October 1968. A fold-out double-sided colour poster features the album’s UK artwork on one side (a George Underwood painting) and the different USA A&M Records artwork on the other (a Guy Webster photograph that was deemed more 'appropriate') - as well as the lyrics and the Gary Brooker/Keith Reid blurb that accompanied the original UK trade advert.

On top of all that there’s a beautifully laid out 24-page colour booklet with liner note by HENRY SCOTT-IRVINE who authored the book "Procol Harum: The Ghosts Of The Whiter Shade Of Pale". The card sleeve for CD1 has the UK album artwork (Stereo), CD2 has the US LP artwork (Mono) and CD3 features a (unseen) variant of the US album artwork. A nice touch and real attention to detail is that the label for CD1 is Purple in colour and CD2 is Red – both reflecting the original Stereo and Mono label colours of the original 1968 LP issues - while Disc 3 is in Black. Page 19 of the booklet gives a good indication of the classiness on offer here – a 9-picture collage of rare European and Japanese 7" single sleeves for "Quite Rightly So". There is discussion on the impact of the album (Pete Townshend name-checks it as an influence on "Tommy"), concert photos, concert posters and publicity shots, paragraphs on the 'outtakes' etc. It’s very tastily done. Here is a detailed break down of each CD:

Disc 1 – STEREO MIX (49:36 minutes):
1. Quite Rightly So
2. Shine On Brightly
3. Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
4. Wish Me Well
5. Rambling On
6. Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)
7. Glimpses Of Nirvana
8. Twas Tea Time At The Circus
9. In The Autumn Of My Madness
10. Look To Your Soul
11. Grand Finale
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 2nd studio album "Shine On Brightly" – released September 1968 in the USA in Stereo Only on A&M Records SP 4151 and December 1968 in the UK on Regal Zonophone SLRZ 1004 (Stereo)

12. Il Tuo Diamante ("Shine On Brightly" Italian Version In Mono, Recorded September 1967) – a small chart hit in Italy in January 1968 on Nil Records 45NIL 9005
13. Quite Rightly So
14. In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence – Tracks 13 and 14 are the non-album A&B-sides of a March 1968 UK 7" single on Regal Zonophone RZ 3007

Disc 2 – MONO MIX (38:39 minutes):
1 to 11 as per Disc 1 - their 2nd studio album "Shine On Brightly" – released December 1968 in the UK on Regal Zonophone LRZ 1004 in Mono (No USA variant) - Previously Unreleased on CD

Disc 3 (53:06 minutes):
1. Monsieur Armand (Mono) – a 1967 recording that first appeared on the may 1976 UK LP "Rock Roots" by Procol Harum on Fly/Cube Records ROOTS 4. It was re-worked and re-recorded as "Monsieur R. Monde" for the 1974 LP "Exotic Birds & Fruit" on Chrysalis Records
2. Seem To Have The Blues (Most Of The Time) (Mono) - a 1967 recording that first appeared on the may 1976 UK LP "Rock Roots" by Procol Harum on Fly/Cube Records ROOTS 4
3. Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) (1967 Version in Mono)
4. Shine On Brightly (1967 Version in Mono) – recorded October 1967
5. In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence (Stereo Mix) – recorded 6 December 1967. A mono version is on Disc 1 as the B-side to "Quite Rightly So"
6. Monsieur Armand (Stereo Backing Track) – recorded 11 October 1967
7. A Robe Of Silk (Stereo Backing Track) – recorded 12 January 1968
8. McGreggor – first appeared on the 1997 "30th Anniversary" CD Edition of "A Salty Dog" on Westside
9. The Gospel According To...[Wish Me Well] – recorded 19 March 1968
10. Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
11. Quite Rightly So
12. Ramblin’ On
13. Shine On Brightly (tracks 10 to 13 are from "Top Gear" BBC Radio One Session, 14 February 1968) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
14. Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
15. Wish Me Well
16. Long Gone Geek (tracks 14 to 16 are from "Top Gear" BBC Radio One Session, 19 August 1968) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEADED
17. In Held 'Twas In I (Look To Your Soul/Grande Finale) (track 17 is from "Top Gear" BBC Radio One Session, 6 October 1968) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Released in the run up to Christmas 1968 on both sides of the pond, Procol Harum’s 2nd album "Shine On Brightly" was produced by DENNY CORDELL and an uncredited GLYN JOHNS and featured the same line-up as their January 1968 self-titled debut album:

Piano and Lead Vocals – GARY BROOKER
Lead Guitar – ROBIN TROWER
Hammond Organ and Keyboards – MATTHEW FISHER
Drums and Percussion – B.J. WILSON
(Lyrics) – KEITH REID

As the Matthew Fisher organ sails in for the album opener "Quite Rightly So" - the new Stereo remaster on Disc 1 is immediate and powerful (the tambourine and Brooker's vocals have more clarity too). A huge fan favorite – the title track "Shine On Brightly" is also incredibly clean on that wailing Trower guitar and Fisher's Hammond. And even though the channel separation is harsh and that cross fading is gimmicky – the remaster still feels better than what was on the 2009 reissue. "Slip Softly (My Moonbeam)" has Trower's guitar and those treated keyboard sounds married well – and when it goes into that floating piano passage in the middle of the song and Trower comes in with that wicked solo – it's the best I’ve ever heard this track. Probably my personal crave and a groove I've loved for years – "Wish Me Well" is Funk for Procol Harum and feels like a great Joe Cocker track with The Grease Band. It has real power now and renewed clarity.

Side 2's "Glimpses Of Nirvana" is a talking-tale of hippy lore too far for me (" is like a beanstalk..." - yikes) – but what's not in dispute is that this remaster adds a huge power to the instruments as they build. The 1:19 minutes of "Twas Tea Time At The Circus" feels like a Small Faces madrigal – and again the remaster is amazing. Much was made in initial reviews of the threesome that finishes the album (like a suite of serious songs) – "In The Autumn Of The Madness", "Look To Your Soul" and "Grand Finale". You can hear elements of Gabriel's Genesis circa "Nursery Cryme" in all that melodrama – those heavy themes and sound affects while the heavy Prog guitars feel like Vertigo Spiral territory. A tiny bit hissy – still the opening Bass and Cymbal to "Grand Finale" is beautifully clear as Fisher's piano fades in and then those church-like vocals – superb.

I must admit the Mono Mix does little for me and actually makes tracks like "Rambling On" sound ever so slightly weird and less powerful somehow. The extras on Disc 3 are a motley crew of different mix rarities and genuine finds. "Monsieur Armand" opens proceedings strongly – the Mono mix on this song having a huge punch with Trower’s solo shining half way in. The very Jethro Tull "Seem To Have The Blues (Most All The Time)" thunders through your speakers with Trower's heavy grungy guitar offset by R 'n' B keyboards from Fisher as Gary Brooker bemoans his fate ("...whole lotta people treat me unkind..."). The vocal on the Mono "Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)" is way back in the mix and gives it a more melancholy feel. But a genuine blast comes in the shape of the Stereo Mix of that beloved B-side "In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence" which puts Fisher's keyboard runs more to the fore (loving this).

Next we get a duo of fan-pleasers in the (vocal-less) Stereo Backing Tracks to "Monsieur Armand" and "A Robe Of Silk" where Procol sound like The Spencer Davis Group or even the Small Faces in their Immediate period on both cuts (very cool additions). The lament "McGreggor" is good but far better is the Bluesy and Funky groove of "The Gospel According To...(Wish Me Well)" where they sound almost like "Tons Of Sobs" Free with keyboards added – Trower trucking away on that guitar as the slow beat drives the song on (it ends abruptly at 3:35 minutes and you wish there was more). The BBC stuff is professionally recorded and packs an impressive punch – the soft piano and wild guitar soloing of Trower on the opening "Skip Softly" doing anything but skipping softly. The band sounds fresh and pleased with itself on "Quite Rightly So" – the drums well recorded too. "...Our local picture house is showing the Batman movie..." Brooker sings plaintively on "Ramblin' On" where a copper warns him that his newly purchased Batwings may not work if he jumps off a building like Adam West. The cheesy spoken intro of "...mind expanding sound...burn into your brain baby..." at the beginning of "Shine On Brightly" is 'so' Radio 1 DJ-speak (what a hoot!). The 2nd "Top Gear" set seems better recorded with superior Stereo imaging. The soft piano intro to "Wish Me Well" followed by Trower’s chugging guitar and the doubled vocals is wicked stuff and a real discovery. The 2:34 minutes of "Long Gone Geek" is the sound of a band finding its feet and thoroughly enjoying it – very cool little tune. And on it goes...

There are four x 2015 titles in Esoteric's 'Deluxe Edition' PROCOL HARUM reissue campaign so far and at this rate – all will be mandatory purchases for lovers of the band. “Shine On Brightly” is a superlative reissue and one that will please both fans and whet the appetite of the curious. Well done to all involved...

2015 PROCOL HARUM CD Reissues/Remasters by Esoteric Recordings:
1. Procol Harum – January 1968 UK Debut Album - 2CD Deluxe Edition UK released 17 July 2015 on Esoteric ECLEC 22497 (Barcode 5013929459748)

2. Shine On Brightly – December 1968 2nd Studio Album – 3CD Deluxe Edition UK released 29 June 2015 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 32500 (Barcode 5013929460041)

3. A Salty Dog – June 1969 3rd Studio Album – 2CD Deluxe Edition UK released 31 July 2015 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22503 (Barcode 501392946348)

4. Home – June 1970 4th Studio Album – 2CD Deluxe Edition released 31 July 2015 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22505 (Barcode 5013929460546)

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series

SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1960s and 1970s Volume 1...

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