DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.
“I’ll blacken your Christmas and piss on your door/ You’ll cry for mercy, but still there’ll be more.”
If all you know is “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum then you’re overdue to discover one of the finest 60s/70s British rock outfits. Layered and cynical, the band always seemed older than their years, even right out of the gate. Wistful and dark-eyed, Procol Harum were spiritual cousins to The Kinks but musically as muscular as anything prog-rock had to offer on either side of the Atlantic in that same fertile era.
Their fourth album, 1970’s Home, took their jaundiced POV to a distressingly enjoyable new level. Opening with the electric blues attack of “Whiskey Train,” a harbinger of the solo work to come from original guitarist Robin Trower (who left the band after this album), Home weaves between sharp elbows and bittersweet simmer, naked baby grand piano alternating with gnashing guitars and switchback changes, a musician’s musician effort – fitting for a band that always seemed to aim at their peers as much as any audience in their artistic sensibilities. Non-performing lyricist Keith Reid burns hot and nasty here, affirming his place amongst more revered wordsmiths like Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow. While its predecessor A Salty Dog is more widely known and celebrated, Home presents this band at their best, playing divinely and battling pissed-off melancholy Steely Dan wouldn’t get around to for a few more years.
Here’s a quartet of Home’s best tracks to whet yo’ appetite. But do yourself a favor and listen to the whole album in context and then work your way backwards through A Salty Dog (1969), Shine On Brightly (1968) and their 1968 self-titled debut to hear why Procol Harum is one of Dirty Impound’s All-Time Favorite Bands.