Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Procol Harum

  • A Salty Dog [A&M, 1969] A+
  • Home [A&M, 1970] C+
  • Broken Barricades [A&M, 1971] C-
  • Live in Concert With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra [A&M, 1972] B-
  • Grand Hotel [Chrysalis, 1973] C
  • The Best of Procol Harum [A&M, 1973] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

A Salty Dog [A&M, 1969]
A new discovery; haven't stopped playing it since seeing them at the Fillmore. A+

Home [A&M, 1970]
A Salty Dog had Matthew Fisher putting his two pence in, not that I've ever missed an organist before. And on A Salty Dog the Robin Trower blues was country and droll rather than technological and macho. And on A Salty Dog they didn't print the lyrics, which ought to end those silly rumors about Gary Brooker's intellectual attainments. Believe me, a smart singer would try and play "Whaling Stories" for laughs. Then again, a smart singer wouldn't write with Keith Reid in the first place. C+

Broken Barricades [A&M, 1971]
Just because the resident poetaster doesn't have his own acoustic guitar, people make this out to be some kind of triumph for good old rock and roll, which is absurd. Good old rock, maybe. Pompous, muddy, indecipherable. C-

Live in Concert With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra [A&M, 1972]
Gigging with a local band this way would be a terrible idea for more accomplished rock and rollers, but as it is, the enthusiastic provincials kick Procol's ass on "Conquistador," great meaningless fun in the tradition of "Quick Joey Small." And you have to admit that the string and horn arrangements are different. B-

Grand Hotel [Chrysalis, 1973]
For years these guys have vacillated between a menu of grits that certainly ain't groceries and larks' tongues in aspic. Despite their current white-tie conceit, they still haven't decided. Personally, I wish they'd pick their poison and choke on it. C

The Best of Procol Harum [A&M, 1973]
Not bad for profit taking. The melodies are at their ingratiating schlock-classical best, the tempos up enough to render the lyrics extraneous. Among the four never-on-LP inducements are "Lime Street Blues," a jolly barrelhouse that mentions underpants, and "Homburg," which introduces their "multilingual business friend." But the old stuff reminds us that Keith Reid once knew writing can be a goof--even his "commercial" lyrics from the '70s ("Simple Sister," "Whiskey Train") are self-servingly arrogant. And the Gary-Brooker's-greatest format demonstrates conclusively that he learned his oft-praised blues mannerisms from the constipated guy in the next toilet stall. B+

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]

See Also