PROCOL HARUM – A Salty Dog (1969)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Ali Ghoneim 

 

I own a version of the album without the title song A Salty Dog (I own a 2cd version of the the first 4 albums, that also includes the debut album, called Procol harum, without A Whiter Shade Of Pale, go figure), but I will separately review that song at the end.

So my album starts with The Milk Of Human Kindness. With its folky melody and quite bluesy guitar it sounds rather unlike ‘classic Procol harum’, but the voice is Gary Brooker and when the organ joins for the chorus it’s unmistakably Procol harum. Although the guitar sound doesn’t really work for me, it’s an energetic opener.

The second song, Too Much Between Us, is more subdued, with nice acoustic guitar. Paul McCartney would be proud of this song; it’s that nice!

The Devil Came From Kansas starts relatively promising with the verses, but it turns out to be rather mediocre further on. I think it’s the mix of power chords on the guitar, the silly drumming and the whiney group singing. The guitar solo’s are nice, however.

Boredom starts with sleighride sounds ( like a Beach boys Xmas song), but turns out to be more tropical. A nice stylistic excursion, albeit not very substantial. Once again, the singing doesn’t really seem to fit the happy melody but that may be because it tries to convey boredom. With the slightly more enthusiastic yelling at the end you would expect the song to speed up and end in a frenzied hysteria, but nope…

Juicy John Pink starts with bluesy guitar and harmonica and remains a bluesy song throughout. It’s an OK performance, but this really is like ELP playing Are You Ready Eddy?, showing stylistic diversity for the sake of it. And any number of bands of the era could do this better, from Paul Butterfield to Cream.

Wreck Of The Hesperus sounds like a more piano driven and speeded up version of Whiter Shade Of Pale, with added orchestra. An impressive song nonetheless.

All This And More, again, is a very typical Procol Harum song. I like how the vocals, piano and the guitar mix; this is one well arranged song.

Crucifiction Lane is distinguished more by Trowers’ singing than by his guitar playing. It’s sort of a power ballad that suffers a little from a lack of dynamics: there is no strong build up towards a glorious finale, but the instrumental ending is nice.

Pilgrim’s Progress is a little Paul McCartneyesque once more: nice vocal lines but the organ moves into Whiter Shade territory pretty soon. The hand clapping at the end gives it almost a gospel feeling.

A Salty Dog really belongs here, as it gave the album its title. It starts and ends with seagulls screeching. It’s a very solemn song, mostly because of the organ, but also because the singing is by far the best on this song.

On the whole I would call this album more symphonic rock than progressive rock, as only in the double keyboards (and in the song titles) something proggy could be discerned. The orchestral flourishes and some nice compositions elevate it above the pop music of the day, but instrumental virtuosity, tricky time signatures and heavy philosophical or mystical lyrics are mostly absent. Not having listened to it for a few years it was actually quite a bit more middle of the road than I remembered. It’s pleasant music, but I somehow expected something more challenging of it.

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Author: tomymostalas

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