Review Summary: Procol Harum pioneers the prog and psychedelic genres even further in the right direction.
The 1960s was a decade in which the Great Britain was dominated by the British Beat Boom, a time which pop music had exploded beyond popularity and reason. This would continue to go on for about seven years while the cultural landscape of England would dramatically change. Then suddenly came 1967. This was the year that two new genres would take root. These genres, commonly known and prog and psychedelic rock, would start not just in the famous concept album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but also in a group by the name of Procol Harum. This group would launch a single that would strike the top of the British charts. That single was A Whiter Shade of Pale.
About a year later, Procol Harum would continue to shape the prog and psychedelic rock foundations when they came out with their second studio album, Shine On Brightly. This album would pioneer the work of longer prog rock pieces; songs that would finally hurdle 10 minutes and longer. It would also continue to reshape the way people look at psychedelic rock and each of the band members.
There is one particular song that dominates Shine On Brightly, which is In Held Twas In I. This song would become one of the first early prog rock songs to go beyond 10 minutes and spanned at about 17, a daring move for a band that first worked with baroque pop and other forms of rock. This song should be considered highly revolutionary, since it inspired and allowed other prog rock artists more freedom with their music. This meant it could be longer in time span. This also introduced classical music elements into the prog rock set, which created a more “profound” form of rock. Finally, this further evolved the concept album idea, by putting part of the story into each movement, or each song on the album. Take for example, In Held Twas In I starts with a highly enigmatic prologue:
“In the darkness of the night, only occasionally relieved by glimpses of Nirvana as seen through other people's windows, wallowing in a morass of self-despair made only more painful by the knowledge that all I am is of my own making ...
When everything around me, even the kitchen ceiling, has collapsed and crumbled without warning. And I am left, standing alive and well, looking up and wondering why and wherefore.
At a time like this, which exists maybe only for me, but is nonetheless real, if I can communicate, and in the telling and the baring of my soul anything is gained, even though the words which I use are pretentious and make you cringe with embarrassment, let me remind you of the pilgrim who asked for an audience with the Dalai Lama.
He was told he must first spend five years in contemplation. After the five years, he was ushered into the Dalai Lama's presence, who said, 'Well, my son, what do you wish to know"' So the pilgrim said, 'I wish to know the meaning of life, father.’
And the Dalai Lama smiled and said, 'Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it"”
These lines begin a massive journey from the most treacherous tribulations of torture to the end, where all mends in heaven, according to Gary Brooker. This would become one of many concepts used by many different progressive rock bands throughout the next four decades into present, thus becoming a celebrated tradition. This tradition still lasts to this very day.
It is also easy to notice the elements of psychedelic rock in Shine On Brightly. These elements are most noticeable through the lyrics written by Keith Reid, which are still very drug induced, eccentric, and rather catchy for the 1960s. They seem to most reflect and label the revolution that England had been going through, mostly drugs, government, and even the smallest details in life. This was a job that was well done by Procol Harum, leaving only a few minor flaws that hardly blur the picture.
In the end, what was most important in this album is the major development that went into the prog rock genre, which saw the most success. While the psychedelic rock genre had continued to work well, this would become a time in which prog would change the guard with both pop and psych rock and become the new popular trend of music, living the age of popularity for nearly a half a decade. Much of this was thanks to Procol Harum’s efforts.