Procol Harum
Procol's Ninth


3.0
good

Review

by Divaman USER (157 Reviews)
November 19th, 2018 | 11 replies


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Procol Harum meets Leiber and Stoller = Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

The Universal Horror film franchises of the 1930s followed a predictable arc. They'd release a movie like Frankenstein, and it would be cutting edge. The story would be strong, the characters would be well-defined, and the monster would be terrifying. Then they'd make a sequel or two, and that would be fine. In some cases, such as Bride of Frankenstein, people would consider the follow-up even better than the original. But inevitably, as the novelty wore off, it would be hard to keep the monster frightening. Soon, Frankenstein would be teaming up with other fading horror icons, like Dracula and The Wolf Man. There was fun to be had in these films, but let's face it -- the scares were growing more and more infrequent. And finally, sadly, when there wasn't any other way to make money on the franchise, where would it end up?Playing straight man to Abbott and Costello.

You see where I'm going here. Procol Harum, in the beginning, was a weird and wonderful band. The music was frequently strange, Gary Brooker's voice was musky and unique, and Keith Reid's lyrics were like Greek and Roman legends. By their middle period, say around the point of Grand Hotel and Exotic Birds and Fruit, they were still making a lot of excellent music, but some of it was maybe a bit of a self-parody. And especially because Exotic Birds and Fruit didn't sell nearly as well as the band's previous LPs, by the time they starting making Procol's Ninth (which was actually their eighth studio album - it was their ninth counting the live album), they were looking for fresh ideas. Enter Leiber and Stoller.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were one of the most popular songwriting teams of the 1950s. Between them, they wrote or co-wrote over 70 charting singles, including several of Elvis Presley's best-loved songs. By the 1970s, they had reinvented themselves as successful record producers. In a way, it made sense that when Procol started looking for a fresh approach, they'd look to these two songsmiths for help, as there was actually some history between them - The Paramounts, Procol Harum's precursor band, had their one hit single with a cover of the songwriting duo's classic, "Poison Ivy" (originally made famous by The Coasters).

Unfortunately, it wasn't a great fit. While Procol had always had some powerful blues-rock roots, the band's real strength was in their oddness. Leiber and Stoller's instincts were to move them back in a more basic direction. The result wasn't a total disaster, but it wasn't really a success either.

Far and away, the highlight of Procol's Ninth is the first track, "Pandora's Box". This one is a slow, cool jam with lyrics that encompass Snow White, flying horses, the composer Handel, and pirates crossing the Spanish Main. It was, to date, the band's last charting single. It was also their last truly great song.

Beyond that, you have to take your pleasures where you find them. One of mine is the LP's final song, a cover of The Beatles' "Eight Days a Week" that finds Brooker singing the song's counter-melody every other line or so. Some critics have complained that it throws off the album's general vibe, and feels out of place, but I see it more as a breath of fresh air on a project that just isn't that consistently interesting. I also like "The Final Thrust", which is kind of like a bizarre military march, and "The Piper's Tune", which was the B-side of the "Pandora's Box" single. Of the more basic rock fare, "Fool's Gold" and "Typewriter Torment" (the latter of which is Reid's fairly amusing take on writer's block) seem to me to be the most interesting efforts.

Procol's Ninth is probably best seen in retrospect as an effort by a band that was running out of steam, but still had a few tricks up its sleeve. In comparison to previous Procol albums, it's kind of colorless (as exemplified by the cover art - a basic photo of the band inserted against a plain gray background). But sadly, it's still better than the LPs that were to follow. It's the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein of Procol Harum albums.



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user ratings (20)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Divaman
November 19th 2018


4126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I might be being a little unfair to Leiber and Stoller here. I really love "Exotic Birds and Fruit", but it was a little excessive. It might be that Procol really needed some kind of a return to basics. ... Nah, nevermind -- I think I was right the first time.

Digging: Batushka - HOSPODI

e210013
November 19th 2018


2533 Comments


I loved your comparison with the movies. And I really agree with you. In the beginning Procol Harum made great stuff, really. And despite not be a bad album, their 9th album is very far away of those great moments. I think it was the beginning of their fall.
Nice and pos.

Divaman
November 19th 2018


4126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks e.

Jethro42
November 19th 2018


15958 Comments


Cool, a Divaman's Procol's review! I liked Exotic Birds And Fruit and still more Something Magic which is not good according to your statement in your review. I have yet to hear Procol's Ninth (eight). The Progarchives average rating is 2.80, so I never bothered about it, but i'll try to give it a listen since you prefer this one over Something Magic.

Good review, Divaman, pos'd.

Batareziz
November 20th 2018


215 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review, Diva. Finally you wrote a review for something I'm familiar with. It's been some time, let me tell you :-)

Divaman
November 20th 2018


4126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Glad you liked it Batareziz. I always work my way back to my '70s artists sooner or later.



Might eventually review Something Magic, Jethro. Although Grand Hotel is still without a review, and that's definitely a more important album in Procol history. I've been leaving it open hoping that some other Procol lover will take the bait and review that lovely album. But if no one does, I'll review it eventually.

Jethro42
November 20th 2018


15958 Comments


Yeah, you already reviewed 5 or 6 Procol's albums...You cannot go without doing Grand Hotel, one of their best. I have lots of pleasure to listen to that one. Probably my favorite, even if it's not a popular opinion.

Divaman
November 20th 2018


4126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Well, somebody needs to review it, anyway. It definitely deserves a review.

Divaman
November 21st 2018


4126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Btw, I mentioned this on another list the other day, but for any American Procol fans, they'll be touring the States early in 2019. Just bought myself a ticket tonight.

MotokoKusanagi
November 21st 2018


2050 Comments


i've only heard their s/t, will have to check this

Divaman
November 21st 2018


4126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This wouldn't be my first choice to go to after their first album. I'd suggest you move on to Shine On Brightly or A Salty Dog, or even the Live With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra album instead.



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