When your career stretches back to 1967 and in the subsequent 50 years you have released 12 studio albums with over 25 band members you probably won’t be served by a single CD ‘Best of’.
This sumptuous boxset comprises 5CDs covering the best tracks by all line-ups of the band as well as three DVDs and a sumptuous book of pictures and narrative of every track herein.
The first three CDs cover the band’s career while CD4 offers up the whole show from the Hollywood Bowl with orchestra and chorale and CD5 is previously unreleased recordings from a show at Bournemouth Winter Gardens. The second of the DVDs has a full show from Germany’s Musikladen series
The packaging is top quality and as one has grown to expect from Esoteric the remastering is superb.
The only constant is the presence of Gary Brooker whose eerie vocals and Hammond first adorn ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ – one of the 5 tracks played most around the world since it was first released – and logically placed here as the first track of the first CD. He was with the band from 1967 – 1977 when it broke up and then from 1991 (the reformation) until today, so in a sense this box-set is his story. But it is much more than that as, by accumulating tracks from every point in the band’s career, you get an incredible sense of the music developing, progressing. A feeling that this was a band whose music led the early Prog revolution and who developed into a band outside the flashes of trend or ‘style’. Whether they are charting in the singles chart or the album chart there is always something in their music that is definable as Procol Harum and it stands alone from the mass.
The amazing thing about this is that it isn’t just a fond look back at 50 years of Procol Harum. The music here is actually still relevant today and, largely due to the quality of the musicians who have played with them over the years, sounds fresh and original even now.
The package is exquisite, all materials top quality and the music good enough to match. Not cheap but …
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