Procol Harum – Live “In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra”
Label: A&M Records/SP 4335 | Release: 1972 | Genre: Progressive-Rock
Vinyl | LP Cover (1:1) | FLAC | 24bit/96kHz & 16bit/44kHz
The Moody Blues “Days of future passed” represents one of the earliest collaborations between band and orchestra. Deep Purple’s “Concerto…” also offers an early example of a live album involving both. For me though, Procol Harum’s “Live in concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra” was the first truly successful integration of the sound of an orchestra into the music of a band. Both the albums mentioned above tend to segregate the two factions, with either orchestral pieces or band performances, but the two do not perform together throughout the album. The music tends to be either symphonic or rock, not a true blend of both.
On this album, Procol Harum use the orchestra simply as an additional band member. Others such as Caravan (“& the new Symphonia”), Yes (“Yessymphonic”), and the Moody Blues (“Red Rocks”), have successfully done so since in a live environment, but for me, PH were the first.
The appeal of this album is enhanced significantly by the track selection. Those chosen invariably lend themselves well to orchestration. The opening “Conquistador” has been transformed from a good rock track to a bombastic symphonic overture, with rousing bursts from the brass section, and an astonishing vocal performance by Gary Brooker. Brooker’s distinctive vocals never sounded better than they do here, he’s clearly enjoying himself! This would have made a great theme tune for the film “Gladiator”.
“Whaling stories” and “A salt dog” are similar in pace and structure, both gaining an awesome majesty through the orchestration.
If side one of the album demonstrated how relatively short pieces could be greatly enhanced through the addition of an orchestra, side two presents the ultimate collaboration. “In held twas in I” was way ahead of its time when it first appeared on “Shine on brightly”. Here it becomes a symphonic masterpiece. The multi-tracked vocals of the studio version are of course gone. While they were effective then, they tended to make that version very much “of its time”. Throughout, band and orchestra play as one, building the tension, then breaking it, only to rebuild again. Dave Ball’s guitar work is superb throughout; even when dominant, it is still controlled and melodic.
“Live in concert…” stands even today as the template for others follow when it comes to combining band and orchestra. It benefits immensely from the quality of the songs selected, but the performance also, is superb.