The roots of Procol Harum, one of leading exponents of the art rock school, lie in the Paramounts, a London band that recorded five singles between October 1963 and September 1965 and included singer/pianist Gary Brooker, guitarist Robin Trower, bassist/organist Chris Copping, and drummer B.J. Wilson. In search of a new direction, Booker was introduced to lyricist Keith Reid sometime in 1966. The two began writing songs together; several demos led to a recording contract with Deram in early 1967. Procol’s first single, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (Deram 7507; 1967)—based on the melody from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D major— became an international smash, selling more than four million copies overall. In the face of heightened demand for concert engagements, the group broke up. Procol’s revamped lineup—featuring Brooker, Trower, Wilson, organist Matthew Fisher, and bassist David Knights—produced three critically acclaimed albums: Procol Harum (Deram 18008; 1967), Shine On Brightly (A&M 4151; 1968), A Salty Dog (A&M 4179; 1969).
Artistic differences within the band, combined with disappointing sales, led to the departure of Fisher and Knights. With the addition of Copping, Procol’s next two albums—Home (A&M 4261; 1970) Broken Barricades (A&M 4294; 1971)—reflected a transition from a thickly-textured keyboard sound to more guitar-based approach built around Trower’s Jimi Hendrix-inspired virtuosity.
Trower’s decision to embark upon a solo career led to another change in personnel: David Ball was brought in as lead guitarist and Alan Cartwright on bass, thereby enabling Copping to concentrate on organ. An offer to perform in a classical music framework led to the release of group‘s bestselling l.p., Procol Harum Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (A&M 4335; 1972). The band failed, however, to capitalize on this revival in popularity, and the next four albums showed steadily declining sales.
Procol broke up in 1977, but Brooker, Fisher, Reid, and Trower reunited to record The Prodigal Stranger (Zoo 72445-11011-2; 1991). Brooker, Fisher, and hired hands have toured intermittently during the 1990s. [Stambler. 1989]
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