Procol Harum: Live At the Union Chapel

The 2003 performance Procol Harum: Live At the Union Chapel is now out on blu-ray courtesy of Eagle Rock.

Procol Harum

Procol Harum: Live At the Union Chapel

Label: Eagle Rock Entertainment
US Release Date: 2011-09-13
UK Release Date: 2011-09-12

In December 2003, Procol Harum filmed a concert in Islington to close the tour promoting the band's 2003 album The Well's On Fire. First released in 2004, Procol Harum: Live At the Union Chapel is now out on blu-ray courtesy of Eagle Rock.

Though a great many people will know Procol Harum only by their biggest hit, 1967's "A Whiter Shade of Pale", there are many other strong songs here, both old and new. Original members Gary Brooker on vocals and piano, and Matthew Fisher on organ, lead their fellow musicians—and the rapt crowd—through a set that includes newer tracks, like early highlight "An Old English Dream", as well as several '60s hits such as "Homburg" and "Conquistador".

Whether or not you're a fan familiar with each song, you can't help but be struck by the power behind this performance. Each of these songs is capable of pulling you in and paralyzing you with its beauty and compositional perfection (I was fully immobilized by the middle of "Weisselklenzenacht", not halfway through the show), but take them together, put them in the awe-inspiring setting of Union Chapel, and there's the potential to be struck dumb long after the disc stops spinning.

Though the band took a break about 45 minutes in on the night of the show ("For a beer."), as presented here, the music never lets up. It's one stunner right after another, and everyone there knows it. It's refreshing when a concert DVD lets the songs speak for themselves, and, visually, Live At the Union Chapel has no flash camera tricks or staging gimmicks, but plenty of atmosphere.

"The Question" is a good example of this. Its ominous tones deepened by a stage in shadow split with washes of red lighting, and generous close-ups on different players and solos. Pay attention during the call and response between Fisher on the organ and guitarist Geoff Whitehorn on this one, not just because you'll hear snippets of "Layla", but because it succinctly demonstrates the prowess of these musicians.

The Procol Harum: Live At the Union Chapel blu-ray includes an interactive interview with Gary Brooker, a film montage of the band earlier on the day of the concert, a "comments from the bar" feature, and the option to view the concert from alternative angles. The concert is presented in widescreen, and it looks OK, but not fantastic. It's the audio that really should be the star of this blu-ray, but sadly, it just isn't. The audio setup choices are Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS HD Master Audio and PCM Stereo, and it doesn't seem to matter which you choose, somehow it comes over a bit flat. Even during the truly dynamic moments, everything seems to have been mixed too evenly.

This detracts, particularly, from the expected bombast of "Conquistador", and it keeps the encore tunes "Whisky Train" and "Good Captain Clack" from reaching the energy levels one wants. However, even muddled, middling sound can't mar the majesty of the long-awaited final encore. "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is a spell-binding song led by a magical melody on Fisher's Hammond, and it's a treat that Brooker sings it here with the extra verses not found on the single.

For some, perhaps, that's reason enough to check out this blu-ray. Procol Harum fans who weren't fortunate enough to attend this show will want to give it a look, as will anyone who is interested in an introduction to these epic songs—though once the songs have caught you, you'll want to seek out superior sound quality.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.