Friday, 6 May 2016

"Home" by PROCOL HARUM (2015 Esoteric Recordings 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Ride That Whisky Train..."

Procol Harum's gloomy' fourth album (and last with Robin Trower as lead guitarist) came out in June 1970 - largely to public indifference. Sure it rose to No. 49 in the UK in its 'snakes and ladders' board-game single sleeve artwork and was even afforded the luxury of a Gatefold Sleeve in the US and a chart placing of 34. But from decades of experience in rare records - original copies of the British Regal Zonophone vinyl LP are notoriously hard to find especially with the lyric insert (reproduced on the rear of the poster in the right hand flap) precisely because it sold so little. It's one of those records that slipped through the net after initial release - like a lot of albums from 1970 actually.

There have been two CD reissue labels that have had a varying go at "Home" – Westside in 1999 (with 8 bonus tracks) and Salvo of the UK in 2009 (with 2 bonus tracks). I had most of the 'Salvo' Procol Harum reissues in their cool card repro artwork - each sporting spangly new Nick Robbins/Rob Keyloch transfers and remasters. Well along comes Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red of the UK) and they’ve returned to the tapes for new 24-bit remasters and thrown in some new Previously Unreleased material. There are two variants on this release - the single disc issue with two bonus tracks (Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2506 - Barcode 5013929460645) - and this - the 2CD ‘Deluxe Edition’ on ECLEC 22505. Here are the Whisky Train details...

UK released Friday, 31 July 2015 (14 August 2015 in the USA) – “Home” by PROCOL HARUM on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22505 (Barcode 5013929460546) is a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (39:10 minutes):
1. Whisky Train
2. The Dead Man's Dream
3. Still There'll Be More
4. Nothing That I Didn't Know
5. About To Die
6. Barnyard Story [Side 2]
7. Piggy Pig Pig
8. Whaling Stories
9. Your Own Choice
Tracks 1 to 9 are their 4th album "Home" – released June 1970 in the UK on Regal Zonophone SLRZ 1014 and in the USA on A&M Records SP 4261. CHRIS THOMAS produced - all songs written by Gary Brooker and Keith Reid except "Whisky Train" by Robin Trower and Keith Reid.

For "Home" PROCOL HARUM was:
GARY BROOKER - Lead Vocals and Piano
ROBIN TROWER - Lead Guitar
CHRIS COPPING - Bass and Organ
B.J. WILSON - Drums

Disc 2 (42:50 minutes):
1. Your Own Choice (Demo, Autumn 1969)
2. Barnyard Story (Take 4, Abbey Road 11 February 1970)
3. The Dead Man's Dream (Take 7, Abbey Road 11 February 1970)
4. Still There'll Be More (Take 3 Backing Track, Abbey Road 14 February 1970)
5. Whaling Stories (Initial Backing Track)
6. About To Die (George Martin Mix, Abbey Road 12 March 1970)
7. Your Own Choice (Extended Remix, Abbey Road 22 March 1970)
8. Piggy Pig Pig (Chris Thomas Remix)
9. Whisky Train (US Radio Single Edit - May 1970 US 7" Single A-side of A&M 1218) - Previously Unreleased on CD
10. Your Own Choice (BBC Radio One Session for 'David Symonds Show' - Recorded 12 May 1970) - Previously Unreleased
11. About To Die (BBC Radio One Session for 'David Symonds Show' - Recorded 12 May 1970) - Previously Unreleased

Esoteric's MARK and VICKY POWELL 'conceived, researched and compiled' the reissues and BEN WISEMAN and ROB KEYLOCH carried out the brill new 24-bit Remasters from original tapes. The booklet has trade adverts, US concert tickets, publicity photos for the band and new liner notes from HENRY SCOTT-IRVINE - author of Omnibus biography "Procol Harum: The Ghosts Of A Whiter Shade Of Pale". The gatefold card digipak folds out into four flaps - the 20-page booklet in the left flat and a foldout poster in the left. The 'seated' photo on Page 2 of the booklet is used as the basis to the poster which also has the lyrics in the same colour as the LP insert on the rear (a sort of grey). Discs 1 and 2 reflect the colouring of the original Regal Zonophone issue (also carry the 'Fly Records' logo) and beneath both see-through CD trays are pictures of the rare "Your Own Choice" White-Label Promo-Only UK 7" single LP sampler on Regal Zonophone SPSR 328 with "About To Die" on the flip. You’d have to say that it's all very tastefully done.

You couldn't ask for a more rocking opener to an album than the wicked riffage that is "Whisky River" - Trower's sole writing offering for the LP. This album version at 4:26 minutes was edited down by A&M Records in the USA for single release on A&M 1218 in May 1970 ("About To Die" on the fiipside - a great double sider). The shorter cut weighs in at 3:01 minutes (Track 9 on Disc 2) and is spelt "Whiskey Train" on the label. The mix also seems to accentuate the guitar more (not surprising) where Robin Trower sounds like Budgie's Tony Bourge having a grunge wig-out. The album's 'doomy' reputation comes from tracks like the dreadnaught heavy "The Dead Man's Dream" and the lonesome seven minutes of "Whaling Stories" - both a tad hissy it has to be said. I've always liked the acoustic prettiness of "Nothing That I Didn't Know" - a song about the 26-year old Jenny Drew - a lost soul who starved from anorexia. But my crave has always been the brilliant guitar of Trower on the Side 1 closer "About To Die" - a huge tune in every way - with Brooker letting rip on the vocals ("tear the city down").

The 'demo' of "Your Own Choice" on the Bonus Tracks Disc 2 is a lighter take that might even be considered Americana in the '11s. Take 4 of "Barnyard Story" is a well-recorded 2:51 minutes of Brooker and Piano (very tasty) while he shouts "Good God!" at the beginning of Take 7 for the droning "The Dead Man's Dream". I got a tad excited at the 'George Martin Mix' of "About To Die" which seems to accentuate the bass line and adds more flickering keyboard flourishes - it's good - but the finished version is better. The two Previously Unreleased BBC Sessions are hissy for sure but the performances are properly vintage – and fans will love having them after all these decades.

The droning-doom of Procol Harum have always been an acquired taste for sure and their 1970 platter "Home" doesn't buck that trend. But for money this 2015 Esoteric Recordings 'Deluxe Edition' is the best variant of it by far. Well done to all involved...

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