When the psychedelic group who soundtracked the original Summer of Love launch into the 1967 chart-topper ''A Whiter Shade Of Pale'' – still irresistible to these ears despite being the most played UK single of all time – the rush of nostalgia proves as heady as patchouli.
With a Bach-like prelude by violinist Darryl Way, of Curved Air fame, and the sixty piece BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Firman, ''Pale'' remains the Holy Grail fusion of symphonic pop, as acknowledged by the fans who join in on “the crowd called out for more.”
Indeed, there was always more to the good ship captained by pianist and composer Gary Brooker, MBE, the sole original member, as they demonstrate with the plangent opener ''Homburg'', their second 1967 Top 10 hit, and ''A Salty Dog'', which makes the most of the 40-strong Crouch End Festival Chorus beloved of Ray Davies and closes the first half.
Brooker's affecting vocals share the blue-eyed soulfulness of his late 60s contemporary Steve Winwood on the title tracks of cult albums Broken Barricades and Grand Hotel before the five-piece band and ensemble run the gamut from the pastoral ''An Old English Dream'' to the predictable ''The Wall Street Blues'', before encoring with another epic classic, ''Conquistador'', arguably bettering the version from their 1972 hit album Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Procol Harum seem poised to reclaim their rightful place alongside Pink Floyd in the great British progressive rock pantheon.
Friday Night Is Music Night presents Procol Harum is broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on Friday 28 November at 8pm.Reuse content