Nobody knows it, because the subject mattter -- death -- is so very disturbing. So, to begin with, listeners are likely to reject individual songs, like "The Dead Man's Dream," a Lovecraftian horror tale of terrifying power, or "Barnyard Story," whose closing quatrain has to be the most exquisite artistic expression of suicidal depression in pop music history (if not all literature).
And given all this darkness, what listener is going to stop and try to add up all the songs to see if they form a whole greater than the sum of the their parts? There's a theme here, obviously, but is there a statement?
Yes. And a hugely positive one. Like SHINE ON BRIGHTLY and A SALTY DOG, HOME ends with a song that solves the Zen riddle of why life is like a beanstalk -- but with a special twist for the specific problem of coming to terms with your own mortality. Earlier we learned that "there is no maze to unwind;" the hidden truth about life is that there is no hidden truth. In "Your Own Choice," our narrator realizes that there *is* no coming to terms with your mortality -- which paradoxically, is how you *do* come to terms with it. You must lose faith in humanity to have any faith at all.
The opening track, "Whiskey Train," is a fine blues rocker, but nothing special. The chorus of Robin Trower's other composition, "About to Die," leans perhaps a little too heavily on The Band as a model. Every other moment on this album is breathtakingly perfect. Really. Kudos to producer Chris Thomas, especially for the job he did capturing B. J. Wilson's astonishing drumming (imagine Beethoven in Keith Moon's body). Gary Brooker's singing and piano playing are terrific. Likewise Chris Copping's organ playing -- it's less majestic and melodic than predecessor Matthew Fisher, but actually better suited to the darker material. And Trower -- long before he discovered Hendrix -- had an utterly unmistakeable style of his own; his lead /rhythm playing in the powerhouse rocker "Still There'll Be More" and his solo in "Whaling Stories" mark him already as a genuine Guitar God.
The sequencing is close to optimal in terms of exploring the death theme -- try 1, 4, 5, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9. That actually tells a story -- the death of a friend ("Nothing That I Didn't Know") plunges the already alcoholic narrator into a Christ-obsessed ("About to Die" and "Barnyard Story"), suicidal and homicidal ("Still There'll Be More") rumination which extends into a contemplation of the apocalypse ("Piggy Pig Pig" and the band's crowning masterpiece, "Whaling Stories") before arriving at the unexpected Answer (complete with bucolic harmonica).
Lyricist Keith Reid has said that the album's thematic unity was not intentional, and that only in retrospect does he realize how depressed he must have been at the time. Consider this: after writing four albums full of songs about death (with the sea as an almost constant metaphor), he hardly ever dealt with this subject matter again. And though I hate to endorse the "suffer for your art" notion, truth to tell, once he succeeded in working through this great question that lay at the heart of all his early work, he quickly became just a shadow of his former artistic self. In a strange way, I think that's testament to the power of the first four Procol Harum albums, and especially this, the stunning climax and capstone.