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4.1 out of 5 stars
Wells On Fire
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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
on May 17, 2003
Procol Harum, in any of its various permutations, has never made a bad album. This CD ranks up there among their best, although nothing will ever beat their first album or Salty Dog or Grand Hotel.
Gary Brooker and Keith Reid are one of those stellar songwriting teams (need I refer to Lennon and McCartney?) that mesh so well that anything they do is worth hearing. This is a new offering and I'm grateful to be able to hear it.
Yeah, Procol Harum at their worst indulged in some bombastic moments, but none of those are present here. We're fortunate to have Matthew Fisher's organ intertwined with Brooker's piano and vocals. The drums, bass and guitar are by new members who I've not heard of before, but they are equal in quality to the original members.
"The Emperor's New Clothes" is as good a critique of the present political tragedy as we're likely to hear. It's a sorry comment on current formatted radio formats that we'll likely never hear it over the airways. All the more reason to order this CD for your own enjoyment.
Thank God. Procol Harum LIves.
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on May 9, 2003
The last one came out shortly after the 1991 Gulf War. I can't say what it means, although some political figure seems to catch the brunt of "The Emperor's New Clothes". I wonder who. I heard three songs that would once have been considered radio-friendly. The production is more to scale after all the synthesizers, reverb, and backing singers on the last record (Prodigal Stranger). But Robin Trower didn't mail in any guitar on this effort and he would have been a welcome addition on the rock'n'roll numbers. The lyrics are pretty good, although "The Blink of an Eye" is another less than profound rumination on September 11 and "The Question" is a less pithy lift of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me". "The VIP Room" seems a little kinky ("Playmate of the Mouth", anyone?). The keyboards are out front with both Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher getting plenty of short solos. Brooker sings great and Fisher is tasteful as always. As usual with oldtimers, there are a couple numbers that echo past successes, "Fellow Travelers" (Fisher's adaptation of another baroque theme a la "Whiter Shade") and the closing instrumental. But otherwise this is different from any other Procol Harum record. One more suggestion: once a song gets some momentum, don't interrupt it without adding something important. Nice job, guys, can't wait for your next record in 2015! And let it be without another Gulf War.
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on March 21, 2003
This cd's sales and material won't not break any records, you should pardon the pun, but 40% of Procol Harum, Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher are playing together again! - and YEAH, Keith Reid is writing the lyrics, too! But still, in all honesty, Procol Harum without Barrie J Wilson is like The Rolling Stones without Charlie Watts. Still: do the impossible and tune out Geoff (are we ostentatious?) Whitehorn's guitar and (Big Country is dead, dammit!) Mark Brzezicki's drumming, and the piano/organ interplay will all but gently waift you back to - yeah - the good old days. Matt Pegg, Procol's new bassist, is excellent: must be in his genes, he's the son of Fairport Convention's bassist Dave Pegg. No, NONE of the songs are in the same league as "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" - indeed, how COULD they be? But on the whole, while the title may be a hideous pun, "The Well's On Fire" is a cd well worth having and playing for those ernest supplicants who wonder what rock and roll once was. And oh yeah, I could have gone on another two lifetimes without hearing Keith Reid's observations on the darkest day in American History, 9/11, with that STUPID "The Blink Of An Eye." Dig: "...we thought we were living on easy street but they pulled the rug out from under our feet." Keith, come ON, man, I thought only Huey Lewis or Michael Bolton could be so shallow!
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on March 15, 2003
I'm not about to gush over the release of a new Procol Harum album as some seem to be doing--I'll just spit a little. This is NOT quintessential Procol Harum as all fans are fond of remembering them.
Gary Brooker's age-defying voice is still in very fine form as are his pop/rock sensibiliies, though I wish he'd dump that electric piano! It would be too easy to deem the jazzy tendencies of songs such as "The Blink of an Eye" and "The Question" as inappropriate for a PH album; indeed, listening to the majority of the songs one is left with the impression that this is a Brooker solo project. But that is nitpicking.
"An Old English Dream" has an unforgettable chorus; "The VIP Room" is a good rocker; and the ponderous ballads "This World Is Rich", Matthew Fisher's "Fellow Travelers", and "The Emporer's New Clothes" are indicative of the group's current incarnation. So be it--everybody's getting older.
The fuzz guitar intro on "So Far Behind" echoes that of the organ on "Shine On Brightly". "Wall Street Blues" and "Every Dog Will Have His Day", two fine blues rockers, sound as if they could have been off Exotic Birds and Fruit or Procol's Ninth.
Unlike PH's last album Prodigal Stranger, Keith Reid's often cliche-filled lyrics here seem to pack relevance, substance, and some of that old KR cynicism. Again, B.J. Wilson's unique drumming is sorely missed as he as much as anyone defined the group's sound as fans have cherished it.
"Weisselklenzenacht", the concluding instrumental, is the only tune prominently featuring Fisher's organ--and a fine tune it is with Geoff Whitehorn's soaring guitar gloriously concluding the album a la "Repent Walpurgis" from the group's first LP, but hardly on a par.
Overall, The Well's On Fire attempts to rekindle old sparks and create new ones. The songs and performances are good; the sound and production are clean and transparent. Perhaps it's disingenuous, but I'm not going to lump it in with the classic albums of the seemingly distant past and judge it accordingly. It's not at all a bad effort. We've been waiting for this album for a dozen years and this old Procol Harum fan enjoys listening to it and is grateful for it.
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on March 7, 2003
Procol's alive, and if they're not wondering why and wherefore, or reaching blazing highs or exploring dark abysmal lows, they are still putting up a good account of themselves.
To say the album has a "live feel" is a good way of saying there's none of the dark, muscular production work most producers gave the band. If Procol was a leviathan on "Truth Won't Fade Away" or a shipwreck on the classic "Salty Dog" then consider Commodore Gary on cruise control here, especially on finger-snapping R&B numbers like "Every Dog Will Have His Day" or "Wall Street Blues" and such loopy tracks as "So Far Behind" and "Shadow Boxed" where the guys grab unlikely instruments and seem to actually be having fun.
It's been a long time since Procol's last album and there's always excited anticipation about recognizing a returning old friend. "An Old English Dream" and "The VIP Room" are closest to the Procol of old; with grandiose chords and melodies shifting into surprising sharps or flats.
If you've dutifully followed Taupin-John, or even Paul McCartney, you know not to expect every single song to be as catchy, melodic and karaoke-worthy as the ones on the early albums. Since Procol has been less active, expectations are still higher. Perhas a few adequate not great tracks should've remained outtakes. And that includes "Robe of Silk," which has been kicking around for years and now sounds like it could've been a jaunty addition to the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" soundtrack if the lyrics were a tad less pseudo-earnest.
It's great to meet an old friend, but less so when you ask "how are you" and get a verbose anecdote. "Fellow Traevellers" says nothing new and keeps going, cliche after cliche. "This World is Rich" also moves numbingly. As a song lyric "Shadow Boxed" misses, as Keith Reid fails to match Paul Simon's "Simple Desultory Philippic" in wit. If this is Keith and Gary's attempt at rap, Eminem might come to their door instead of Monsieur R. Monde. As for Reid's dismal 911 song, "The Blink of an Eye," it galls with trite symbolism and more than Keith's usual quota of cliche phrases ("a big black bird swooped out of the sky...they pulled the rug from under our feet...")
If the Muslims are still [dissatisfied] at Reid for making fun of their oil-can sheiks and Poor Mohammeds, they'll be balmed by Reid's image of a nation (especially New Yorkers) in a permanently chastened masochistic mope.
Reid has made doggerel before, but it was usually nursery-crime deadly ("A Rum Tale" or "Bringing Home the Bacon"). Don't compare "The VIP Room" (sarcastic mutterings about velvet rope nightclubs) with the decadence of "Grand Hotel." Brooker's music saves that one by paying little attention to the words. So should most Procol fans. Throughout, Reid's taken to dropping his d's ("and" is spelled "an'") but he was more interesting when he'd taken to drinking.
One of the more unusual tracks is "Emperor's New Clothes," with an evocatively Semitic melody line, that could've been the high spot for a Brooker solo CD, "In Our Synagogue." I know, Gary's not Jewish, but neither was the soundtrack composer for "Schindler's List." The song also boasts one of the few times Procol's drummer takes the B.J. Wilson approach of accenting rather than constantly keeping strict time. The phrase "ancient religion" stuck in here somewhere, must've been the one that inspired Gary to produce such a lovely melody. Mazel tov, Gary.
In a nostalgic echo of the very first album, Matthew Fisher is de-mummified and allowed the closing spot for his own instrumental. Not exactly "Repent Walpurgis," it's more like "Variations on Elvis Presley's "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You." It still sounds enough like the Procol of old to be a favorite. And toward the end, it becomes the only track where lead axe Whitehorn has a chance to strangle Trower fans with a guitar string.
Old fighters like George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali showed sparks of greatness after their glory days. So despite taking off a round or two with a slow meandering tune or out-take level number "Well's On Fire" goes the distance (and it's an hour-long CD). There's no knockout punch here, but they'll have you dizzied and dazzled a few times. You might be moved to go to one knee for a standing 8, just by way of prayerful thanks that there IS a new album at all.
Procol Harum has rarely embarrassed or disappointed its fans; the number of skip-inducing clinkers per album is often one or none. This second coming of their comeback may rank higher than the previous "Prodigal Stranger," especially for those who favor a stripped-down production and a bit more R&B.
Yes, Procol's done it all better before, whether it's whiskey blues, harrowing hard rock or grand gothic insanity. The good thing is that they're still doing a credible job. Listen and draw your own conclusions. PS, you'll like the actual CD itself, textured to resemble a playful rubber gym ball rather than a map of world misery.
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on March 5, 2003
...and I mean that as a compliment.
Procol have managed to deliver an album of articulate lyrics (via Keith Reid) and dignified music (let's hear it for Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher)...although it suffers a bit from slightly generic production, it's a vast improvement from 1991's "Prodigal Stranger", with its leftover-80's sound. Only a couple of tracks qualify as filler ("Wall Street Blues" the main culprit), but in the main the material is the literate, R&B-meets-Bach that PH have uniquely provided. Their trademark worldweariness is leavened by compassion for the world today; the understated "Blink of an Eye" the best song about 9/11 I've heard. For old-school Procoloids, "Weisselklenzenacht" updates the spirit of "Repent Walpurgis", with organ straight out of "Whiter Shade of Pale" and guitar-driven, "Abbey Road" climax like "Roberts' Box". Perhaps the most moving number is "This World is Rich (for Stephen Maboe)", a stately Brooker/Reid meditation on poverty and misfortune. All in all, not an album for the children that buy pop CD's today, but for those that remember the era of (truly) classic rock...a breath of fresh air, or maybe a musical life-ring.
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on March 21, 2003
Ok, some of Keith Reid's lyrics are clumsy and obvious, and a few of the production touches backfire (I agree with the previous reviewer: lose the electric piano.) But, boy, that piano/organ sound covers a multitude of sins. Brooker's voice sounds great, the songs are mostly very good-to-great, bridging Shine on Brightly majesty with very convincing Exotic Birds-style barrelhouse rockers. As good as I hoped for, considerably better than I expected.
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on March 8, 2003
This album is very good,although it doesn't have the the surreal lyrics.of their past work. But then, what do you expect? The Summer Of Love was 36 years ago, and so Keith Reid writes lyrics that are a little more down to earth. You shouldn't expect aaother "Whiter Shade Of Pale"
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on March 8, 2003
This album is very good,although it doesn't have the the surreal lyrics.of their past work. But then, what do you expect? The Summer Of Love was 36 years ago, and so Keith Reid writes lyrics that are a little more down to earth. You shouldn't expect aaother "Whiter Shade Of Pale"
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