Lost in the Looking-Glass

Review Geoff Welch [USA]

I'm most enjoying the surreal on surreal, Lost in the Looking-Glass Palers' Project dual CD collection. It's a very trippy experience hearing all these very different, evocative performances of PH material. Extremely multi-leveled, great job on the programming of the two discs: Lost in the Looking-Glass is the perfect title. Congratulations to all who contributed.

It's just impossible to do a short review of 2 1/2 hours of such varied musical contributions. The overall Lost in the Looking Glass project shows the great depth of love for the brilliant material of Procol Harum by all involved. Only such a deeply rich body of work could have inspired or allowed such a richly-textured tribute. The Palers are lucky enough to have discovered these musical treasures, and are able to keep in touch with like-minded others around the planet through the incredible Beyond the Pale website, established five years ago by Jens Anders Ravnaas and Roland Clare.

Some contributors produced works based on the recorded versions, but with their own spirited personality, such as the impressive work of Luiz De Boni on Conquistador, Repent Walpurgis, and his very moving A Salty Dog. Hats off to De Boni!

Farthest-out are the three sound-collage pieces by the always-surprising Sam Cameron, A Souvenir of London, Barnyard Story and the collaborative Glimpses of Nirvana. In the spirit of surrealism Sam in my mind has melded into William Burroughs in these works. This is a marvelous event, as Burroughs, Sam Cameron and Keith Reid are a delightfully twisted combination.

Roland Clare has nice touches of his fine keyboard and bass hand all over the place on the two discs and was the mastermind behind the project. His son Peter provides a tasty cornet solo over Roland's piano during a jazz cabaret version of The Milk of Human Kindness with the vocal delivered in silken style by Fran Glendining.

Thanks to Larry Pennisi for fine work on Lost in the Looking Glass. His Salad Days is very blue and moody, and I love Donna Blue's vocal in Larry's wall of sound; excellent organ and tracks in Quite Rightly So, and the tracks and vocal in his Nothing That I Didn't Know are super. Matthew Fisher's Theme from Separation is given a tasteful organ performance by Jeremy Gilien, who also provides a nice vocal reading of the Fisher song Why Can't You Lie to Me?

I love Rich Hardesty's jaunty version of A Christmas Camel: he plays all the parts with a great feel, and avoids Gary's soaring but difficult high tenor notes, creating a very catchy alternative reading. The Pursuit of Happiness sung by Colin Sillence with lovely violin by Jane Clare and 'cello by Charlotte Espiner (playing parts by the ubiquitous Roland Clare) is very beautiful.

The Ed Palermo Big Band's Wreck of the Hesperus and In the Autumn of My Madness, recorded live at The Bottom Line in NYC, are cool and make you wish you were there that night. The Oakes Brothers' version of Something Following Me is high-spirited entertainment. Strangers in Space, performed by Northern Sky, is moved to a different quadrant of space and I enjoyed the ride.

All-in-all, this is my favorite recording of 2002, a marvelous artifact from a planet-wide Procol Harum creative subculture. I now look forward to the new CD release, The Well's on Fire, from the grand masters themselves in March of 2003.

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