The Idol : Antonio Costa Barbé

Reviewlet Larry Pennisi [USA]

Commencing with a string and harpsichord modeled intro, I expected a more traditional treatment of this major great from the Procol canon. Amidst the traditional fabric of the initial instrumentation, a delightful analog like envelope generator synth wash appears with tenaciously ominous overtones. I would have preferred that the initial drum entrance be more pronounced though. Antonio then regales us with distinctly Mediterranean inflections coupled with an almost, though respectfully so, sardonic delivery complete with falsetto tweaks and pronunciation surprises. Listen to his vocalization of "a chance of coming through". Wonderful and unexpected.

The general instrumental landscape has a discreet Italian flavor to it when mandolin-like sonorities appear midway through the track. A treat surfaces with the implementation of a vocal echoing effect on "nothing but a charlatan." It's quite trippy and retro for sure! The track proceeds with a rigorous gait, faithful to its original inception.

No guitar solo is manifested but it is not missed in this vocally emphasized mini-drama. Pizzicato string sounds jostle us after the "like drowning men they clutch at every straw" section. Antonio winds us back down with some truly circuitous and high-pitched utterances as the track fades away.

This was always a crowd pleaser for Procol Harum in the 1970s and is missed in the current incarnation of the band. Its inclusion as the final track on "side one" of the bared-trees-in-a-storm Exotic Birds and Fruit album, from 1974, was a perfect placement sequentially.

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