From Shadow to Shadow

Review Robert Kloner ('DJ No 6') [USA]

With each album, the Palers’ Bands and Palers’ Project CDs get better, more sophisticated, and more creative. From Shadow to Shadow is the best yet of these tributes to songs of Procol Harum and their members. I really must say that I am very impressed: there are some albums that I listen to a few times and then put away, but From Shadow to Shadow is one that I'll listen to over and over and over again. Every time I listen to it I hear something I missed the previous time.

The 2CD is a collection of forty tunes – some from Procol Harum, but also for the first time from the Paramounts. There is a new and spirited version of Don’t Ya Like My Love by the Paramounts (we’re going back about forty years, here, folks), singles by Gary Brooker (a fine version of SS Blues and a smooth version of The Angler, with a soothing acoustic guitar just perfect for those lazy summer days of fishing). There’s also a nice rendering of Matthew Fisher solos – Cold Harbor Lane and She Makes Me Feel. Of course there are renditions of classic Procol Harum songs – some done with great attention and care to detail of the originals and others that use a totally different tune – and in essence are completely new interpretations of the originals. Examples of songs with unusual interpretations are Lime Street Blues, TV Ceasar, You Own Choice, SS Blues, Toujours L’Amour, the Disc B Whisky Train. The Beatles brought back John Lennon for the posthumous recording of Free as a Bird, and the Palers have cleverly brought back BJ Wilson on drums for their rendition of Lime Steet Blues. To the best of my knowledge, this is a first. It is nice to know that BJ lives on in the hearts and music of the Palers.

I especially enjoyed many of the female vocals. Elizabeth Bryson has a terrific voice on Toujours L’Amour that reminds me a lot of Aimee Mann, one of my favorite female vocalists. Fran Glendining has a lovely silky voice on the smooth jazz sound of Lime Street Blues, and Donna Blue knocks out a sexy and soulful Too Much Between Us. There is a Spanish influence on several of the songs. Notable is Conjunto Jardín’s Conquistador, sung in Spanish and one of the best-produced songs on the album. The guitar work is terrific. The Clare clan plays on many of the songs and bring enthusiasm, professionalism and creativity to their tracks. Their unique rendering of Your Own Choice with 'Doc' Wallace is one of my favorites. There is some terrific instrumental work along with the vocals that harken to the grandeur of the symphonic music of Procol – a regal Magdalene, the somber The Emperor’s New Clothes (I especially liked this beautiful instrumental version of this new song from The Well’s on Fire), Repent Walpurgis, an uplifting and up-tempo Fellow Travelers, and the always-powerful Grand Finale by Gary Shepard with a voice-over of Glimpses of Nirvana.

The album really is a tremendous amount of fun for any listener – but especially for those who follow the work of Procol. One especially unusual interpretation was the driving, motorized punk version of the Pursuit of Happiness with the deeper than deep voice of 'One-Eye'. Kudos to George Bertok for taking on the much-maligned The Worm and the Tree. This shorter version of the original moves along at a quicker place and has some great keyboard work. Finally this song gets some respect! (Still I’d like to hear an all instrumental version of this – without the talking).

Some songs have elements of what may be called Protocol 'Mosaics' with bits of other Procol songs mixed into the main track. Listen for bits of Ghost Train and Backgammon on Lime Street Blues and Skating on Thin Ice on the quirky Typewriter Torment and Pilgrim’s Progress and The Signature on Your Own Choice.

The musicians have buried some humorous bits in the interpretations and if you listen carefully, you "will get the joke." Listen for the recording of Gary Brooker’s voice recorded on his M&M prop that was used during live concerts last year – on the folksy and unique bluegrass version of So Far Behind. If you listen closely to Sam Cameron’s Glimpses of Nirvana you’ll hear a cat meowing and then purring – clearly the cat for whom Procol Harum was originally named – trying to make a statement. I think the cat is trying to remind us of the origins of Procol. On A Souvenir of London, listen for what sounds like a subway or train station in the background. Wreck of the Hesperus has a joke ending with computer sounds playing the theme to Popeye the Sailor Man, as the ship goes down. On Rambling On when the protagonists takes the leap we hear someone call, 'It’s a plane, it’s a bird' and then on kazoos, a hysterical rendition of The Man on the Flying Trapeze. Sounds of the ocean flow through several of the tracks.

I was happy to hear tributes to the new album The Well’s on Fire. Besides the songs mentioned above, there’s a lovely version of the romantic A Robe of Silk. Listen for some fine guitar-work on rockers such as Juicy John Pink, Memorial Drive, Whisky Train, Something Following Me. The album ends with the In Held ’Twas in I suite, with a triumphant Grand Finale.

From Shadow to Shadow is a 'must­have' for all Procol Harum fans. It reflects not only the genius of Procol Harum, but the enthusiasm and musical talent of the fans of Procol Harum. Clearly, many of the fans are superb musicians in their own right. Their recordings reflect their love for the music. Since I received my copy of the CD (only a few days ago) I’ve been thrilled by the fresh renditions of these great tunes. It’s put a smile on my face as I drive around the LA freeways (usually I’m frowning in the traffic). Kudos to all for organizing this fine effort. I hope that there are many more CDs in the future from the Palers’ Project!

Robert Kloner, Los Angles, USA; 26 May 2004

Tracklisting | About the performers | Reviews | Order the album