From Shadow to Shadow

Review Geoff Welch [USA]

You Can Step in the Same Surreal River Twice
The Palers have once more sallied forth like conquistadors to bring back looted treasures from the riches of the Procol Harum catalog, producing another excellent double CD entitled From Shadow to Shadow. A great surreal cover of – what else – fans (old electric types) symbolizing the loyal fanbase the group enjoys is entitled Strength in Numbers by Gerry Guthrie. This sets up our artistic expectations that most of 40 tracks by 70 musicians from 13 countries fulfil with quality, marvelously-varied performances. This is no surprise after the notable first fan collection, Lost in the Looking-Glass (2002) which was revelatory of the fact that Procol Harum can be covered in so many styles apart from the classic performances by the masters themselves. What Shadow demonstrates is that the Procol Harum canon is of a breath and depth that it can sustain repeated visits by those who know music and lyrics of inestimable value.

What a truly rich canon it is! Touching our 'jewel encrusted blade' on some highlights on From Shadow to Shadow: Conquistador by Conjunto Jardín is given a spirited bilingual English/Spanish treatment both in language and music that could make the tune a hit once again, highlighted by exquisite acoustic guitar work from Ciro Hurtado.

On the other hand, The Wreck of the Hesperus performed by Ethan Reilly is a terrific sequenced recreation of the original with a surprise ending – good vocal from Ethan who even gets the accent right. Stephen ‘Doc’ Wallace does some fine singing on Your own Choice (backed up very nicely by the Clare family and friends) and Look to Your Soul with skilled instrumental tracks by Gary Shepard. Gary also created the tracks for Hulluuteni Syksy – which is not a composition by Sibelius but a Finnish version of In the Autumn of My Madness, very exotic and effective as sung by Saara.

The surreal fun of the project is in the great cast of Paler characters offering spins on Procol Harum material. I think Al ‘One-Eye’ Edelist sounds like he’s having the most fun with his deep voice declaiming the vocals on Juicy John Pink and aptly The Pursuit of Happiness. His voice works by strange catchy magic. In fact, his Pursuit keeps running through my head as I write. Roger Ilott and Penny Davies's version of Gary Brooker’s The Angler, in an idiomatic and flowing folk style, is a beautiful gem. Talented young Peter Clare adds some tasteful drums and trumpet work on several tracks and, as usual, ringmaster Roland Clare is deftly all over the place on keyboards, bass, guitar, background vocals, etc. Gary Shepard is just about as ubiquitous. Fine work gentlemen. Together they seemed to have formed the backbone of the project, which once again is skilfully programmed to create a surreal flow of music.

OK, there are a couple of tracks where the fan vocals are – shall we say – too microtonal for comfort: but this is a labor of love and all the other performances hold up very well indeed. Many artists from Looking-Glass are back again in fine form, such as Luiz de Boni from Brazil who does a rich, dream-like realization of Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone). But to denote all the fine touches would require an epic review and, more important, perhaps delay your ordering the collection and thus supporting the website. As with the last Paler collection, this is a must-have double CD for Procol Harum fans around the globe. And said fans are doing very well lately with the release of Lost in the Looking-Glass in 2002, The Well’s on Fire and a tour in 2003 and now From Shadow to Shadow in 2004. Shine on! Now it’s the group’s turn, again. Let's see if Procol Harum rises to the challenge and releases a new CD before the Palers release their next double CD tribute.

Geoff Welch, Montebello, NY, USA; 28 May 2004

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