Appointment Viewing: A Brilliant Version Of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”

Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale, live in… by villivest

Procol Harum is one of the most under-rated bands of all time — and there are even very knowledgeable observers who call them the best band of all time – but despite a career of excellence, they are best-known for this one, big song.

It is one of the top-selling 50 singles of all time, having sold over 10 million copies, and there are very few pure Rock artists ahead of them on that list. In 1977 it was named co-winner of best British Pop Single 1952-77 by the BRIT Awards (alongside “Bohemian Rhapsody”). The song deeply touched a generation, and ultimately had a massive impact on Rock music.

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It’s astronomical popularity may have been a mixed blessing for the band, by setting expectations that would be extremely difficult to meet again. Maybe if “Whiter Shade of Pale” had been a lesser hit, other corners of Procol Harum’s catalogue might have had more room at the front of the stage.

In any case, the song’s popularity is easy to explain. A chord progression borrowed from Bach that has been pleasing human ears for almost 300 years. A memorable lyric by Keith Reid that’s evocative and mysterious at the same time. And a beautiful, soulful vocal from Gary Brooker.

These elements are on full display in this performance from 2006 in an incredible setting at Ledreborg Castle in Denmark, alongside the Danish Radio Orchestra. Playing with symphony orchestras was old hat for Procol Harum, but I wonder how many times it really clicked like it did on this day.

And wow, what a fantastic vocal from Gary Brooker. It was recorded ten years ago when he was 61, and it really shows a singer at the top of his craft. What a performance. Enjoy.



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