Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

“Rubber Soul” by the Beatles (1965)

A good argument can be made that every Beatles album, at least the ones over which they had creative control, should be on any list of the all-time greats. My erstwhile colleague Brad Hundt, a talented entertainment writer and lifelong Beatlemaniac, no doubt would do so on his list.

But as a reminder, Harry’s Hundred combines my respect for an album’s merits, my familiarity with its contents and how much I enjoy listening to it. So it’s not exactly a “greatest” list; if so, stuff like “Golden Earring Live” would be nowhere near it. But that ain’t a bad album, and I still like it a whole lot 35 years after its release.

So I’ve narrowed down my Beatles selections, and here’s where we start, at the juncture when the Beatles evolved from pop to art, when they demonstrated once and for all that they weren’t just some British guys with long hair and Edwardian suits making a bunch of noise.

What’s remarkable about “Rubber Soul” is that the Beatles and George Martin recorded it on deadline, trying to rush-release it before the holiday shopping season. The band had just returned to England from another North American tour full of fans screaming so loud that the musicians couldn’t hear themselves. Rather than take time off, as they’d do following their final tour the following year, they plunged headlong into writing new songs.

What emerged was a departure from most of the love-song music they’d made to that point. Sure, boy-girl relationships continued to be a prominent theme, but in a much more creative manner.

The opener, “Drive My Car,” is indicative of the new direction: John Lennon draws from the Robert Johnson “Terraplane Blues” songbook – Robert Plant later would use it to optimal effect on Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” – to equate sex with operating a vehicle, and this time it’s the woman who’s enticing the man.

Lennon explores the male-female dynamic with sophistication previously unknown in the Beatles canon on “Norwegian Wood,” which turned about to be the veiled story of his affair with a journalist. Musically, the song also marks a major step forward, as George Harrison plays the sitar for the first time in rock music history. (Outtakes, such as the one released on “Anthology 2,” show the instrument to be much more prominent in the mix than on the official version.)

Paul McCartney joins the fray with “You Won’t See Me,” a commentary on his relationship with Jane Asher, one that would end a couple of years later when she caught him red-handed with an American woman named Francine Schwartz. As for the song, it displays a certain amount of petulance not found in previous McCartney compositions: “When I call you up, your line’s engaged/I have had enough, so act your age.”

“Nowhere Man” joins previous classics “I’m a Loser” and “Help!” as explorations of Lennon’s self-doubt, a condition that would manifest itself considerably in the coming years. The opening a cappella recitation of the lyrics stands as one of the most striking examples of the Beatles’ vocal abilities, and the song remains one of the most revered in the band’s catalog.

“Think for Yourself” demonstrates why George Harrison felt slighted when it came to the paucity of his compositions on Beatles albums. By any measure, it’s an exceptionally advanced composition for 1965: The lyrics resonate fully almost half a century later, what with the utter vapidness into which popular culture has evolved, and the frightening implications that has for the future of the world. Instrumentally, McCartney’s fuzz-toned bass guitar is at once innovative and another step toward what would become hard rock.

Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love” became one of his best-known anthems. But he explored basically the same theme two years earlier with “The Word,” which also shows the Beatles’ overall sound becoming harder-edged as the ’60s progressed.

OK, so why do I rank “Rubber Soul” at a spot where 36 albums are ahead of it? Sorry, I’ve tried to warm up to “Michelle” for decades, but it’s one of the few Beatles songs that leaves me cold. Sure, it explores traditional French themes as opposed to the standard pop/rock of the time, which is interesting from a musical standpoint but hardly endears it to listeners who are prefer something a bit heavier.

Ringo Starr’s first Beatles co-composing credit appears on “What Goes On,” a relatively nondescript country-flavored tune that has its charms but isn’t quite the remedy for getting back on track after “Michelle.” Neither is “Girl,” though you have to like the “tit-tit-tit” backing vocals that escaped the censors.

McCartney redeems himself considerably with “I’m Looking Through You,” another jab at Jane through a relatively complex set of lyrics. Two distinct versions exist of the song, with the one that first was recorded serving as a sought-after collector’s item for decades, until “Anthology 2” made that moot.

Lennon’s much-heralded “In My Life” is one of the first of his many trips down memory lane, a bit more upbeat than, say, “Mother,” but still containing a fair amount of poignancy. “Some are dead and some are living,” for example, refers to Stuart Sutcliffe; it’s been conjectured that John always shouldered some of the blame for Stu’s early death.

When the Beatles were writing and recording what became “Rubber Soul,” they managed to come up with 13 new songs. The 14th, “Wait,” was an outtake from the “Help!” album, but the track tends to mesh seamlessly with most of the newer material.

Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone,” while not quite reaching the heights of “Think for Yourself,” still shows that he would have been the chief songwriter in just about any other rock band of the era.

The album closes with the tongue-in-cheek “Run for Your Life,” which is about as far removed thematically as you can get from tunes like “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Lennon, who admitted nicking the opening line from Arthur Gunter’s “Baby, Let’s Play House” (as sung by Elvis Presley), ended up despising “Run for Your Life.” We’ll blame that development, like many others, on Yoko’s influence …

For the record (pun intended), the American “Rubber Soul” LP is a substantially different album from its British counterpart, containing two songs from the U.K. version of “Help!” – “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love” – while jettisoning “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “What Goes On,” and “If I Needed Someone.”

By opening the album with “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” which sounds somewhat like Paul Simon compositions of the period (or vice versa), Capitol Records made the U.S. “Rubber Soul” appear to be more of a folk-rock album, to compete commercially with the likes of Bob Dylan and the Byrds on Columbia. Like the Beatles needed help with sales!

Seriously, whatever the version, “Rubber Soul” went to the top of the charts around the world, proving the Beatles could appeal to a more serious, mature audience than the screaming teeny-boppers who packed their concerts. In turn, that made the band members realize they probably didn’t need to be trying to perform in front of screaming teeny-boppers.

But that’s another story.

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“Sticky Fingers” by the Rolling Stones (1971)

Part of the film “Gimme Shelter” shows the Rolling Stones stopping between shows on their 1969 U.S. tour at the famed recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala. There, they started work on some new songs, including one called “Brown Sugar.”

“Gimme Shelter,” of course, also captures the stabbing death of a fan at the Altamont Free Concert in the California desert, just a couple of days after the Muscle Shoals sessions. The fatality occurred during the Stones’ performance of “Under My Thumb,” basically in front of the stage.

The Stones weren’t sure exactly what happened until they saw the applicable footage. They did know something major went down, and they weren’t quite prepared to launch into another tune until guitarist Mick Taylor suggested one of the new songs.

And so came the public debut of “Brown Sugar,” the song that eventually opened the Stones’ first new album of the ’70s.

No one was quite sure what to expect in Altamont’s aftermath, but the band delivered its third straight essential long-player, following “Beggars Banquet” and “Let It Bleed.” Taylor’s full involvement on a Stones album for the first time serves as an added bonus for “Sticky Fingers.”

“Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses,” which also was recorded at Muscle Shoals, still stand as two of rock’s best-known songs. Several others have been stapes of FM radio for more than four decades: “Bitch,” “Sway,” “Dead Flowers” and the extended workout of “Can You Hear Me Knocking.”

Featuring one of Keith Richards’ most memorable licks, “Brown Sugar” reportedly was written by Mick Jagger with his then-girlfriend (and mother of his daughter Karis), Marsha Hunt, in mind. He has been kind of vague on why he sings about a “scarred old slaver” and his women, telling Rolling Stone in 1995: “God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go … I never would write that song now.”

“Sway” is indicative of Taylor’s influence on the band, putting his guitar talents on full display, particularly during the outro. He also dominates “Can You Hear Me Knocking,” following a stellar saxophone part by Bobby Keys that got him work with the Stones for years to come.

“You Gotta Move,” a blues tune attributed to Mississippi Fred McDowell and the Rev. Gary Davis, also was recorded at Muscle Shoals. That’s appropriate, given the song’s raw, Southern-inspired arrangement.

The second side of the “Sticky Fingers” LP shows the Stones successfully tackling a number of other styles, from the R&B influence of “Bitch” and “I Got the Blues” to the country rock of “Dead Flowers.” The album closes with the ballad “Moonlight Mile,” which references “a head full of snow” and as a result is often thought to be about cocaine use.

“Sister Morphine” is one of the era’s more straightforward songs about drug abuse, with such harrowing lyrics as: “Well it just goes to show things are not what they seem/Please, Sister Morphine, turn my nightmares into dreams/Oh, can’t you see I’m fading fast/And that this shot will be my last.”

Another Jagger ex-girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, won composing credits to “Sister Morphine” after taking Mick and Keith to court. Taylor also has claimed to deserve credits for other material, but so far the legal system hasn’t ruled in his favor.

“Sticky Fingers” might be best remembered among the early ’70s record-buying public for its cover, the Andy Warhol-conceived shot of a male crotch in blue jeans, complete with a workable zipper. The inner sleeve featured the first appearance of the lips-and-tongue logo that have been identified with the Stones ever since.

The album needed no such gimmicks, though. The music continues to sell itself.

“The Who Sell Out” by The Who (1967)

Unfortunately, the title of The Who’s third album proved to be prophetic. Anyone who saw Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie during the 1989 comeback tour can attest to such.

As of 1967, though, The Who was one of the most innovative bands in the business, on the verge of superstardom after gaining popularity in the United States on the strength of an incendiary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and the Top 10 success of the single “I Can See for Miles.”

Unlike most Who singles of the period, that song was included on “The Who Sell Out,” an early example of guitarist-composer Pete Townshend’s penchant for extended concepts that began with “A Quick One While He’s Away” and culminated with “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia.”

“The Who Sell Out” pays homage to the so-called pirate radio stations that operated offshore to counter the broadcasting monopoly of Britain’s BBC. As such, the album is peppered with “commercials,” including some that appear as more or less full-fledged songs.

A radiolike recitation of the days of the week leads into the opening “Armenia City in the Sky,” which represents The Who’s most determined foray into psychedelia. Written by Townshend’s former roommate and chauffeur, the late John “Speedy” Keen – he later wrote the U.K. hit “Something in the Air” for his band Thunderclap Newman – “Armenia” is loaded with backward taping of guitars and horns, enhancing the otherworldliness of Keen’s lyrics: “The sky is glass, the sea is brown, and everyone is upside-down.”

“Armenia” segues into John Entwistle’s horn-driven “Heinz Baked Beans,” a minute-long tribute to the popular Pittsburgh product. Somehow the song hasn’t found its way onto the playlist over the PA system at Heinz Field …

The Who recorded several versions of Townshend’s “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand,” and one prominently featuring acoustic guitar appears on “Sell Out.” The song’s theme is best summarized by the line, “What she does to a man with those shaky hands.”

“Odorono” fits the album’s concept as a “commercial,” but at more than two minutes becomes a song in its own right. It tells the story of a singer who hopes to make a good impression on a talent agency, but fails because “her deodorant let her down.”

One of Townshend’s most impressive uses of wordplay is “Tattoo,” about two siblings who decide to get their arms inked. The rhyming schemes are brilliant in such commentary as: “My dad beat me ’cause mine said, ‘Mother’/But my mother naturally liked it and beat my brother/’Cause his tattoo was of a lady in the nude/And she thought that was extremely rude.” Or the chorus: “Welcome to my life, tattoo/I’m a man now, thanks to you/I expect I’ll regret you, but the skin-graft man won’t get you/You’ll be there when I die.”

The LP’s first side rounds out with the melodic “Our Love Was” and “I Can See for Miles,” which still holds up well as a “classic rock” radio play after – whoa! – it’s been 45 years now.

Townshend sings lead on “Can’t Reach You,” which presages the type of material he’d end up recording on his solo debut, “Who Came First.” Following is another “commercial,” the late John Entwistle’s “Medac,” about an acne treatment that produces this result: “Face is like a baby’s bottom.”

Townshend and usual lead singer Roger Daltrey share vocals on “Relax,” an upbeat song that features a brief but stinging guitar solo. The band used that as a basis on which to build an extended jam in concert, as evidenced by a 1968 performance at New York’s Fillmore East; unfortunately, “Relax” seems to have been dropped from the repertoire shortly afterward.

Entwistle’s minor-key tale of a miser, “Silas Stingy,” is followed by “Sunrise,” which basically is solo Townshend on vocal and acoustic guitar.

The album wraps up with “Rael,” which seems to be about the rescue of the protagonist’s homeland: “Rael, the home of my religion/To me the center of the earth.” The song incorporates musical themes that later turned up in much more familiar fashion on “Tommy.”

Later CD releases tacked on the original ending to “Rael,” which ended up on the cutting floor in 1967. The lyrics make for an apparently positive conclusion: “What I know now is all I’ve known, that has been good while I have grown/Bless the thoughts that made me sail and the God who made Rael.”

The original LP actually ends with a jingle for Track Records, The Who’s own company, repeating endlessly in the lock groove until the needle was lifted from the record. You’ll remember that the Beatles had done something similar with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” earlier in 1967.

The Who may have eventually sold out – many fans contend the decision to stay in business after Keith Moon’s death represented such – but “The Who Sell Out” is an essential part of the catalog of one of the handful of true rock giants.

“Yer’ Album” by the James Gang (1969)

Joe Walsh presumably has made a lot of money playing with the Eagles and, perhaps, through his recurring role on “The Drew Carey Show.” Certainly, his Rickenbacker 650 solo that wraps up “Hotel California” is the musical high point of that band’s career.

Walsh also has carved out quite a career as a solo artist, from the call-to-arms “Turn to Stone” to the played-for-laughs “Life’s Been Good.” The guy is one heck of a talent when the stars align for him.

My personal preference for Joe’s work dates back to his recording debut, when he was a 21-year-old student at Kent State University. He’d played in bands around the Cleveland area before being asked to join the James Gang, which had lost guitarist Glen Schwartz to the lure of late-’60s California.

Walsh and the band’s rhythm section, Jim Fox on drums and Tom Kriss on bass, cut “Yer’ Album” for ABC’s subsidiary label Bluesway, which contributed to making the original LP difficult to find as of the late ’70s and early ’80s. I had to settle for a version released by a company called Pickwick, featuring inferior sound quality, wax and anything else you can name, including the absence of one of the songs!

I did manage to score a decent used Bluesway record when I was in college, but it wasn’t until MCA finally did a proper release in 2000 that I was able to hear the recording in its pristine form.

Doing so confirmed what I’d known for decades: “Yer’ Album” is one hell of an album.

It’s not your typical debut, as proceedings begin with an “Introduction, a short slice of orchestral tune-up that segues into Fox playing some creditable acoustic guitar chops before the start of the first proper song, Walsh’s “Take a Look Around.” He immediately establishes himself as a top-notch songwriter with his organ-driven, melancholy take on life, while establishing himself as an ace guitarist during a middle section that borders on psychedelia without going overboard.

As the song wraps up, the guys do throw in more than a touch of weirdness, reciting a seemingly random series of multisyllabic words leading into “Funk #48,” which features Joe and Jim chanting scat vocals over the bridge in what has come down through the decades as a James Gang classic.

Fox continues to show his musical inclinations beyond the drum kit with a short prelude for piano and orchestra leading into a power-trio version of Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird.” Another cover, of the Yardbirds’ “Lost Woman,” wraps up Side One, as each band member has the opportunity for an extended solo.

Side Two begins with more studio banter, called “Stone Rap,” as producer Bill Szymczyk tries to rein in a bit of chaos. Out of that comes the album’s gem as far as original songs, the acoustic-based “Collage.” Walsh and co-writer Patrick Cullie craft a poignant ballad complemented by strings in what might have been a hit had it not been a bit ahead of its time.

“I Don’t Have the Time,” instead, was selected as the album’s single, but it didn’t do much. The song is more of a straightforward rock number, distinguished somewhat by Walsh’s Leslie-effect keyboards dubbed “underwater piano” in the liner notes.”

“Wrapacity in English” is another brief piano-and-strings composition, with Walsh playing this time, before the album’s true psychedelic piece, “Fred.” That’s the song Pickwick neglected to place on its version of “Yer’ Album.”

“Fred” dissolves into a cacophony before segueing into the album’s closer, an extended version of Howard Tate’s “Stop” that allows Walsh to cut loose completely as a precursor to his “Hotel California” fretwork. According to the MCA liner notes, Walsh’s mother played piano on an early version of the song.

“Eventually,” Fox is quoted, “we cut it again with Jerry Ragavoy on piano. Rags had two things going for him. First, he wrote the song, and second, he owned the studio. Nice credentials!”

The album’s cover simply incorporates three photos Szymczyk took with his Kodak in downtown Kent, near the university, where Walsh so happened to be a year later, when the Ohio National Guard shot four students to death.

By that time, the sophomore “James Gang Rides Again” had been released, even further showcasing Walsh’s talents as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. A stellar album in its own right, it’s usually placed ahead of “Yer’ Album” on critics’ list.

I just happen to like the debut a bit better.

“Vincebus Eruptum” by Blue Cheer (1968)

Anyone who’s been attending rock concerts for 36 years might have trouble pinpointing the most memorable ones. But I sometimes give it a stab.

In November 2007, I paid all of $15 to gain entrance to the Rex Theater in Pittsburgh for something I’d wanted to do for decades: see Blue Cheer.

The re-formed version of the band had been touring here and there since the ’80s, and when I learned about the Pittsburgh show I canceled some other plans and headed to the South Side. The show was unfortunately sparsely attended, but those in the audience were treated to a memorable performance: a time warp of sorts, back to when a trio of musicians, their instruments and their amplifiers were sufficient.

That was rock at its most basic and, not coincidentally, its most exciting.

Blue Cheer was touring to support its first new studio album in 16 years, “What Doesn’t Kill You …,” a title that became chilling in the wake of subsequent developments.

On Oct. 12, 2009, vocalist-bassist Dickie Peterson, the one consistent in Blue Cheer since its 1967 formation, died of prostate cancer. Longtime guitarist Andrew “Duck” MacDonald wrote on the group’s website: “Blue Cheer is done. Out of respect for Dickie, Blue Cheer (will) never become a viable touring band again.”

I still often wear the Blue Cheer T-shirt I bought at that Pittsburgh concert. And I still often listen to the album that put the band on the musical map, way back in 1968.

“Vincebus Eruptum” – the title is supposed to mean “controlled chaos” – is the least technically accomplished album on the Harry’s Hundred list. As Peterson wrote in the liner notes to a CD re-release: “To say the recording standards were primitive would be an understatement. ‘Vincebus Eruptum’ is what can happen when you set three young men in a room, give them all the gear they want and three chords. Then leave them alone … there are no rules and no holds are barred.”

The result is what may well be the birth of heavy metal. Watch this video of Blue Cheer mimicking Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” on a German TV show: Each of the guys is cranking it up as loud as he can, with Paul Whaley particularly bashing it out on the drums. (Fortunately, he was part of the band again as of ’07.)

“Summertime Blues” kicks off “Vincebus Eruptum” and also reached No. 14 on the charts as a single, probably because of the novelty of a band playing that hard and loud on what began life as a rockabilly song. The decision to play instrumental solos in lieu of some of the lyrics is questionable, but it’s kind of apropros to hear the line, “I went to my congressman and he said, quote, ‘Take this, boy!’,” followed by a wall of guitar feedback.

Next, Blue Cheer covers the blues standard “Rock Me, Baby,” with all the subtlety of a flying mallet (to borrow from the title of a Dave Edmunds album). Actually, in some places Whaley sounds as if he, indeed, is drumming with a mallet, providing minimalist backing to Leigh Stephens’ feedback-laden guitar stylings.

Peterson’s “Doctor Please” is purely and simply about drugs, as the singer implores: “Without your good livin’, Doc, I believe that I’ll be dead.” The song became a longtime concert staple, with extended instrumental sections.

Another original, “Out of Focus,” lyrically leans toward the psychedelic music in vogue at the time, with Peterson writing passages like: “And then from out of a mystic dream/There came an angel, she spread her wings.” But the instrumental backing continues to be pure sledgehammer, and outright chaos in a middle section during which none of the band members appear to be paying attention to what either of the others is playing.

Mose Allison’s “Parchman Farm” – Blue Cheer calls it “Parchment Farm” – receives the over-the-top treatment, as well, with Peterson seeming to particularly enjoy shouting the line, “I think I’ll be here for the rest of my life/All I did was shoot my wife.” Toward the end of the song, he switches it around for another drug allusion: “I’m sitting over here on Parchment Farm/All I did was shoot my arm.”

For anyone whose eardrums have sustained the onslaught to that point, “Vincebus Eruptum” concludes with one more original, “Second Time Around.” The lyrics pertain to a temporary break in a relationship, but they’re secondary to the instrumentation, which gives each band member a chance to solo during a lengthy outro that seems to fulfill Blue Cheer’s mission, according to Peterson:

“Our thing was to be so powerful that the music became a physical experience, to activate all the listeners’ senses.”

Since Blue Cheer’s inception, bands have played louder and they’ve played better. But if they’re playing what’s come down in history as heavy metal, their roots trace back to “Vincebus Eruptum.”

“Procol Harum” by Procol Harum (1967)

Lyricist Keith Reid told author Claes Johansen about his inspiration for what stands as one of the most recognizable, respected and oft-played songs in rock history:

“Some guy looked at a chick and said to her, ‘You’ve gone a whiter shade of pale.’ That phrase stuck in my mind. It was a beautiful thing for someone to say. I wish I’d said it.”

And so it was that later, the band he wrote for, Procol Harum, combined Reid’s words with a melody reminiscent of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major.” Released as the band’s debut single, the song went to the top of the charts in most of the civilized world. And none other than John Lennon took to playing the tune constantly in his Rolls-Royce.

Suddenly the band with the odd name – the group’s manager, the late Guy Stevens, named it after a friend’s cat – was in high demand; its live debut was opening for another hot act at the time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

To capitalize on the success, Procol Harum entered London’s Olympic Studios for a coupe of days in June 1967 with new members Robin Trower on guitar and B.J. Wilson on drums to record on album’s worth of material.

The result is a collection of songs that display an impressive amount of diversity, melodicism and maturity for a band that had been together only a couple of months. True, several of the members had played together previously as the Paramounts (and as such had opened several shows for the Beatles), but that aggregation’s forte was rhythm and blues.

Procol Harum combined elements of the nascent psychedelic scene, particularly Reid’s often-arcane lyrics, with a sophisticated instrumental approach spearheaded by Trower, lead singer Gary Brooker’s piano and especially Matthew Fisher’s Hammond organ, the dominant instrument on “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

The debut alum opens with “Conquistador,” which became a major hit several years later via a live version recorded with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The original studio version, though, conveys a similar theme of urgent grandiosity using only the instruments available at Olympic.

Reid remains well-known for his morbid sense of humor, as his lyrics to “She Wandered Through the Garden Fence” attest: “And though I said, ‘You don’t exist,’ she grasped me firmly by the wrist/And threw me down upon my back, and strapped me to a torture rack.”

The sense of foreboding continues with “Something Following Me,” with Trower’s guitar driving hard-edged instrumental backing for a tale about a man who keeps encountering his fate: “I went into a shop, and bought a loaf of bread/I sank my teeth into it, thought I’d bust my head/I dashed to the dentist, said, ‘I’ve got an awful pain’/The man looks inside my mouth and screams, ‘This boy’s insane!’/Imagine my surprise, thought I’d left it at home/But there’s a lump in my mouth with my own tombstone.”

“Mabel” seems to lighten the mood with a short burst of music-hall cajolery, but Reid sneaks in this line: “In the cellar lies my wife/In my wife there’s a knife.”

Ouch.

Trower really cranks up his Stratocaster on “Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of),” getting a distinctively distorted sound by running one amplifier (Selmer Little Giant) into another (Fender). Lyrically, Reid creates a fantasy world complete with his own characters, such as Sousa Sam, Peep the Sot and the immortal Phallus Phil.

The LP’s second side starts with “A Christmas Camel,” which despite its title never seems to make it onto holiday compilations. That’s no wonder, with lyrics like “While some Arabian oil well/Impersonates a padded cell.”

“Kaleidoscope” always has been one of my favorite Procol Harum songs, with Fisher’s organ the dominant instrument on a catchy slice of hard rock. Reid doesn’t kill anyone off in the lyrics, but the paranoia remains: “Still out in the dark I grope/The key’s in my kaleidoscope.”

Reid returns to a favorite subject in “Salad Days (Are Here Again),” writing of a couple: “The sun seeps through the window to see if we’re still dead/To try to throw some light around the gloom upon our bed.”

OK, then.

The brief “Good Captain Clack” leads into the apogee of “Procol Harum,” if not the band’s entire career: Fisher’s epic instrumental “Repent Walpurgis,” which begins as another Bach-inspired melody before Trower steps in with his raging Fender fury. Brooker takes the foot off the accelerator with a relatively light piano arpeggio before the full band returns with a vengeance, finally wrapping up proceedings with in an extended, highly dramatic fashion.

It’s no wonder Procol Harum often played “Repent Walpurgis” as an encore, even into its 21st-century incarnation.

One knock against “Procol Harum” – and I’d have ranked it higher if this weren’t the case – is that the album exists only in monaural form. The situation was rectified somewhat by the 1999 CD release of “Pandora’s Box,” which contains true stereo versions of several songs, and also features two versions of “Repent Walpurgis,” the latter clocking in at more than seven minutes.

“Pandora’s Box” also features a stereo mix of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” that sounds infinitely superior to the single version and plays out to its natural conclusion instead of fading in the middle of Brooker’s vocal on the chorus.

Procol Harum went on to record a series of highly regarded albums – “Shine On Brightly,” “A Salty Dog,” “Home” and “Broken Barricades” – before Trower left to pursue a successful solo career. Reid and Brooker continued to write music together, and probably still do ’til this day.

But they and the rest of the band may have peaked right there at the very beginning, certainly commercially and perhaps artistically.