[Review] Procol Harum: Home (1970)

Macabre ruminations from the poet in residence and great guitar licks (but few memorable melodies) sum up Procol’s fourth.

Kronomyth 4.0: Harum scare ‘em.

After the remarkably smooth sailing of A Salty Dog, Procol Harum heads into murkier waters with the macabre Home. The hard rocking “Whisky Train” and its herd of cowbells aside, the band’s songwriting approach of setting music to Keith Reid’s lyrics proves to be problematic this time. Gary Brooker and the band are given the nearly impossible task of wrapping tunes around such lines as “Their eyes were alive with maggots crawling” (Dead Man’s Dream), “I’ll blacken your Christmas and piss on your door” (Still There’ll Be More), “The streets awash with blood and pus” (Piggy Pig Pig) and other such cheery sentiments. You know you’re headed for a dark place when even the Christmas songs are sinister.

All that darkness might not have been Home’s undoing if the band had been able to match Reid’s ever-artful lyrics with equally deft arrangements, but they don’t. “The Dead Man’s Dream” and “Whaling Stories” unravel slowly, sometimes painfully. It doesn’t help matters that Harum is down a man, having replaced both Matthew Fisher and David Knights with former Paramounts mate Chris Copping. It’s a thankless task Copping is given, and he exonerates himself well enough on organ, yet you can’t help but feel he’s trying to copy Fisher with his politely baroque mannerisms. The arrangements thus fall directly on the shoulders of Brooker, and he shrugs off a few of them with placeholder patches.

All that noted, Home isn’t a bad album. Many have taken its dark musings in stride, and some have even discovered magic and much hidden meaning in its midst. I applaud the band’s ambitions and enjoyed Robin Trower’s contributions on most of the record. “Whisky Train” isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but the acoustic “Nothing That I Didn’t Know” is lovely (between this and “Too Much Between Us,” I believe Procol probably has a very good folk rock album in them) and the heavy Traffic sound of “About To Die” is a nice change of pace for them. “Piggy Pig Pig” is also one of the album’s better tracks, hams down.

Until now, every Procol Harum album was progressively better than the last. Home, however, is a disappointment after the sweeping, cinematic Salty Dog. Reid’s lyrics are never a liability (his girlfriend’s album cover designs are another story), but the band’s artistic aspirations get the better of Brooker this time. Without Fisher, Procol Harum might want to tighten their arrangements to something more suitable for a quartet, or at least get on board with Trower’s more rock-oriented vision for the band. Or, you know, hire Wooly Wolstenholme away from Barclay James Harvest and keep making orchestral prog albums. That also would have worked.

Read more Procol Harum reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Whisky Train (Robin Trower/Keith Reid) (4:28)
A2. The Dead Man’s Dream (4:45)
A3. Still There’ll Be More (4:50)
A4. Nothing That I Didn’t Know (3:34)
A5. About To Die (Robin Trower/Keith Reid) (3:37)
B1. Barnyard Story (2:45)
B2. Piggy Pig Pig (4:49)
B3. Whaling Stories (7:05)
B4. Your Own Choice (3:09)

All songs written by Gary Brooker and Keith Reid unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks (UK – Salvo)
10. Still There’ll Be More (take 3 raw track)
11. Whaling Stories (raw track)

CD reissue bonus track (UK – Esoteric)
10. Whisky Train (US radio single edit)

The Players

Gary Brooker (voice & piano), Chris Copping (bass guitar & organ), Keith Reid (words), Robin Trower (lead guitar), B.J. Wilson (drums). Produced by Chris Thomas; engineered by Jeff Jarratt.

The Pictures

Album cover art work and design by Dickinson. Photograph by David Bailey. Inside layout by CCS.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in June 1970* in the UK (Regal Zonophone, SLRZ 1014), the US and Canada (A&M, SP-4271), Germany (Ariola, 80 933 IT) and Japan (Polydor, MP 2118) with gatefold cover; reached #49 on the UK charts and #34 on the US charts. German version features different cover. (*Appears in 6/27/70 edition of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Intercord, 126.306) as part of Star Power series with unique cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Cube, 6-26289).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1979 in Greece (Pye, NSPH 70011).
  4. Re-packaged on remastered compact disc in 1989 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFCD 793).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in 1997 in the UK (Repertoire, REP 4669-WY).
  6. Re-packaged w. A Salty Dog on 2-for-1 compact disc on March 17, 2003 in the UK (Beat Goes On, 558).
  7. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on May 18, 2009 in the UK (Salvo, SALVOCD021) with 2 bonus tracks.
  8. Re-released on expanded,  remastered compact disc on July 13, 2015 in the UK (Esoteric, ECLEC  2506) with one bonus track.
  9. Re-packaged on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2017 (Music On Vinyl, MOVLP1805).

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