“It took a 77-man group and Procol Harum to record this album,” read one advertisement for the prog-rock band’s 1972 LP Live in Concert with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The release from the band lineup of Gary Brooker (voice/piano), B.J. Wilson (drums), Alan Cartwright (bass), Chris Copping (organ/harpsichord), Dave Ball (guitar), and Keith Reid (spoken word) has just been remastered and expanded by Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint.
Procol Harum were surely not the first band of their era to fuse rock and classical, but their July 6, 1969 gig at Stratford’s Shakespeare Festival with the Stratford Festival Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Smith has been recognized as one of the first, if not the first, rock concerts with a full orchestra and chorus in which self-arranged material was performed. While reviews were mixed, the group was encouraged to continue pursuing that direction as contemporaries like Deep Purple and The Nice premiered their own rock-classical hybrids.
The personnel was shifting, however. In late 1969, bassist David Knights and organist Matthew Fisher departed, to be replaced by Chris Copping on both instruments; guitarist Robin Trower exited to pursue solo stardom in 1971. Alan Cartwright came in on bass (restoring the band to a five-piece) and Alan Ball on guitar. On a tour of North America in August 1971, the newly-invigorated band met with representatives of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra to discuss a November gig in which the band and orchestra would join forces. The ESO’s assistant general manager had seen Procol Harum in Stratford and knew they would be the ideal group to follow up the orchestra’s 1970 collaboration with Canadian band Lighthouse. The date was set for November 18, and the decision was made to use some of the Stratford orchestrations. The band’s American label, A&M, quickly announced plans to record the show also featuring the Da Camera Singers at Edmonton University’s 2,700-seat Jubilee Auditorium.
The band ran through such favorites as “Conquistador” (from their 1967 debut), the epic, multi-part suite “In Held ‘Twas in I” (from 1969’s Shine On Brightly), “A Salty Dog” and “All This and More” (from the 1969 A Salty Dog LP), and “Whaling Stories” (from 1970’s Home) as well as “Luskus Delph” from their most recent studio LP, 1971’s Broken Barricades. In fact, they played most of the program twice that night, both because of their prolonged ovations and because producer Chris Thomas urged them to do a couple of tracks over for the album. It added up to a very extended encore also including the instrumental “Repent Walpurgis” which was not included on the final release. (The opening “Adagio in G Minor” was also not included.)
While edits between the two versions played that night and minimal overdubs were made in the studio, Live in Concert with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra accurately captures the sound and spirit of the concert. Released in early 1972, it went Platinum and reached No. 5 on the Billboard survey – Procol’s highest-ever placement. It yielded the single “Conquistador” b/w “Luskus Delph.” That B-side has been appended to this CD reissue, as well as four rehearsal takes including unreleased “A Salty Dog” and “Luskus Delph,” both of which are previously unreleased. (The two other rehearsal takes were first issued by Salvo Records in 2009.)
The success of Live in Concert with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra led Procol Harum to pursue numerous other orchestral endeavors over the years. This classic album has been remastered by Paschal Byrne. It’s housed in a digipak which includes a 28-page booklet containing Roland Clare’s detailed essay and track-by-track liner notes. This release is available now from Esoteric and Cherry Red at the links below! A remastered, 180-gram vinyl edition of the original album is also available with a bonus 7-inch single of the rare French single edits of “Conquistador” and “A Salty Dog.”
Procol Harum, Live in Concert with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (Chrysalis CHR 1004 (U.K.)/A&M SP-4335, 1972 – reissued Esoteric/Cherry Red ECLEC 2650, 2018) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Whaling Stories
- A Salty Dog
- All This and More
- In Held ‘Twas in I
- Luskus Delph (B-Side)
- Simple Sister (Rehearsal)
- Shine on Brightly (Rehearsal)
- A Salty Dog (Rehearsal)
- Luskus Delph (Rehearsal)
Track 6 previously released as B-side of Chrysalis single CHS 2003, 1972
Tracks 7-8 first released on Salvo SALVOCD023, 2009
Tracks 9-10 previously unreleased