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INTERVIEW: Procol Harum's Gary Brooker on the band and its latest remasters

Procol Harum with Gary Brooker, second from left
Procol Harum with Gary Brooker, second from left
Simon Thiselton

The last four remastered albums by Procol Harum are being released Nov. 1 by UK based Union Square Music ( The four -- "Grand Hotel," "Exotic Birds and Fruit," "Procol's Ninth" and "Something Magic" -- sound exquisite. The majestic Procol Harum sound resonates through each release. And in addition, each has bonus tracks of rare and unissued material. The releases will be available digitally in the U.S. through iTunes and other digital sources.

Did the group have a philosophy to the band's stately sound it was known for? "It more or less developed from the first album. We were fairly serious about what we were doing," said lead singer Gary Brooker said in a phone interview. "We tried to do something different every time. 'Grand Hotel' came after a live album, which was comparatively easy to do. We hadn't been in the studio and were raring to go."

The digital transfers from analogue tape for the new releases was done by Rob Keylach at Church Walk Studios and the mastering by Nick Robbins at Sound Mastering Ltd. Brooker said the group was impressed with the work done on previous remasters, so "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

Of the bonus tracks and outtakes, he says, "I've always collected with what we've done that day. I still have the tapes sitting in cupboards. There's not a lot of stuff that's outtakes. There might be a rough mix or basic live recording before the band put other stuff on it. It's nice for young musicians that to hear you don't start off with the band playing a (full) song. This is as basic as it gets."

Procol Harum will also embark on a limited tour of the U.S. and Canada in November. The Canadian dates will include a reunion with the Edmonton Symphony, with whom the group recorded the superb "Procol Harum Live: In Concert With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra" in 1972. The album was the group's most successful release, peaking at number 5 in the U.S., according to All Music Guide. Brooker says the band has "a great fondness" for the orchestra. He says the original members will be in the audience that night. "When their grandad tells them he was on 'Conquistator,' the grandkids will go, 'Yeah. Looking forward to it.'"

Here are the Procol Harum upcoming tour dates: Nov. 4, Whitaker Center Presents at the Forum in Harrisburg, PA.; Nov. 5, Capitol One Bank Theatre, Westbury, N.Y.; Nov. 6, Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, N.J.; Nov. 9-10, Winspear Centre, Edmonton Canada (with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Du Camera Singers); Nov. 12, Snoqualmie Casino, Snoqualmie, WA.; Nov. 13, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA.; Nov. 14, Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles; Dec. 4, Grand Opera House, Wilmington, DE.

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