Monday, December 24, 2007

Repent Walpurgis, Procol Harum (1967)

"Flower Power" at its height
Aubrey Beardsley-esque cover design

Writing on, Roland Clare says, "If you told me that Procol Harum were convening to play a single request, and then disbanding for all eternity, (Matthew) Fisher's Repent Walpurgis is the anguished thunder I would be hoping to hear."

Amen, brother. Although Procol Harum was far and away the first band I adored with every fiber of my being after leaving my preteens, and I could name song after song I believe to be deserving of all the accolades possible, it is the alternating torment and elation of the instrumental Repent Walpurgis that defined a whole chapter of my life. The harrowing, gorgeous final cut of Procol Harum was a perfect mirror onto my melancholy, quasi-apocalyptic outlook on life at the time. 

Never played on radio that I'm aware of, I didn't discover it or the entire album until introduced to it by my college boyfriend several years later. I had been a major fan of A Whiter Shade of Pale when it was released, but the band was too progressive (art rock is one term it was given) at the time to garner any other airplay.

Who combines a Bach prelude with howling lead guitar solos against a funereal organ backdrop? It was an astonishing composition by the band's organist, Matthew Fisher. I played it incessantly in my hovel of a dorm room, where I could indulge my constantly-spinning-out-of-control emotions to my heart's content. Catharsis was my middle name.

As much as I love every strain of Repent, it was the incendiary performance of Robin Trower that I found most shattering. He single-handedly jumpstarted my lifelong appreciation of the power of the guitar to wring out emotions you didn't know you had.

Writing in his fabulous band history, Procol Harum: Beyond the Pale, Claes Johansen sums up my view of Trower's skills on this and the rest of his efforts with the band best: 

"The remaining lyrical aspects - the physical intensity, the sensual yearnings - are left to Robin Trower to communicate.It sounds a horrible cliché, but his playing almost makes the guitar 'speak.' I have this zany notion that were anyone to analyze human speech in all its aspects - frequencies, harmonics, articulation - and compare it to Trower's playing, they might find the results to be not that far apart."  I've never been able to put that into words before, but it pretty much nails it.

1 comment:

Mombi said...

Never heard of this song (or band), but I'm checking it out on youtube and I'm fascinated!!