Jethro Tull and Procol Harum – A Perfect Pairing in Boston June 15th

tull-mainThe Bank Of America Pavilion will host Jethro Tull and Procol Harum on Tuesday, Jun 15, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. (EDT). Both British musical groups have strong followings in the Boston area and the combination of the two is something both fan bases will find inviting. Ian Anderson of Tull and Gary Brooker, the voice of Procol Harum, both spoke with the Winchester Star about the upcoming show and their current and past work.

Back in Arlington High School in the early 1970s the “buzz” was on the bands coming over from the U.K., Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull garnering the chatter, that word-of-mouth – as did Black Sabbath, the groups all viewed as if from different genres but with blues as the base for their now very classic rock. It was very hip
to have gone to a Jethro Tull concert in those early days, which is how I opened my conversation with one of the great figures of British rock, Ian Anderson.

“Well, that’s very nice of you to share that with me. What was hip back when you were in high school is probably – I don’t know – a curse from the past today if you are a youn man or lady growing up in North America and you’re having to suffer the endless blue comfort blanket of Classic Rock that makes your parents
happy and sleep well at night. It could be a curse today, couldn’t it? Who knows?”

But this writer’s concern was that today’s kids don’t understand the thrill of going and finding a record before its release in America, those parallel imports which often contained different tracks but got the music to the hardcore fans in the days before the internet. So I asked Mr. Anderson his thoughts on this evolution.

“I think there’s a different way of reaching out these days and I certainly take advantage of it, which is that when I find an interest in a particular artist or a particular piece of record product or a new song I go along and buy it on Itunes or whatever. It’s an enormously accessible world of music these days of all kinds of music from classical music to jass and pop and rock and world music. It’s all out there and it’s relatively easy to find. I think, perhaps, the fact that it is so easy makes it less of a challenge and I think I would trade off that sense of achievement that I might have had finding a particular record in some hard to reach record store in a suburb of a big town somewhere…I would trade that off anytime for being able to sit in my own home and access the world of music and buy what I choose to buy without having to get in a motorcar and burn up a lot of gasoline to get to a record store. So, yeah, I think on balance I prefer the way they are now, really.”

The Living With The Past DVD (a play on the album and hit single Living In The Past) on the always excellent Eagle Vision line of products contains a four page booklet, an audio CD of the event and the DVD. It is an extraordinary work which Anderson says sold approximately 100,000 units…the flute mixing so perfectly
with the progressive pop that is the band’s trademark.


Anderson also noted how he was happy to have performed with Gary Brooker of Procol Harum on a rendition of A Whiter Shade of Pale, the song that launched Procol Harum worldwide.


The Procol Harum In Concert with the Danish National Concert Orchestra and Choir DVD is a good way for the fans to experience something similar to the 1972 release of the audio-only recording, Live With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Wikipedia notes that it was “recorded at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on 18 November 1971. It is the band’s best selling album, certified Gold by the RIAA.”

It was also the album that introduced David Ball, replacing Robin Trower on guitar. Trower went on to have a successful solo career with dreamy, Hendrix-styled textures moving his sound away from the Procol Harum approach, and we asked Gary Brooker if that was Ball’s first show, as rumored in rock circles. Brooker dispelled that noting that Ball had performed on shows prior to what would be this major recording in the band’s repertoire, and Dave Ball proved to be a great complement to what the band was communicating.

When asked about “the demo that got the deal” for Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, Brooker noted that their manager, Guy Stevens (who was the producer of Mott The Hoople on Island Records) did bring the tape to Island A & R man Jimmy Miller (later producer of The Rolling Stones). Miller told me he loved the song
and that Chris Blackwell said it would either be a total flop or a spectacular success, nothing in between. Blackwell passed on the band, to Brooker’s dismay. Gary said he would have liked to have been on Island Records, but that A & M in America did treat the band very well.

The Procol Harum DVD comes with a gorgeous twelve page booklet and an insert showing the grand castle (shades of their song Grand Hotel, which opens the disc) where Brooker tells us he at least “had drinks” with the owners…I had asked if the band got to stay in the spacious and impressive fortress. “Simple Sister”, “Whaling Stories” and “A Salty Dog”, classic Harum essays, are represented wonderfully on the set, as are the two key signature songs, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Conquistador”.

That they’ll collide in sublime fashion with Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath” and “Aqualung” songs on Tuesday, June 15th, in Boston goes without saying.