Take a Dylanesque verbal collage by lyricist Keith Reid; marry it to instantly appealing melody and harmony — passionately sung and played by R&B pianist Gary Brooker, drawing equally on Baroque grandeur (Bach’s “Air on the G String”) and dramatic soul (Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman”). Then garnish with Matthew Fisher’s Hammond organ counterpoint. The result: “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” Procol Harum’s first single, a defining hit of 1967, and one of progressive rock’s most influential precursors.
You can argue Procol Harum (Brooker, Reid, drummer B.J. Wilson and a shifting supporting cast — notably Fisher and guitarist Robin Trower) never topped their debut, either artistically or commercially. But they made excellent music for a decade, with reunions every 12-15 years after that — thirteen fine albums that consistently engaged the mind, gut and heart. The latest installment in Procol’s current reissue campaign, Esoteric Recordings’ Still There’ll Be More: An Anthology, 1967-2017 , is the long-overdue box set this band richly deserves.