This week’s column features my review of the first album by Procol Harum in over a decade, sandwiched between releases by two much newer singer/songwriters.
‘Black Swan,’ Matt Record (Captain Beardo Records, ☆☆☆☆)
This five-song CD/EP comes from singer/songwriter/guitarist Matt Record, whose list of artistic influences from the press kit include “Wilco, Sturgill Simpson, The Allman Brothers, bluegrass in general, elements of The Grateful Dead and Phish.”
Matt plays acoustic/electric guitars, bass and sings. He’s supported here by Andrew Madden (co-producer, lap steel, keyboards and electric guitar), Paul Duda (co-engineer, bass) and Stephen Kohnke (drums and percussion). Black Swan is defined on the CD cover as “an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences.”
My favorite songs are the thoughtful title tune, the ultra-catchy “Insomnia” and the dynamic “Saddle Up.”
These songs are great for fans of laid-back, classic country-flavored music.
‘Novum,’ Procol Harum (Eagle Records, ☆☆☆1/2)
This April 7 CD/two-LP release is the first studio album from Procol Harum in 14 years, in conjuction with the band celebrating its 50th anniversary. Their immortal 1967 debut single, “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” remains the band’s biggest hit, but other songs, including “A Salty Dog,” “Conquistador” and “Broken Barricades” are still beloved by knowing fans.
Singer/pianist/composer and remaining founding member Gary Brooker is joined by bassist Matt Pegg, drummer Geoff Dunn, guitarist Geoff Whitehorn and Hammond organist Josh Phillips, who have been with the band since the mid-1990s. They are a tight, musically adept ensemble. Lyricist Keith Reid has been replaced here by Jack Bruce/Cream collaborator Pete Brown.
My favorite song is “Somewhen,” the only Brooker solo composition. Not-quite-favorites include “I Told On You,” “Last Chance Motel” and “The Only One.”
There are enough cool new tunes here to mix with the classics on Procol’s 50th Anniversary tour.
‘The Neon Jungle,’ JC Brooks (Rock Ridge Music,☆☆☆)
This April 7 recording, likely available in multiple formats, comes from vocalist/lyricist/bandleader JC Brooks, whose original idea was to “merge post-punk and soul.”
Brooks’ band includes guitarist Alec Lehrman, bassist Theodore Berry IV, keyboardist Jeremy Tromburg, drummer Kevin Marks and percussionist JoVia Armstrong. The music here seems more like keyboard-based neo-soul, which isn’t my preference.
Favorites among the bunch include the dynamic, bass-driven “Get Gone,” the mid-tempo “Stumble In The Dark,” the mostly mellow “Playing With Fire,” and the nifty percussion, tenor singing and backing vocals that inhabit most songs.
Fans of keyboard-powered R&B will dig this release.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.