Procol Harum – Missing Persons (Alive Forever) – EP Review

Procol Harum use lockdown to recapture that classic sound

Release Date:  7th May 2021

Label: Esoteric Antenna

Format: CD

It’s good to see Procol Harum back in the fold with this, their first recorded activity since their 2017 Novum album.  The story goes that Gary Brooker, Procol’s founder and lead singer, rediscovered a CD of rough mixes of two tracks – not recent, but not old either.  Gary and the band used lockdown to revisit the tracks – and here they are. A couple of songs that slot nicely into the venerable canon that is the Procol Harum catalogue.

Procol Harum nowadays comprises Gary Brooker on vocals and piano, the great Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, Josh Phillips on organ, Geoff Dunn on drums and Matt (son of Dave) Pegg on bass.  That’s a line-up of some distinction, and they’ve been together in more or less the same form since the early 1990s.

This new offering consists of two new songs, the title track – a cryptic observation of the times we are currently living in and War Is Not Healthy, a touching observation of war and its impact on humanity.  Both feature Keith Reid lyrics with tunes supplied by Gary Brooker and both, the title track, in particular, are classic Procol Harum tunes.  The set is completed by an alternative mix (dubbed the Radio Edit) of Missing Persons.

Missing Persons really does take the listener back to the heady days of 1967.  The song starts with an organ intro from Josh, and, straight away, you know this is Procol Harum. I found myself instantly recalling tunes like Conquistador and Pandora’s Box.  Gary’s voice is as characterful and soulful as it ever was, there’s a big Procol chorus and Geoff Whitehorn’s guitar solo is simply stunning.  And to cap it all, Keith Reid’s lyrics are as enigmatic as ever!  They’re back!

War Is Not Healthy is funkier, with an angry lyric that is half-rapped and half-sung by Gary.  Guitar and piano dominate the tune, which is catchy and insistent. The message, captured in the song’s title, comes over loud and clear.

A great pair of songs that beg the question: could it happen for Procol Harum all over again?  These songs deserve to be heard.

Listen to an early live outing for Missing Persons here:

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