OK I'm going to rave here a bit-Procol Harum were simply one of the finest rock bands to ever lay down vinyl. Gary Brooker possessed one of rock's all-time greatest soulful voices and was a fine piano player to boot. Robin Trower was remarkably adept at adapting himself to the style-hopping this band was famous for, whether it was a screaming hard rock solo, a delicate acoustic passage or just backing the band's two talented keyboardists, Trower was always up to the task. Ditto for drummer B.J. Wilson. Matthew Fisher, whose Hammond organ sound on "A Whiter Shade of Pale" helped define Procol Harum, had left the band after "A Salty Dog" along with bassist David Knights. Chris Copping replaces both men here, which leads to less organ work, as one might expect. As always, the band's secret weapon was lyricist Keith Reid, who was fashioning each album in PH's classic sequence after a certain theme, such as the seafaring tales of A Salty Dog. On Home, the theme was death, which might sound depressing but instead led to one of the band's very best records. Home is such a brilliant amalgamation of styles that a song-by-song breakdown is in order.
"Whiskey Train" - Fisher's departure seems immediately apparent on this hard-charging blues rocker fueled by Trower's Hendrixian riffs. But have no fear, Procol Harum's usual mix of styles is just around the corner. This tale of a drunkard trying to quit the bottle before it kills him gets things off to a great rocking start.
"The Dead Man's Dream" - absolutely phenomenal prog-rock type of track slows things right down during Brooker's melodic piano intro. Soon the nightmarish, proto-death metal lyrics take over and the track builds to an organ-drenched horror show soundtrack. Simply awesome!
"Still There'll Be More" - An upbeat, very melodic track that sounds like it should have been a hit single, until you realize that it's about a lunatic on the loose. "I'll blacken your christmas, I'll p--- on your door, you'll cry out for mercy, still there'll be more." Sing along with the serial murderer kids!
"Nothing That I Didn't Know" - The lilting strains of Trower's acoustic introduce Brooker's sad tale of a man who's beloved has tragically died, and he wishes it could have been him instead. The dirge like pace fits the lyrics to a tee.
"About to Die" - seeing the pattern in the song's themes yet? Another rumination on death, co-penned by Trower who's emotional riffing fuels this mid-tempo rocker.
"Barnyard Story" - Man, can Brooker's voice just tear you to pieces emotionally! His sombre piano leads this deceptively simple yet profound tale. Brooker's best vocal on an album filled with sterling performances. Words can't even describe this track, not only one of the best on this record, but one of their all time best period. By the time Brooker sings the final line, "Maybe death will be my cue," you'll already feel that this is one of the greatest records you've ever heard and they're not even close to done yet!
"Piggy Pig Pig" - A more uptempo rocker with lots of proggy touches and a crazy ending that shows the humourous side of this often serious band. Of course it's the blackest of humour but on this album it just fits!
"Whaling Stories" - along with "Barnyard Story", the highlight of the album. This is the prog mini-epic of Home and this track does have it all. PH was long known for their ability to switch among different styles from song to song while always retaining their identity. Here they do it in one 7 minute song. Dramatic symphonic prog sections, screaming hard rock guitar leads, powerful quiet sections and flat-out rocking, all topped off by Brooker's soulful vocals. The finale alone is worth the price of admission. A prog-lovers wet dream!
"Your Own Choice" - If you hate getting songs stuck in your head, be forewarned! This is the most instant-classic catchy number on the whole disc, and coming right at the end, it leaves you with an upbeat feeling after all the death and drama. Or does it? The first two verses tell us to choose our way of life and live it every day. In the third and final verse the protagonist commits suicide by drowning himself in a river. Only Procol Harum could pull this off, the perfect and most perfectly fitting ending to one hell of a classic record.
All of this band's late 60's to mid 70's output is highly recommended, but if you insist on only two, make it A Salty Dog and Home.