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A Salty Dog [40th Anniversary]
A Salty Dog [40th Anniversary]

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can only use 5 stars?, 23 Dec. 2009
40 years later, I still would place this album in my top ten of all time. Such a rich and varied album. Every song so distinct, yet it fits and flows gorgeously, and rocks, too: dirty, bluesy and funny.

Since so many have gone on and on about the fantastic opening title track, let's consider the second and the third. The Milk of Human Kindness begins with each instrument introduced solo -- piano, organ, guitar, until the star of the song, BJ Wilson's genius stop-&-start drumming, takes over and rides over and under Trower's psych-tone & textured guitar and lets Brooker's pounded-note piano surface occasionally to great effect. Great, great number.

Then Too Much Between Us switches the feeling so tenderly, with a vocal that's hard to believe is the same Gary B as the two songs before it. And that's the same guitarist? It is absolute gossamer. What is the instrument chiming like bells -- piano, vibes? Who cares? A third great number in a row.

And each to follow changes tone, style, thought so challengingly, rewardingly, originally and intelligently: the Caribbean bounce of Boredom, the gritty Juicy John Pink, the majestic Wreck of the Hesperus, the astonishing Trower vocal on Crucifiction Lane, the lovely closing of the circle on Pilgrim's Progress, Matthew Fisher's last hurrah in PH, as vocalist and organist, before handing the outro to Brooker's piano, Wilson's drumming, the flight of the vocals, the chiming of the bell and your own handclaps.

Since the following albums never really came close to this kind of sustained majesty again, much of the credit must go to organist Matthew Fisher who produced it, and then departed, as well as Brooker, whose unique vocals have always the marquee sound of Procol Harum, but who never sounded better than this, and Keith Reid's lyrics, bringing, as always, his completely unique approach to rock thought, but never as universal as on this album.

With Fisher's departure, the beginning of the long, slow, but slight, end commences. There were still years of grandeur to follow, but this was their peak. This album's ten tracks come together as a beautifully concise dose of greatness. You can and should find out for yourself. If you're at all interested in the possibilities of rock fulfilled, you'd be foolish not to.

The added tracks and terrific sound make this a worthwhile purchase for those who already know and love the work (especially the lyric-less version of Milk of Human Kindness), but the original album has never sounded less than revelatory to me these past decades. Now it just sounds better than ever.


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