PROCOL HARUM – Missing Persons (Alive Forever)

Esoteric Antenna 2021

Above all else confusion reigns: veteran collective deliver timeless sentiments from beyond the veil.

PROCOL HARUM –
Missing Persons (Alive Forever)

For all their pursuit of posterity, this ensemble never shied away from leaving a lyrical comment on current affairs – quite often shrouding such an artistic opinion in a musical phrase which made it eternal, though. And what’s more eternal than a waste of human life? That’s the subject addressed many times on a PH record – most prominently, perhaps, on “The Unquiet Zone” from "Procol's Ninth" where strife and death met robust rhythm-and-blues. The group’s 2021 single, strangely billed as an EP, is build from the same components – yet don’t be confused by the band’s original logo and the presence of Keith Reid‘s name alongside Gary Brooker’s: there’s no return to the old writing partnership, for the two pieces on display aren’t too fresh – in historical, not sonic, terms.

Both the titular track and “War Is Not Healthy” hark back to 2007 when the collective performed them on-stage, with the later landing on a live album a few years down the line and the former almost forgotten – albeit not to an extent that would render its subtitle redundant and introduce the confusion with Brooker’s solo cut – both dusted off and finished now. This “Missing Persons” is a different number, a genuinely great song which carries every small detail of a classic PH composition, from baroque organ lead-in to honeyed vocals fed into the familiar balladry and entailing a rousing, if heartfelt, refrain for the listener to relate to a loss of a loved one.

The cut’s dynamics, so tangible in guitar and piano departments, may be even better perceived on its radio edit, but the single’s second offering – whose sarcastic chant and tribal groove are extremely catchy and reminiscent of chestnuts like “Good Captain Clack” – hit much harder thanks to the slider-caressed contrast of merry melody and derisive message, peaking with instrumental swing in the middle. In the end of the day, however, “Missing Persons (Alive Forever)” will stay in your memory longer than “War Is Not Healthy” because instant masterworks come rarely at a recent time.

****4/5

May 25, 2021

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