APRIL 1974 (38 YEARS AGO)
Procol Harum: Exotic Birds and Fruit is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4/5
# allmusic 3.5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Exotic Birds and Fruit is the seventh full-length studio album by Procol Harum, released in April, 1974. Of special note is the release of the album in Argentina, calling the album “Pájaros Y Frutas Exóticas” (literally translated as “Birds and Exotic Fruit”). The cover artwork for this album is from Jakob Bogdani a noted Slovakian artist whose paintings centered around exotic birds and fruit.
Collaborating again with producer Chris Thomas, Procol Harum the band recorded the album at George Martin’s Air London Studios in London. According to singer/songwriter/piano player and band leader Gary Brooker the album was recorded in reaction to the two preceding albums which used extensive orchestration. Brooker stated “We made the live album with an orchestra. We’d then taken the orchestra into the studio for ‘Grand Hotel’…we’d had enough of orchestras”.
This back to basics approach worked well given that there were regular power cuts during the power struggle between Edward Heath’s government and the UK unions. The band used an emergency generator during the blackouts which forced three day working weeks during the so-called “winter of discontent of 1973-74. New member Alan Cartwright joined on bass freeing up bass player/organist to devote himself full time to organ which returned to a prominent role in the band’s sound.
The album features the song “Butterfly Boys” written about the founders of the band’s record label at the time Chrysalis. The band were unhappy with the terms of their contract and expressed that frustration in song.
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
Exotic Birds and Fruit is another slab of false majesty for which this band has become noted: elephantine, grandiose production, pretentious, empty lyrics and the sort of artistic posturing that would embarrass Ted Baxter. Except for the bouncy “Nothing but the Truth,” every cut on the album has been heard at least twice already — and wasn’t that interesting the first time around. The last sign of any vitality or originality in the band was heard on Broken Barricades; even the syphilitic attempts at humor attempted in Grand Hotel are now missing. Procol Harum is a perfect example of a band that has outlived its usefulness, and even staunch fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by this latest effort. (RS 163)
~ ALAN NIESTER (June 20, 1974)
All Music By Gary Brooker. All Lyrics By Keith Reid.
1. “Nothing But The Truth” 3:13
2. “Beyond The Pale” 3:03
3. “As Strong as Samson” 5:05
4. “The Idol” 6:38
1. “The Thin End of The Wedge” 3:44
2. “Monsieur R. Monde” 3:40
3. “Fresh Fruit” 3:05
4. “Butterfly Boys” 4:25
5. “New Lamps For Old” 4:07
Bonus tracks on 2000 and 2009 reissue:
“Drunk Again (B-side)” 4:31
“As Strong As Samson (Single Version)” 3:46
Bonus tracks on 2004 reissue:
“The Blue Danube (by Johann Strauss II, arranged by Gary Brooker)” 9:12